Huntress of the Lens


Saturday, October 3, 2009


I saw something on Nightline the other evening that gave me cause for thought. It was in their last segment "Sign of the Times" which is always shorter than the previous stories, and often the topic I find most interesting and wish to know more about. It was about tattoos and regrets, and the booming business of laser tattoo removal.

They had statistics, which I love, forget, and am too lazy to look up now to share with you here. How many people between eighteen and thirty that have tattoos today. How many people over the age  of thirty-five who regret the design they chose way back when, how many are willing to spend the time and money to have them removed. I love a good set of statistics, they lend such validity to any point someone is trying to make if you trust them as a source of percentage. Michael will often say that "Ninety percent of people do such and such." but I know he just means "A lot of people" so I don't tend to give too much weight to it as data. Nightline though, they have whole production and research teams to verify their numbers, they must be for real.

The percentages were high, or at least higher than fifty percent, and anything over half is a lot, right? Their point was that lots of everyone have tattoos, and a startling number of people regret them and don't want them any more. Forgive me Jen, but you are a prime example of this with that side piece that seemed like such a good idea when you got it. It made me feel slightly defensive, and caused me to wonder about my career choice and where I fit into the world. At least I'm doing my part to generate more reportable statistics, not everyone can say that.

I know, even as I draw up the stencil, that many people are going to question their choices later in life when I am asked to do certain tattoos. People get some whack shit, let me tell you. Sometimes I shake my head and think "What are you thinking? You are so going to hate this eventually." even as I calculate how I might cover it later and how much I would charge for that. One guy walked in here the other day with an outline of Bonnie and Clyde, done as Precious Moments characters and wanted me to finish them. I said Shayla would be the perfect artist for that job. It was a time bomb of a practical joke, maybe only I get it. 

Many times I think that designs and what they are meant to convey are extremely cool and well thought-out. Add my artistic ability to express ideas with lines and I think "Now here's something you will love well into your old age, when it's six inches closer to the floor than it is today." Sometimes I say "Nope, not interested in doing that piece." and move on with my day. Often this is due to a combination of the youth of the client and the sheer regretability of their design choice. "I'm not your mother, but I'm somebody's mother, and..." the lecture ensues.

The length of the "name lecture" is proportionate to the age of the perspective client. If they are freshly eighteen it can go on and on, my reasons why getting someone's name tattooed on you are such a bad idea. If they're, let's say thirty, or older it gets progressively shorter, I figure they're adults with enough life experience to make a very bad decision without a lot of input from me. People my own age just get "the look" over the glasses and we proceed. I have stopped many children in their tracks with that over-the-glasses look, most people my own age are impervious to it.

So I'm watching this story on television when I should really be reading my book already and courting my good friend Sleep, and I imagined a strange picture in my head. It was a long line with me at one end, stitching designs into skin, and a plastic surgeon patiently picking them out of the other end of the seam with a laser. For whatever reason, all statistics aside, I am still asked to tattoo people every day, and have been for the last eighteen years. There is a reason I have earned my self-awarded title of Cover-up Queen, I do a booming business in that, and I'm very good at it. There will also be a never-ending story that starts with "Once upon a time, in the land of the very drunk, I let my friend tattoo me because he said he knew how." That alone might provide for my financial needs even if people stopped getting new tattoos. 

I have plenty of tattoos myself that I wish had been done differently, usually I wish they were larger. For years I somehow believed that all tattoos were tiny, and I got a lot of small tattoos. My friend and colleague Jim refers to this as "stickers on a mini-van" and the first time I heard that term I laughed until I almost cried. Some I wish had been done by better artists, and would have been happy had my result simply matched my vision. Jim is covering many of those with a very large lobster and a magnet. It's a long story, don't ask.

Some are on my right arm and I did them myself, and I still don't like them and wish I had approached the project differently. Some, for various reasons I use as teaching aids for clients, showing them what they do not want to do themselves. A good example of this are the pair of chinese characters I wear that were supposed to say "Fire of anger and jealousy/Confident and secure." which was a polarity I was dealing with at the time. When read by someone who is a native of China and not drawing a chart of characters for tattoos, the actual meaning is "Fire Husband." While funny this is not truly tragic, I did marry a red-head after all, but still.

I suppose the gist of the final mini-segment on Nightline that evening was "Don't get tattoos, you'll regret them later." I still want to make a living. I hope the number of people who payed attention was not large, or at least they're not making permanent life-decisions based on television-segment statistical data. The one good thing was I got yet another chance to see a picture of my favorite, horrible, stupid tattoo- The Swayzesaur. That alone can renew my faith in the stupidity and vast imagination of some people, and still makes me laugh until I have to pee.

I would have said no to that one, just for the record.



    This book is a never ending source of amusement and diversion at the shop. I can't recommend it highly enough if you like to laugh at stupid tattoos.

  2. Hopefully you find yourself working on more of those tattoos which are really cool and timeless, than you do of the kind which inspires 'the look'. Although I'm not one to put much faith in humanity at large.
    The Swayzesaur is amazing btw.

  3. For the record I did NOT tattoo the Swayzesaur, it's from the book I cited and all over the internet. It never fails to crack me up!


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