Letter from America
By Ellen Neumann
Sullivan County, New York
January 26th, 2012
As a child growing up in the Catskill Mountains of Sullivan County, New York, I learned many important lessons from my mother. Every child from New York to Dublin has taken a pen or a colored marker and drawn a picture on his/her arm/hand/leg or other body part. In turn, the mother/father/grandparent of “every child” has scolded him or her with these memorable words (as the “art work” is being painfully scrubbed away). “Don’t you know better than to write on yourself?” or “I brought you into this world with beautiful unblemished skin and will take you out of it if I ever catch you scribbling on your body again!” I, along with most of my contemporaries, heeded these words (fear can accomplish great things). Not so with the current generation! Tattoos are trending, viral and multiplying like rabbits. They are permanent and indelible. They are everywhere.
My first encounter with a tattoo was on the arm of a family friend; a WW2 era American sailor. He wore it proudly; a reminder of his service to his country in the US Navy. It looked odd to me, drawing my eyes toward it every time I saw him. Few people had sayings or objects permanently marked on their bodies back in the 1960s. The next time I met a tattoo I was well into young adulthood. A girl I was working with in a nightclub had the words “Property of Crash” tattooed across her bottom and a stem of cherries planted below her bellybutton. She was a free spirited wild child; the original Shock Jock. To know her was to be mystified by her. She thought nothing of dropping her drawers and showing off her body art! Today she is over 50. The cherries have turned into apples. The infamous Crash is ancient history; his name on her bottom as blurry as her memory of the man himself.
Today’s youth seem deaf, dumb and blind to the fact that what they consider art and beauty will one day turn into drooping, smudged and misshapen blobs of messy old inky flesh. The fact that a person is willing to commit to a life time of random or meaningless imagery befuddles me endlessly. “Why?” I keep asking myself; asking my friends and their children who have made this huge commitment. Do you think an inked image of Einstein on your thigh will make you brilliant? Do you think a “tramp stamp” will make you sexy? Do you think a quote or a phrase written across the base of your neck will enlighten you in some way? Will a portrait of your dead relative or pet etched into your skin bring them back to you or somehow prove your undying love and unwavering devotion? Have we become a society of people who detest our natural image and strive to change it externally and permanently, hoping to improve on God’s canvas? These questions remain unanswered and a mystery to me.
I wish I knew the answers. I want to understand, I want to be non-judgmental. I want to believe that the tens of thousands of people who get tattoos have very good reasons. They must, right? Right? The problem is, try as I might and after searching my soul I cannot come up with a single good reason for drawing on your arm/hand/leg etc. I look at my own beautiful daughters and thank God that they have heeded my wishes and never marked their bodies with ink. I feel that they honor my existence and the memory of their father by respecting our wishes. A gift to us indeed, for it is trendy to get a Tat and many of their friends have taken the leap. I appreciate this gift more than I have words to express. It means they like themselves just the way they are; the way their father, me and God created them. No room for improvement there! I feel confident that they will pass along the same thoughts to their beautiful daughters.
And the beat goes on!
I realise this article may not be popular with all my friends and family, but it is my truth and I’m stickin’ to it. I love you all, inked or not! I welcome comments and hope you will post them to this article, especially if you can help me understand. I value your opinion, don’t be shy.
Copyright © 2011, DPNLIVE – All Rights Reserved