Tattoo Taboo

Tattoo Taboo

Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that tattoos are here to stay – literally. I often wonder if people realise the lifelong implications when they succumb to the artist’s needle. Tattoos have long since been a statement worn proudly on the arms of men; a badge of honour, so to speak. More recently, however, fashion seems to have persuaded more and more women to join the body art craze, decorating their bodies with symbols, names or illustrations.

Traditionally, in the UK at least, tattoos were always associated with sailors. Later, they became popular among criminals, some of them choosing to carry out their own, amateur body art. In modern times, however, tattoos appear to have no social boundaries and are accepted by most as a popular lifestyle choice. The trend is particularly evident when it comes to professional footballers, some having complete ‘sleeves’ on their arms and elaborate designs on the back of their neck. David Beckham is believed to have over forty tattoos, including ‘VII’ to represent the number seven shirt worn at Manchester United, and the words ‘Forever by your side’ alongside an image of his wife, Victoria.

Although still frowned upon in the Middle East, tattoos are all too evident in this part of the world. Gyms are full of bicep body art and Beach Clubs boast an array of back, chest and leg tattoos. Usually, it’s men who display their tattoos of choice, but women are also known to flaunt their fancy ink work. I must admit, it’s this that I struggle with. It may seem like a good idea to follow fashion and join the body art craze but what happens in ten, twenty, even thirty year’s time? Will you still be proud of that dolphin on your shoulder, that love heart on your arm or that barbed wire around your ankle? Or worse still, what will you think when forced to wear your ex-boyfriend’s name as a permanent stamp at the base of your spine?

Because that’s the other thing about tattoos; what’s the point of having them where you can’t even see them? I would never judge someone for their own personal lifestyle choices but I do sometimes question the reasoning behind certain decisions. When it comes to tattoos, I’m definitely in the ‘not for me’ camp but that doesn’t necessarily mean I disapprove of other people having them. What I don’t understand, is why people are prepared to pay enormous sums of money to permanently mark their skin with a design they can’t even see. Some choose to have tattoos on the sole of their foot; others on the back of their neck; and many, on their shoulder blade. I struggle to understand the logic of decorating your skin solely for the benefit of others.

A friend of mine, in her twenties, thought it a good idea to have a tattoo on her arm. She opted for a tasteful design of a butterfly, considering it both attractive to look at and a symbol of freedom. Eight years later when choosing the gown for her wedding, she broke down and cried at the ‘eyesore’ on her arm. She didn’t want to wear a wedding gown with long sleeves; neither did she want her tattoo on display on her wedding day. A perfect example of how our tastes and opinions can change.

Cheryl Cole (or Tweedy, or Fernandez-Versini, or Payne, or whatever name she’s calling herself these days) is another example of regretful body art. The enormous tattoo covering her lower back and her entire derrière hit the headlines in August 2013. Apparently the elaborate artwork was necessary in order to hide a previous tattoo that she was no longer enamored to. Obviously the former Girls Aloud star and X-Factor judge misunderstood the meaning of ‘permanent’. Of course, she could argue that she actually likes the oversized red roses on her posterior. After all, at thirty-four (and undeniably beautiful) she can get away with it. But what about when she’s sixty-four? I doubt the blot on her features will be viewed so sympathetically then.

It’s important to remember that tattoos are no different to hairstyles, makeup trends and clothing fads; even home interiors and music choices. They change with time. You’ve only got to look back at old photographs to realise how much your preferences shift. What you thought looked good ten years ago may look completely ridiculous now. The difference is, you can change your hairstyle without a second thought. You can update your wardrobe and dispose of those unwanted, old fashioned clothes any time you like. A tattoo, on the other hand, you’re stuck with. Something to remember before entering the tattooist’s den.

And let’s not forget the health risks. Kuwait has good reason for discouraging tattoos. There are horror stories aplenty when it comes to unlicensed tattoo parlors, unsterilized tools, blood poisoning and allergic reactions. Not forgetting the pain! Evidently, those determined to decorate their skin with their illustration of choice are unfazed by these factors and go ahead with the procedure anyway – often at great financial cost.

Clearly, tattoos are favoured by many and the craze looks set to continue. Those without a tattoo parlor in their home country will continue to travel to satisfy their body art desire. For them, it’s a form of self-expression; a lifestyle choice which should not be denied. For others it’s considered at best, a transgression and at worst, a sin. For those still undecided, there’s always henna!

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