Monday, October 22, 2007


You know, I've thought about tattoos several times over the years, but I've never pulled the trigger. Every time I think of something I think would be good, I get tired of it eventually, and end up thinking "Glad I didn't have that inked permanently onto my body." When I was a kid, guys were getting football numbers tattooed on themselves, high school mascots, college mascots . . . . here I am, ten years out of high school, and I can't imagine what possible use a tattoo of a big paw print with a "72" in it could be to me. I mean, I've managed to remember which schools I played for, and I even remember my number (it was carefully chosen--the same number as William "Refrigerator" Perry.) I don't have a lot of use for that information anymore, but it's there if I need it, and having it tattooed on my bicep with some awesome barbed wire wouldn't make much difference at this point.

Just about the only idea that has lasted has been to get "TANSTAAFL" marked somewhere. There's a concept I don't think is going anywhere. Similarly, the research scientists who sent in pictures of their cool science tattoos to Carl Zimmer at The Loom are probably not worried that the Periodic Table or a strand of DNA or velociraptors are going to look stupid in ten years. The guy with F=MA on one arm and E=MC^2 on the other is pretty safe, too. I can see how those mean something--that's their work, not someone else's idea of cool. It's what they've chosen in their lives. I guess I could have Bloom's Taxonomy tattooed on my chest, but it doesn't seem worth it.

At the other end of the spectrum are my in-laws. If you've ever wondered if you ought to get your tattoo changed because your favorite NASCAR driver has a different number now, you MIGHT be a redneck.
(But you know I love ya, Tom!)


Tom said...

You might have trouble seeing it in the pheasant hunting photos, but I have a small tattoo of the character Tao, on my right wrist where it can be hidden if I wear a watch. I didn’t get it because it looked cool, but for other, slightly more somber reasons. A few years back, my youngest brother was killed in a car wreck. This caused me to put a lot of introspective thought into my place in the universe, and the kind of tools and language of faith that people use to deal with the hard points in life.

At the end of the day I viewed the differences in most religions as either historical dogma or semantics. To me, at the time anyway, they all basically said: “play nice”, but they all said it in very different ways. There is an element of fatalism (having to do with fate… not having to do with being a downer) that I liked in Taoism, and the specific semantic worked really well for me when I really needed it to. It helped me accept something that was hard for me, and it did it in a way that I could swallow without feeling dishonest.

I was much younger, and much more rebellious then, and my thinking now is more in line with what you would expect from your average “recovering catholic” social conservative. These days, more than anything else I think Christianity is really the best model we have around which to try and form a civil society, and that explains it stupendous success. But the transformation of my faith hasn’t caused me to wish my tattoo away, even for a minute. For me, it’s a symbol of the day I decided to rejoin the human race after the death of my brother. It reminds me that there is more than one way to skin an emotional cat, even if the cat is 800 pounds, and has your thigh in its mouth. And even though I live in the world of uptight, button down bankers, I almost never wear a watch, and never try to hide it. It’s as much a part of who I am as my nose.

Anonymous said...

U know, I hesitated before having a body tattoo, but now that I got one, I definitively want others :)

Don said...

Yeah, but whadja get?

Don said...

BTW, folks, that's not "Tom" my father-in-law posting up there, just so we're clear. My father-in-law has a big red "8" on his shoulder just like the one on Dale Earnhardt, Jr's car.

Next year, when Little E (see, I can do NASCAR!) moves to a new team, he won't have that number. Now Tom's wishing he'd just gotten that "3" he wanted. Tattoos, like public buildings and highways, are often best used to commemmorate dead people. Fewer surprises that way.

Lindsey said...

I have on's name, Remington, on my lower back. The only issue I can think of is that now we've decided to have another baby and I'm seeing one more tattoo in my future. Here's a pic if you're interested. It was taken right after I had it done about a year and a half ago so it's got what ever ointment they put on it making the pic shiny.

LabRat said...
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Less said...

Um... my avatar or picture or whatever really is my tattoo. Err, rather, it really is me...

I've had it for ~6 years and it's still not finished. Granted it is totally huge and covers most of my back, backsides, and lower legs...

To me, it means the world. I feel my day brighten when I catch glimpses of it while brushing my teeth or passing in front of a mirror...

There are a lot of bad reasons to get tattoos, but there are also a few good ones too... It really depends what, exactly, you are marking (no pun intended) in your life...

Don said...

I've wondered from time to time whether that was you . . . but I always forget about it before I ask.

It doesn't look like you picked that off the flash wall.

Less said...

It took forever to draw up. The outline took ~8 hours. It was excrutiating! I usually fall asleep during the shading, but the lining needle hurts since it covers more area and is just two sharp, long needles...

My artist is Kim Saigh, from "LA INK" fame. The exposure for her is great, but I'm really hoping that she comes back to Chicago since I still have a bit to go...

Backfistmonkey said...

Tattoos are for losers .

I would expect better out of you Don .

I know I wouldn't be comfortable with my child learning history or science from a guy who might even look like he might ride a motorcycle , shoot guns , and get tattoos on the weekends .

Don said...

Ladies and gentlemen, you are in the presence of a legend.

Meanwhile, I'm just breathing a sigh of relief over here that I didn't get that "Sexy Rexy 4Ever" across my chest like I planned. That could have been embarrassing.

I joke, but I'd bet good money there's got to be some guy out there right now with Jim McMahon's face tattooed somewhere inappropriate.

Anonymous said...