They say that tattoos are gateway behaviour. I have sometimes wondered about it. I have a little experience with tattoos. I have one, and am not planning on getting more. One daughter has two tattoos that I know of.
Gateway behaviours, are those things that grow and progress. They are the early stirrings of what will later on cause regret. Such blowouts mostly involve alcohol or drugs. Gateway behaviours keep parents awake at night.
The world of tattoos is often implicated as gateway behaviour. Like the bag of peanuts, it seems impossible for most people to have just one. When I got my tattoo, I also got a peek into the tattoo sub culture. When I first stepped in the door of the ink establishment, the walls were black and heavy metal music blasted through the speakers. The man behind the counter had horns implanted in his scalp, and a metal bar through his nose that I was pretty sure would impress a pygmy tribesman. When I showed him a facsimile of the rather modest religious tattoo I wanted, he sniggered and showed his friend. He said the were not that busy and they could do me right now.
And so I entered. I discovered right away that tattoo people are not shy about nudity. A member of the fairer sex was having her upper torso tattooed and when she saw me walk by she said “Sorry” and giggled. I have to admit I did not mind so much, and the young lady with the pen zapped off my tattoo in a matter of minutes. Just like somebody who had a shot, I had to sit in the waiting room for fifteen minutes and drink something sweet to ensure I would not faint. Before I left, a strange man presented himself buck naked in the lobby and said “HEY KEVIN, check out this rad dragon” and showed off a large tattoo that covered his entire buttocks and legs to the man behind the counter. Truly, I did not need to see that guy’s balls to the wind.
Tattoos can be quite a personal statement. My own three girls want to have some kind of identical tattoo that will be their signature as sisters. They still can’t agree on what image will have the right personal and group meaning. Tattoos can also get you in trouble. I was trying to make conversation with a rather taciturn Russian barrista who had a rather pretty tattoo of a flock of swallows taking wing on the back of her neck. I asked her about the tatto, trying to warm up her service a bit. She turned and glared at me. “Somebody died” she glowered, then went back to making cappuccino. After that I never asked anybody about their tattoos.
Tattoos do get a bad rap. There are even verses in the Bible that warn against engraving your skin. Some Christian circles burn off a lot of steam discussing this, because tattoos have become commonplace and a lot of young parishioners show up with them. Still, there is a stigma. If you are a lady and get one above your butt, it is known universally as a “tramp stamp”. No matter what it is going to be fun times at the old age home fifty years down the road.
A daughter of a friend of ours, went through that punker stage. She dyed her hair, got a few piercings, and some tattoos. Worse, she went to art school. Her quite conservative Arabic parents were wringing their hands together wondering what would become of her. Turns out, life happened to her. She capitalized on her artistic abilities and became adept at giving tattoos. She ended up proving her parents wrong. She got a job with a cosmetician and made a lot of money doing micro-blading… tattoos that permanently fill in eyebrows and enhance eyelashes. Her parents were surprised and relieved.
From what I’ve seen, I’m not sure of the inevitability of gateway behaviour. Some behaviours progress, and other times they are walked back when someone wants to choose another life experience from the one they already have. Today I walked past a young lady, who apart from the clothes, seemed to be tattooed from head to foot. She was a walking contradiction because if she had been counter culture at some point, she had apparently switched sides. Even painted ladies feel the urge to join the ranks of life and have a traditional family it seems, because she was pushing a baby buggy, and talking rather sweetly to the infant in the buggy.
I can imagine she went through a “phase” and as I am told by others, it’s all just a “phase” no matter where you are in life. I can imagine rethinking some things brought some clarity to the young woman, and now that she is a mother, I doubt that she gives much thought to the tattoos. They are just visible marks from bygone days of a misspent youth. If there truly is anybody there who has spent their youth wisely, I might be the first to hear about it. It goes with the territory it seems that people grow up and move on.
Watching her, she seemed like a good mom. I am also betting that she gets along pretty good with her own mom (now), tattoos notwithstanding.