Monday, October 12, 2009

Your Arabic calligraphy actually says, "There is no God but God and Muhammed is his prophet"

It's actually not that difficult to mess with people who have tattoos, because there are so many bad tattoo ideas out there that even happen to be trendy.

The absolute worst tattoo I've ever seen (and this was in meatspace, mind you) had a dolphin on either side, a yin-yang below it, and in the middle... the Oakland Raiders logo. It was just so many different bad ideas all in one place.

Other tattoo trends that are maybe not the best idea in the world:
 - Lower back tattoos. Known by various names, such as "tramp stamp," "New Jersey license plate," and "ass antlers." I am not against having tattoos on the lower back, but there is a certain way they are usually done that makes you look like every other shmoe out there with a lower back tattoo.
 - Chinese/Japanese character tattoos. Joking about the problem with these is almost a cliché by now: if you are not familiar with a foreign language, getting a tattoo in that language is not that great of an idea if you have not done the research to make sure that your tattoo says what you think it does.
 - "Tribal" designs. The original Maori designs have actual meaning to them, rather than being just fancy curly things, and out of respect for the culture, some artists will only do tribal tattoos that are totally meaningless. This may not sound like a big deal to you, but think of something that is sacred to you. Now think of someone getting a tattoo of that, with no idea of what it is or what it means, but they think it looks cool.
 - Trompe l'oeil designs. These are tattoos where, when you describe the tattoo, you use phrases such as "makes it look like." An example would be getting a tattoo where it looks like you have a large gash, and underneath the skin are some clockwork gears.

The problem I see with trendy tattoos is that there is a variety of quality to them. That seems obvious, almost tautologous, but as people see more tattoos that are similar to yours, they are going to compare your tattoo to others they have seen. Your tattoo is going to fall into one of five tiers:

1) Awesome custom work. A lot of time and planning went into it, and you might have paid more than usual for it, with the knowledge that you are going to have this for the rest of your life, and want it to still look good fifty years from now.
2) Ho hum flash from the walls of a tattoo parlor. It probably has a neon sign in the window, and getting the tattoo was possibly a spur of the moment decision. The thing itself is probably nothing special, but it at least reminds you of a certain time in your life.
3) A regrettable design from an okay artist. This is what most joke tattoos are. Like, a tattoo of a cat to make it look like your navel is the cat's asshole. Every woman who ever sees you without a shirt is going to see your asshole tattoo, and sometimes it will be enough for her not to want to have sex with you ever. I feel sorry for the woman who marries you.
4) An awful tattoo from an awful artist. The coloring is uneven, it doesn't quite look like the thing it should be, et cetera. These are usually homemade kinds of things.
5) A regrettable design from an awful artist. This is a combination of the worst elements of tiers 3 and 4. You don't see them very often, because people who want a joke tattoo usually at least have the wherewithal to go to a real artist, instead of going to a friend's friend who knows this guy who "does tattoos" but his techniques are the kind they use in prison.

There is also the additional... issue... of your tattoo turning into a conversation piece. This might be welcome and might not be. If your tattoo reminds someone of a cool tattoo they saw once, they are probably going to tell you about it. Soemtimes, the attached implication is, "Your tattoo is okay, but I've seen ones like it that are much better."

This probably means I have an elitist idea of tattoos, but I have an elitist idea of most things. This is nothing new.

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