Tattoos once were a sign someone served in the military, probably the Navy. Now tattoos pop out just about everywhere, on almost anyone.
When did getting inked become okay, let alone fashionable? Who decided tattoos were body art and a way to turn your body into a branding billboard? Who knows.
Clearly, tattoos are now more mainstream than ever before, but that doesn't mean the stigma they once generated has disappeared. It also hasn't erased the regret some people have for getting tattoos or the pain and expense of trying literally to erase them. There still are funny commercials about guys who have to cross-out arm tattoos of old girlfriends and replace them with the name of their latest sweetie.
Sometimes, tattoos are the result of a weekend of abandon. But a tattoo isn't one of those things that happens in Las Vegas and stays in Las Vegas. It follows you around like a shadow.
You may have personal, cultural or esthetic reasons for getting a tattoo, but it is worth taking a calm moment to consider the arguments against getting one.
• Some people regard tattoos as symbols of deviancy, which may conflict with the image you want to project as a responsible CPA or caring kindergarten teacher.
• Tribes view tattoos as marks of cultural identity, but some cultures associate tattoos with taboos. The Japanese associate tattoos with gangsters. Muslims forbid tattoos.
• A tight tattoo today may turn into a sagging Salvador Dali image as you age and your six-pack turns to Jello.
• Some ink colors resist removal, no matter how many visits or checks you make with your favorite tattoo artist.
• The puncture wounds that produce the tattoo can become infected — right away or over long periods of time.
There are definitely more sustainable — and arguably superior — ways to brand yourself. Try whitening your teeth and smiling more often. Or reading widely so you can carry on a conversation with just anybody.
Fads come and go. You can store your old hula-hoop in the garage. It is harder to hide an old tattoo adorning your neck or covering your entire arm.
It is worth thinking before inking.