I am considering getting a tattoo. Of course, at almost 27, I’m a little outside the window for teenage rebellion. Had I done this ten years ago, in between drinking Reef and writing sonnets about the futility of all human endeavour, it would been straightforwardly cool.
On the other hand, ten years ago I was a moron, and any ink I applied to my flesh would have been as befitted my kind. Quasi-deep quotes in cursive script? A Sylvia Plath-style bell jar in lieu of a tramp stamp? The Chinese symbol for ‘dreamcatcher’ on my collarbone? Let’s just say I’m relieved my teens didn’t leave a legacy.
After all, future regrets are the most compelling reason not to ink. I read something recently about the ‘end-of-history illusion‘ – the tendency to see yourself as the finished article and underestimate how much you’re going to change. So even though at almost 27, I feel I’ve reached my apex of worldly wisdom, at almost 37 I’ll likely dismiss my present self as… well, a moron.
It’s imperative then, if I do get a tattoo, that it should be future-proof. It needs to be something simple and classic, something that would nicely ornament a gammy hip. Tattoos are now so mainstream that, 50 years hence, all old folk will have them. And when I compare tats with the other ladies in the nursing home, I want mine to outshine their crepey butterflies.
So, what to choose is a big question and I don’t yet have an answer. What I do know is that tattoos tell a story, be that “I went travelling” or “I took a load of dodgy pills and passed out next to an unscrupulous body mods salon in Faliraki”. They can mark an era, or signal an allegiance, or even serve as a kind of pep talk. They can remind you of the good times or externalise battle scars.
On top of this, they’re markers of autonomy. Brand yourself with a stamp of your choosing, and you’re proclaiming that your body belongs to you. It doesn’t belong to the government with its health edicts, it doesn’t belong to society with its beauty fascism, and it certainly doesn’t belong to all the people you know who find tats unattractive. Tell me tattoos are ugly, and that makes me want to get one of your face.
Sadly, all my ideas so far have been depressingly generic, if not outright mad. As compared with ‘tongue tattoo’, and ‘middle-aged colleagues’ names on knuckles’, the Chinese symbol for ‘dreamcatcher’ is starting to seem like a good call…
Categories: Millennial life anxiety
British freelance journalist living in the Netherlands