One of the questions I was asked during my responses to the Sunshine Blogger Award was: “Do you have any tattoos?”… and that set me to thinking… yes, I do. One. And it’s rubbish. I wish I’d never got it. It’s right on my shoulder, so it limits my choice of tops and it’s not even particularly well drawn. I got it when I went with a group of friends to Blackpool. Instead of a “Kiss Me Quick” hat or a stick of rock, we all decided, as you do, after a few light, alcoholic beverages to go and have tattoos done. It bloody hurt, (isn’t it funny the false bravery a little alcohol can instil…) but I do remember being quite fascinated by the scab as it came off, in a perfect facsimile of the actual tattoo.
I’ve been watching a programme called ‘Tattoo Fixers’, where the tattoo artists are very skilled and sympathetic, and cover up the small, hideous tattoos of their customers with larger, more beautiful designs, varying in size and depending on the bravery of the tattoo-ee. The funniest one was where a man had a male chicken tattooed on his – ahem – gentleman sausage. I admired his stoicism, as not a tear left his eye, although he was rather sweaty by the end of the process… A cover design would not be an option for me… As well as being needle phobic, I am also an enormous yellow coward. Even the thought of laser removal frightens me, leaving what looks like, to me, a third degree burn.
Tattoos have their uses though. Originally, I think, they were used to denote which tribe you came from, which position you held and that sort of thing. It’s quite an ancient practice, dating back to the Iron Age as various tattooed mummies have been found and carbon dated to around that period. I read somewhere that it was Captain James Cook who brought the popularity of tattoos back in the 1700’s as he explored the South Pacific. They went through a phase of being associated with sailors, and therefore somewhat vulgar, but the class distaste for them eventually vanished as people had bigger things to worry about, like World War II.
Not a great chapter in the history of the tattoo. The Nazis used them to number and label the people in concentration camps; for example, a triangle showed you were Jewish, there was a serial number to show which camp you were incarcerated in and a letter ‘Z’ marked you as a Gypsy. Everybody at some point in their lives has come across this information on the television, or in a book, or in a history lesson. I went to Israel when I was younger with my mother, (it’s an amazing country, a real ‘historical’ vibe there) and we visited Yad Vashem. This is a museum that commemorates the sufferings of the Holocaust, and I remember very clearly seeing the piles of old shoes, mattresses stuffed with human hair, lampshades made from tattooed human skin.
History became life, a person, to me, shortly afterwards. My mother and I were in a supermarket in Tel Aviv, when an older lady behind me began talking to me. My mother apologised and explained we were English. The lady laughed and said:
“But your little girl, she is so blonde, I thought she was Polish!”
A sweet and gentle lady, she and my mother chatted and as we said goodbye, her sleeve fell back and I saw her tattoo.
Nowadays tattoos are used as a somewhat more positive form of self-expression, although there is some debate about whether they are in fact a reflection of body issues… I was very taken with one girl’s tattoos, she had a trail of little pawprints across her arm – I noticed as she packed my shopping for me. Indeed, there are some wonderful designs reflecting both the skill of the artists and the determination of the customer…
So there you are. A little bit about one of the less extreme forms of body modification. As for mine – have you guessed what it is yet?!
“Don’t even GO there…”