Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tattoos as Reminders

Here's my tattoo. I forgot why I got it.

I love tattoos. I might get another one while I'm here in Iceland, not only because I found the perfect design, but they are also quite a bit cheaper than in the USA. (At least from what I can tell from informal polls amongst friends in Reykjavik)

So I spend a fairly decent amount of my internet time looking at other people's tattoos. I'm especially a fan of the Tumblr blog "fuckyeahtattoos" because I get a big, fresh, steaming pile of rad submissions every day. The thing I hate is when people explain the meaning behind their ink. I can't even tell you how annoying it is. It almost literally makes me mad. Why would I get irritated by something so stupid? Because people have no idea why they got a tattoo, and everyone else forces them to explain why they got it, and people panic and say that it's a reminder of something. As if a piece of artwork needs an explanation. Look, sometimes a tattoo is just a tattoo and someone got it because it looked cool. No other reason. Some tattoos have a lot of thought and meaning behind them. I love the stories behind those. But some of them don't and I hate it when people try to pass them off as something really deep and end up sounding like some high-school suicide note.

Do you really need a tattoo to remind you of something? Really?! Here's a sampling of some of the "reminders" I've seen lately. These are straight quotes.

"My reminder that no matter how rough life is, things always get better."
"... remind me of my Grandma."
"it reminds me to see beauty in simple things."
"I got this to remind myself that in the end you want to be able to have something to show for your life, not just money and work."
"reminds me now until I die to feel alive everyday even when things get rough."
"It is a constant reminder that whatever happens will happen."
"It reminds me to live my life."

It reminds you to live your life? That things happen??? Are you flippin' serious?!? ARG.
So basically, what I'm getting out of this is that people with these tattoos would forget to even be alive if they didn't occasionally glance down at those cherry blossoms on their arm. Or when they catch a glimpse of their shoulder tat of a purple dolphin with a sunset in the background it's all like "Oh yeah! I totally forgot that I had a dad who died". WTF people. A tattoo is not the same as writing shopping lists on your hand with a Bic.

So here is my plea to those of you who place vacant meaning onto the art on their skin: Stop it. Admit you got it because you thought it was spiffy. You don't owe anyone an explanation for anything so stop making stuff up. If you can't remember a simple cliché that is completely devoid of meaning in the first place, you probably have no business getting a tattoo. I mean, what are you going to do to remind yourself that you even have a tattoo? Maybe you could rig something up that sends electrical shocks to your throat every few minutes to remind you to look at your tattoo that reminds you to be alive.

I have zero problem with attaching meaning to a piece before or after it's done. Meaning is good and natural, especially if it makes us appreciate our own bodies more. And there are tons of good reasons to get a tattoo. They're great to memorialize someone, to mark an accomplishment or a significant part of your life, as a good luck charm, because it makes you look cool, because you love something, because you lost a bet, whatever...but a tattoo is not a Post-It Note (unless it's a tattoo of a Post-It Note. That would be pretty cool). You're not going to forget something really important if it's actually important. If you do forget it, then a tattoo is probably the last thing that's gonna jog your memory. I got my first tattoo (not shown in the photo) over six years ago and at the time it had a lot of thought and meaning put into it, and now I can't remember what it meant to me at all. I mean, I like it and all, and it does mean something...but I'm just not the same person I was when I was 20. It's not a reminder and it never was. It's a part of my body that I love because I think it's beautiful and I'm glad it's there. Over time, for better or for worse, meanings fade much more dramatically than ink does.


(I'm sorry that this is a rant and not a post about Iceland. It was just driving me completely crazy. I'll post something relevant and interesting soon, I promise. Oh...and if you're someone who thinks tattoos are stupid, keep it to yourself. No one wants to hear it. Thanks.)


  1. Amen to all of this. I got my tattoo because I wanted something colorful and The Little Prince was my favorite book when I was little. That's it. My baobabs do not remind me that life is fleeting and beautiful or that I need to take each day as it comes or any trite bullshit like that. It's a pretty image from a book I like. People always seem disappointed when I explain that to them.

    Fortunately I've never had anyone say to my face that I'll regret it when I'm older, else there would have been some punching going on. But the way people regard (and don't hesitate to speak to) women with tattoos is a rant unto itself.

  2. I wanted to get a tattoo of a rainbow unicorn with a huge cock to remind me that Im gay