I remember a time when I had all sorts of plans for the ink I was going to have injected into my body. I was going pay thousands of dollars for a guy with biker hands and asymmetrical facial piercings to make me into a living masterpiece of pain and stippling . Luckily I hit puberty and that phase passed.
Although I’ve managed to keep my hide untarnished, I’ve still done my share of cringing in pain. Usually it involves biting my tongue (HARD) when an acquaintance proudly presents me with their latest artistic accessory. After swallowing an ounce of my own blood, I force a smile and mutter, “Nice” before sulking off to mourn my honest streak. And let’s face it, we all have our share of friends with straight up embarrassing tattoos, but there’s nothing we can do about it. Like an unfortunate STD, there’s really only one solution.
One of the most commonly-made mistakes, tribal is he pawn of bad tattoos. If the primary purpose of getting ink is to inscribe meaningful symbols in your skin, it fails miserably in that it stands for absolutely nothing.
Do they look cool? Sometimes, yeah. They’re about on par with the aimless scribblings I used to put on my book covers when I was in the seventh grade to fill the boring, empty white space. Likewise, getting such designs forever scrawled on your body is a great way to show people how bland the book cover of your personality is. Which I guess accidentally gives the thing some meaning after all.
Usually found on muscle-shirted jock-ish types, it’s like they’re trying to crank their badassness to eleven by making their biceps appear pointy and dangerous. Of course no matter how many ultra-thick curly-cues they apply, it’s not going to stop the actual alpha meathead from pounding their faces into mush. If tribal were an animal, it’d be the manatee — looking impressive isn’t going to stop them from getting run over by motorboats.
Acceptable If: it was done in the middle of the woods by a native of the remote, exotic island you crashed on.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting attached to an animal. We spend a lot of time and money caring for them and in return they bring us joy and fulfillment scarcely found anywhere else. They’re like children. And when they pass on, it makes us sad, even cry, because we’ve lost a loved one.
But make no mistake about it. This is an animal we’re talking about here. It’s one thing to get a gnarly tiger on your ribs, it’s another entirely if its “Rufus” in Old English across your stomach. I mean, come on. Are you really so distraught over the loss of this creature that you want to think of them fondly every time you put on deodorant? If that’s the worst emotional distress you’ve experienced in life, you’re gonna be alright. You don’t need an animal’s head plastered on your torso like a 2D taxidermist.
Here’s an idea — use the money you would’ve spent on the tattoo and get a new dog.
Acceptable If: your companion has saved your life.
Professional photographers get paid a great deal of money to capture people at just the right angle in just the right light and focus in order to maximize how appealing a person looks. Regardless of whether you consider it an art, it definitely takes talent and know-how to do it well.
The same principles apply to tattoo artists, who are essentially painters who use ink and a needle rather than oil and a brush. The problem is, much like the painter, it takes an enormous amount of skill to create a photo-realistic picture. And no matter how good they are, they’re never going to get it quite right.
It’s even more difficult to strike the right balance when the canvas they’re working with is constantly changing. Skin’s designed to move with the rest of us and whatever’s on it moves with it. So while it might seem like a good idea at first to get Dear Ol’ Dad’s smile immortalized (but not quite) on your left pectoral, try to imagine all the ways your body’s constantly going to defile him over the years: body hair, acne, rashes, oozing wounds, perhaps. Further still you get old and your skin starts to sag and Happy Dad morphs into Indifferent Gramps. It’s like your body knows how wrong it is and won’t ever let you forget it.
Acceptable If: they’re caricatures or non-photo-realistic renditions.
4. Angel Wings
Wings are awesome. Given the (completely feasible) option, I’d gladly take a pair so I could fly myself to wherever at a moment’s notice. Something about a majestic wingspan makes men seem manlier and women more womanly.
And then there’s this:
If the aesthetic appeal of wings comes from when they’re spread wide, getting them slapped on your back folded up like you aren’t flying is the unsexiest thing you can do. Unfortunately, there’s no tattooing thin air, so that’s what you’re stuck with. Go ahead and get a tattoo of a gun while you’re at it…. with the friggin’ safety on.
The only other option you’re left with is to scale them down so they’ll fit on your back. Of course, there’s a name for people with tiny wings: cherubs. Nobody wants to be a cherub. They’re chubby little half-babies that float around happy couples like the best friend who can’t take a hint. Show me a person who’s walked into a tattoo shop and asked for Cupid wings and I’ll show you a baffled tattoo artist chortling his way to this month’s rent.
Acceptable If: never.
So you like Pepsi, do you? That’s great. I bet your friends even nicknamed you Mr. Pepsi Man (because you’ve got the least creative friends in the world). In eight out of every nine of your facebook pictures, a can of Pepsi is clutched tightly in your left hand. You know what you should do? Get a Pepsi tattoo so even strangers will know of your passion for the bubbly. Every time you go to a restaurant and the waitress asks what you’d like to drink, you can proudly lift up your shirt and yell, “What do you think, bi-atch?”
What’s that? Every pair of shoes you’ve ever owned were Hurley brand? Well what better way to commemorate the tradition than getting the distinctive ‘H’ stamped on your foot so even when you’re not wearing Hurley, you’re still wearing Hurley! Nevermind the naysayers telling you you’re defining yourself by the clothes you wear. They’re just jealous because they can’t afford it. Besides, what’s so bad about liking nice clothes so much you’d rather die than wear off-brand?
Company changed their logo? No problem, just get another tattoo. Company bought by another company? No sweat, add theirs to the mix too, it’ll be like an awesome timeline. Company went out of business?
Acceptable If: you’re getting paid thousands of dollars per square inch for it.
6. Languages You Don’t Know
“Ham.” That’s what those symbols say…. “Ham.”
Only you’ll never know it because you can’t read Chinese. You can’t speak Chinese beyond asking where the bathroom is. You didn’t even realize there were two different dialects (Mandarin, Cantonese — you’re welcome). And even though the guys on the Internet message board swore they knew what they were talking about, the side of your neck now proclaims your second-favorite lunch meat to the gas station attendant.
Ask yourself this question: if you wanted some authentic Italian cuisine, would you go to an Olive Garden in Peru with Australian cooks? Not exactly what you were going for, right? Just because they’re using the same recipe doesn’t mean they’re working with the same ingredients. And now the taste of those weird hybrid meatballs is stuck on the back of your tongue forever. That’s what happens when you, a nice white American, go to another white American in an okay American tattoo parlor and ask for Chinese.
At least you can retain your dignity by lying to people who also can’t read it. Because after all, isn’t deception what tattoos are all about?
Acceptable If: it’s part of your ancestry, religious beliefs, or Armed Forces service.
7. Tramp Stamps
You know what I’m talking about. The mere fact I called it that without showing a picture and you know exactly where it’s located is exactly why nobody should get these.
Ask different people on this one and you’ll get completely different answers. Tattooists will talk about it being a flat patch of skin that doesn’t stretch as badly as other places. Historians will call it a mark of an unfaithful man or woman, a la The Scarlett Letter. Inmates will tell you it’s the mark of a fish (have fun looking that one up). But the fact is, regardless of what it used to mean, it’s got a current one that isn’t going to reflect well on you.
But maybe you’re a rebel. You don’t care what people say, you think it looks “hott”. Brings out the woman in you. That’s fine. Since we’re still discarding relevant meaning, might as well throw in some tribal Chinese.
For your entertainment: 20 horrible tramp stamps.
Acceptable If: it’s part of a full back tattoo.
8. Your Significant Other
People do crazy things when they’re in love. Just ask Romeo and Juliet. Oh wait, you can’t because they’re dead (not to mention fictional). It’s downright shocking the lengths people go to in order to prove their love: moving across the country, leaving a good job, even committing grand larceny…. all sacrifices that love makes worthwhile in the end. That is, until it doesn’t.
Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. As soon as you turn up your nose and say, “You’re wrong, Murphy” his Law smacks you in the face like a slab of undercooked pork and squeals, “I told you so!” Getting your significant other’s name eternally embedded in your epidermis is like spitting in Murphy’s face. And if you think he’s going to let you off with a slap on the wrist, you’re sadly mistaken.
You see, over 50% of marriages end in divorce these days. That’s more than half. If today’s marriages are seals, Clubs-R-Us is next door and the majority of the little guys are done before they’ve started.
So if the odds are against two people who are legally tethered to one another, what chance do you and your boy/girlfriend have? If you answered C) even less, you’d be correct. But perhaps you think doing something drastic will tip the odds in your favor. I’d tell you you’re wrong, but you’re probably so drunk with passion you think it’s romantic to sneak into her room and surprise her when she gets out of the shower.
In that case, there’s probably no talking you out of it by now. But do yourself a favor before you punch Murphy in the gonads — ask your significant other to get your name tattooed on him/her too. At least you’ll both be suffering when it doesn’t work out.
Acceptable If: your loved one is deceased. No chance they’re leaving you for their landlord now.
So the next time one of your buddies starts blabbering about the sweet new tat they’re getting this weekend, save yourself the trouble and point them this way. Hopefully this will humiliate them into passing on the terrible idea that’s going to haunt them for the rest of their lives. If not, they can always Black Panther it.