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Tats And Asses

by Jim Longworth

Lastweek was replete with stories about people who share a common affinity. Firstthere was Michael Smith, a northern redneck from Maine, who walked out onto hisfront yard to yell at a state contractor for cutting down dangerous trees onhis property. A few hours later, Smith awoke from a nap to find himselfsurrounded by a team of SWAT cops. Why? Because when confronting the timbermen, Smith was shirtless, thus revealing what appeared to be a Glock tuckedinto the front of his pants. Upon closer inspection, the police discovered thatthe gun was actually a tattoo. It gave a whole new meaning to the phrase"draw your weapon".

Meanwhile,a Brooklyn man caught a lot of heat last week when he had his dog shaved andtattooed, not with a small series of  numbers for emergency ID, but with alarge red heart pierced by a cupid’s arrow. I’m not sure if the guy is havingan affair with his dog, or if he just likes tattoos. Either way, the procedurewas kind of creepy.

Thenthere was last week’s Glamour magazine cover which featured Lena Dunham. Dunhamis the recently crowned wunderkind of Hollywood because she produces and starsin the over rated TV series "Girls". Dunham’s signature schtick isappearing nude in almost every episode, however, she is well dressed for theGlamour cover. The problem is that her dress is sleeveless which shows off avery large and unattractive tattoo. What were the Glamour editors thinking?There is nothing glamorous about a grimy-looking tattoo on a woman’s arm. EvenKayne West had a melt down over the magazine’s decision to feature Dunham,because his wife Kim, though devoid of talent, does not look like a convict,and would have been a more appropriate choice for the cover.

Finallythere was the Winston Salem Journal story last week about 28 year old CoreyRaynor. Corey, it seems had body art inked all over his back while in a drunkenstate, then developed what is known as tattoo remorse. The original tat costhim $200, but now he’s having to pay Carolina Laser and Cosmetic Center $3,000to have the ink removed. Not only is tattoo removal expensive, it is painful.Raynor told the Journal’s Richard Craver that the pain was "greater than a10, almost unbearable".

Infact there are all sorts of pain which can result from tattoos. For one thing,there are health risks, including hepatitis, herpes, HIV, staph, tetanus, andtuberculosis. Then there’s the pain of  underemployment. According to a2011 study by CareerBuilder, 31% of surveyed employers ranked "having avisible tattoo" as the top personal attribute that would dissuade themfrom promoting an employee.

Buteven given these economic and health risks, the number of people gettingtattoos continues to rise. A Pew Research Center study finds that 45 millionAmericans have at least one tattoo, and they spend upwards of $1.6 billiondollars per year to do so. Moreover, 31% of inked-up folks say tattoos makethem feel more sexy, while 5% say that a tat makes them feel more intelligent(the guy in Maine disproves that).  

Sohere’s my question. Why are so many people getting tattoos despite the stigma,costs, health risks, and potential loss of earning power? Perhaps a few of ourmore outspoken sports journalists have hit on the answer. Guys like JasonWhitlock, a prominent African American columnist, who said of the new thuglook, "Popular culture has so eroded the symbolic core principles at theroot of America’s love affair with sports, that many modern athletes believetheir allegiance to gangster culture takes precedence over their allegiance tothe sports culture that made them rich and famous".

Andby disrespecting the traditions of their sport, athletes have also made tattoosthe cool thing to have, whether you’re a shirtless idiot in Maine, or a teenagegirl who thinks it’s neat to despoil her body.

Ofcourse, tattooing isn’t a new phenomena. In "Moby Dick", Queequeg theharpooner sported massive tattoos which had been applied by a tribal elder whohid encrypted theories on astrology within the designs. Perhaps that’s what’shappening now. Maybe all these gangstas, rednecks, and impressionable youth areactually cosmic geniuses who are leading us to the promised land. Or maybe not.In any event, perhaps the solution to the downside of tattoos is to get thewashable kind which can vanish without consequence.

As I reported a couple of years ago,there was a man in England who claimed to be the world’s biggest fan of MileyCyrus because he had over a dozen permanent tattoos of the singer put all overhis body. Of course that guy could have just gotten temporary tattoos whichwould have saved him money and still showed his love for Miley. After all, whatcould be more appropriate than a "Henna" Montana?

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