Some Ink about Ink

ironic tattoo no regretIf there were a restaurant in your area where more than 1 out of 20 diners got food poisoning, would you be inclined to eat there? What if another business had a track record of getting more than 5% of people sick? That’s apparently the case with tattoos.

In a recent study of 300 tattooed New Yorkers, Dr. Marie Leger of NYU discovered that 6% of the survey’s subjects experienced some problem beyond the pain of the needle piercing the skin repeatedly.

Up to 6 percent of the study participants experienced some form of tattoo-related rash, infection, severe itching or swelling that sometimes lasted longer than four months. In some cases, the problems persisted for years, according to the investigators.

As my offspring, two out of four of whom have at least one tattoo, know, I’m no fan of tattooing. Color your hair chartreuse or shave your head altogether and I’ll just shake my head and smile. But when you’re permanently marking your body, that’s a matter for some serious forethought. If you think about it and still want it, I believe you haven’t thought enough.

Years ago, a young man named Aaron, a friend of my oldest daughter, got a tattoo down the back of his calf.  I asked him what it was.

“That says, ‘ichthus.’ It’s the Greek word that means fish. You know, it’s an early Christian symbol,” he replied.

I knew perfectly well what this word was supposed to say, but I also knew more Greek than the tattoo “artist.” “Aaron, I explained. Those aren’t Greek letters.” I assume that Aaron still has that semi-Greek word down the back of his leg.

So if you are going to pay good money to put a permanent mark on your body, please take these three precautions:

  1. Make sure that the person doing the work is scrupulously clean and reputable so that you don’t wind up in Dr. Leger’s 6%,
  2. Make sure that you and the person are 100% clear on exactly what the design is to be.
  3. Make sure that you’ve thought through the thing carefully so that you don’t put something on your body this year that you’ll find objectionable next year.

Or better yet, wait six months. If you still desperately want the tattoo, then wait six more months. If you still want it, then get a goldfish. Or get the tattoo if you must.