Ask Matt Labash

Ask Matt Labash Vol. XXVII: An anti-tattoo manifesto, letting kids be kids, and playing the deaf card

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I am a woman. Should I get a tattoo? – Kate

I am a man. Let’s make a baby.

I kid, of course, because I would be functionally unable to make babies with tattooed women. I don’t know when, exactly, the entire world decided they needed to get inked like a bunch of porn stars, but I’m against it. There was a time long ago — let’s call it “the eighties” — when the only people who wore tattoos were people who had a story to tell, usually a hard-luck one, which involved them killing somebody, or getting touched inappropriately by their dad. That is a perfectly acceptable use of a tattoo: as a billboard for your pain or as a reminder of your murderousness.

Nowadays, the story most often goes: I am a 36-year-old upper-middle-class white woman, skidding into 40, and now that I have grown bored with my McMansion, and taking Jackson and Mackenzie to lacrosse practice, and of my fat husband climbing on top of me twice a week, I think I’ll sexify my life by getting a butterfly stamped above my ass, or a Chinese character that I can’t even read emblazoned on the side of my neck. (Which probably says  “this nitwit thinks she’s Allen Iverson” in Mandarin.)

It’s unbecoming. It’s unsexy. And it’s not an expression of your individuality. How could it be, when every other person has one?  It reminds me of the hobbyist “bikers,” who buy their Harley, then immediately plunk down a few hundred bucks on the same black leather chaps and vests as an expression of their rugged individualism. When they’re anything but individuals, looking like every other cookie-cutter wannabe, holding on for dear life from their ape hangers. You want to be an individual? Hop off your Harley and walk into a real biker bar in a golf shirt and Hagar dress slacks. Then tell the barkeep you want something “citrus-y, with an umbrella in it.” I have not yet met the man who has that kind of courage. But when I do, I will not trifle with him. He is dangerous.

If you are a woman, and want to get a discreet tattoo for your lover, fine. Just get it some place where we can’t see it. Like your cervix. But no screaming eagles, no tramp stamps, nothing on your back, neck, arms, legs, feet, ankles, etc. God gave you beautiful, luminescent skin, and if He didn’t, there’s always Susan Lucci’s Youthful Essence® Personal Microdermabrasion System . You’re a woman. You’re a work of art. Don’t deface yourself. Do you ever look at an architectural wonder, the Parthenon or the Roman Aqueducts, and think to yourself, “You know what would really enhance those? Graffiti. If the Ink Assassins came through and bombed it with Celtic Knots or a Maori tribal design, then those things would really sing.” Of course you don’t. It sounds ridiculous. Though no more ridiculous than when you get an ink anklet.

Here’s a tattoo rule of thumb: Only get one if your job entails shooting people, if you’re an ultimate fighter, or as a safety issue, if you find yourself wrongly incarcerated, and displaying your affiliation with the Aryan Brotherhood will help make prison showers less eventful. Otherwise, let your skin go commando. Particularly if you’re a woman. For if you don’t, I have seen your future, and it looks like this (NSFW).