Saturday, September 4, 2010


I open today's Boston Globe, back from an in and out trip to New York to watch athletes play a game far different than the tennis I play. What they were doing at the USOPEN and what I do when I play was as similar as my cat Pumpkin and a Tiger.

In the Globe I noticed a photo and caption about a convention being held at a hotel very near where I work. It is the Boston Tattoo convention. The photo has a woman wincing as she is being inflicted by a tattoo artist (one assumes, you can only see a gloved hand in the picture).

Tattoos are something I don't quite get. When I was a kid the only people who had tattoos did not travel in my circles. There would be some kid in high school who perpetually had a cigarette behind his ear, awaiting the time when his mandatory English class would let out so he could bolt and go the bathroom or some other illicit spot, to smoke up. That guy would come back from somewhere with a tattoo of boxing gloves one day and make sure to wear a short sleeved shirt. Then sometime when he was thirty he wished he did not have it any more and began to wear long sleeves in the summer.

This is not the case anymore. Now, it seems, that a very high percentage of people in their twenties and thirties have a tattoo. I approached a student last summer who, like most students during the hot months, wore shorts and a tee shirt to class. Because there was no ink on her, I confided my puzzlement about the appeal of tattoos. She was an excellent student and the kind of clean looking bright eyed smiley kid who was in the national honor society throughout her high school years. "Why do so many people have tattoos?" I asked. "They're cool." she replied. "I'm going to get my third around Christmas." Where her ink was, was a matter for conjecture.

I have a number of shirts that I really like. I wear them regularly. But sometimes I like to wear other shirts that typically are not in the rotation. So, I take off the shirts that I regularly wear, and put on the other ones. When you have a tattoo, though, you can not bring in the lefty. It's indelible.

I've been thinking about this regarding tattoos ever since they became prevalent. But another thought entered this a.m. when I saw the photo in the Globe. I had been musing about some ongoing matter when I opened the paper and maybe that is why this thought seeped into consciousness when I read that the Tattoo convention was in town.

What about the other tattoos? That is, what about the tattoos that are not visible. Sure, the guy with the boxing gloves--to me at least--is stuck with a "I put boxing gloves on my arm" message every time he wears a tee shirt. But what about the tattoos that we don't see from people who never went to an inkmaster. How indelible are these--and moreover are they even more difficult to get out. The girl who is dissed by her parents has a tattoo. The boy whose heart is broken as a teen has a tattoo. The girl who goes to the dance all duded up but noone asks her to dance has a tattoo, The kid who gets picked last every time sides are chosen up.

What happens to those tattoos.

I think we can get them out, but most of the time, like the high school kid with the boxing gloves tattooed on his arm, we--down the road--consciously or otherwise choose to cover them up.

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