My Sixtieth Tattoo: An Act of Rebellion or a Cool Fashion Statement?
The Letters B and A
No, I Do Not Have 60 Tattoos.
For my sixtieth birthday, I had the letters "B" and "A" tattooed on my right wrist.
I’ve long been by fascinated by tattoos. Whenever I see someone with one, or several, I want to know what they are and what significance they have for that person. If I’m sitting behind someone with visible tattoos I love to stare at them, looking at every detail and wondering what each one means.
Why That Tattoo?
I often wonder why people have tattoos where they can’t see them. Who are they for? If you need a mirror, or sometimes two mirrors to see them, what is that about? Are you broadcasting something to the world that you don’t necessarily want to be reminded of every day? Or is it a decoration, like a piece of jewelry? After all, we can’t always see our piercings without a mirror. and yet, we can remove the jewelry whenever we like, but the tattoo is pretty much there forever. Of course we can have them removed with laser, but that is a long and expensive process. And what about tattoos in places where no one can see them, such as behind the ear or on the the back of the neck where they're covered by hair? I find the psychology of that fascinating.
Why Have a Tattoo Where You Cannot See It?
Tattoos Were Not Always Fashionable
When I was in my twenties in Ireland, tattoos were seen as something worn by people with a deviant past or present, by sailors or in rare cases by the rich and powerful. (I guess some people could fit into two if not all three of those categories.) For example, Winston Churchill had a tattoo of an anchor on his arm and King Frederick IX of Denmark had several on this arms and chest. It is said that sailors would get a tattoo of a turtle when they crossed the equator and a sailing ship when they navigated around Cape Horn.
Tattoos were not always seen as desirable or fashionable.
Tattoos As a Fashion Item
But in general society in Ireland, tattoos were seen as something vulgar and ugly up until the 1980’s. And it seems they still do to a large extent in some demographics, according to this article from a couple of years ago. Interestingly, although they did begin to rise in popularity In the United States in the 1960’s, some States were not so keen. For example, Massachusetts had a ban on tattooing from 1962 to 2000, and you could not get a tattoo in Oklahoma until 2006. But in general, tattoos began to be seen as a fashion item, even as a passing fad. People who had no link whatsoever with China or Japan had Chinese or Japanese symbols and the impression was that most of them had no idea what the symbol actually stood for. I sometimes suspected some of them were just chosen from a chart in the tattoo studio, and actually translated as “Choose from the designs below” Have a look at this webpage for more Chinese/Japanese tattoos that don’t actually make sense. https://www.sadanduseless.com/asian-tattoo-fails/
A Tattoo With Meaning?
Tattoos As a Symbol of Rebellion
In the past 10 years or more, some of my family and friends have been inked and for most the tattoo has real meaning for them. For others it was a cool fashion item, or perceived as an act of rebellion against their more conservative parents or teachers. I remember one young man in particular who got quite irritated when I asked them what their tattoo meant and snapped “It doesn’t have to mean anything, it’s just a tattoo.”
What Does My Tattoo Mean?
As tattoos became more mainstream, I began to think about getting one. And originally I did think of it as a fashion item. And then I thought of it as an act of rebellion against growing old. But the more I thought about what I wanted in a tattoo, the more important the meaning became to me.
The three most important things in my life are my relationship with my husband, my relationship with my two daughters and my spiritual life.
And so I choose a symbol that for me, represents all three. So my tattoo looks like the letters "B" for Brendan and "A" for Anne. They also look like "E" for Emer and "A" for Aisling (my daughters). And it is all designed around the "OM" symbol, the symbol for the sacred chant that I often use during meditation.
Tattoos On Old Skin
So now that I have joined the 36% of people in Ireland with a tattoo, at the grand old age of sixty, I will leave you with a quote from Joseph Brean, written in the National Post (Canada) in 2013.
“For tattooing as a trend, the implication is dire, because when the old adopt the stylistic lingo of the young, the young tend to cringe and move on."