Posted on 29 July 2009


I am sure that many of you out there have been curious as to why people get tattoos, particularly as some of the population feels that such art desecrates the human body.  The art of tattooing has been around, according to some sources, since before recorded history.  Believing that their souls were guarded by the sprits of other creatures, and seeking to invoke that protection as well as the creatures’ spiritual guidance, primitive man (and woman) decorated themselves with the first tattoos.  As we evolved as a race, tattoos came to be used to designate a person’s stature in society.  For instance, chiefs bore designs befitting their stations, denoting power, while hunters in certain African tribes inked themselves with some type of animal depicting their hunting conquests.  Women, of course, were also marked.  A tattoo meant, “Hands off, I’m married!”  Hmmm.  Perhaps tattoos are a male invention.


Nowadays, people get tattoos for a myriad of reasons.  Our military personnel seem to prefer body art illustrating bald eagles and insignias of their particular branch of the armed services, in order to telegraph their pride in having served their country.  Many others get tattoos for purpose of making a statement, such as letting people know that they are a member of a gang or some other type of organization, including hard rock bands.  Still others submit to the tattoo process in memory of a person they have loved and lost.   Many people get “tats” just because they want to be the first in their crowd to do so and then get addicted to having more and more.  Some get them as they are simply an impulse, including a by-product of “the grape” or perhaps the rye.  Yet others get inked as a type of bonding experience with their friends or because they don’t know what to else to buy with their blow money.


I have often heard that ladies who got tattoos on their backs were “loose” and that those tats are referred to as tramp stamps.  This may very well be a stereotype, as tattoos are showing up on all types of women, including celebrities and those who are still chasing fame.   Kelly Ripa sports a small tattoo on her ankle and when giving birth to her second child, spied it and wondered right there in the delivery room whether mothers should have such things!  Angelina Jolie had had her ex-husband’s name (actor Billy Bob Thornton) tattooed on herself, and two well televised female contestants of our largest national singing competition proudly displayed tats that enveloped nearly entire arm each.  One of these ladies was even married to man whose face was covered in body art!


Being a curious and outgoing woman, I went in search of answers for myself.  Deciding to find out some of the reasons people want tattoos, I took it upon myself to ask some random people.  In my job, I come in frequent contact with the general public.  People didn’t seem to mind talking about the tats, and in fact, most seemed proud of them and enjoyed the attention.


So with my many questions, these are the answers I found from my curiosity venture.  Admiring one lady’s tattoos, she told me that she was an artist who enjoyed drawing and really liked to see her artwork displayed on her body.   Speaking to a young man who had some beautiful artwork on his arms, I questioned him as to what it was.  He  informed me that it happened to be a Japanese mask; he said he really loved this person’s artistry, so he was paying tribute to him via his body art.


Another guy had some diamonds, hearts, spades, dice, and dollar signs on his arms.  He admitted that he was fond of gambling and was young when he got some tats, so he did not put a lot of thought into some of them.  Someone else had a woodpecker on his arm, explaining that he liked cartoon characters.  Another person had a family tree with his name as well as his wife’s and children’s.  I was really awestruck with a beautiful piece worn by another guy, who told me that it was something from his Greek heritage. He admitted that he had done his research so that the artist would portray the tat correctly. A few others had pictures of Christ, as we in the West generally portray him.  These people used Jesus as a memorial to loved ones that they had lost, praying that they were now in the Lord’s care.  The last person I had questioned sported a beautiful rendition of his firstborn child.


If you should decide to get a tattoo, there are a few key factors that that you should consider.  One of them is how much money you are willing to spend. In my fact-finding mission, I was told that this can be an expensive endeavor costing upwards of $400 dollars or more.  Of course, the price depends upon what you want, including the colors involved, the size, and whether you choose existing flash (tattoo art) or prefer a custom made design, such as your own image.  Anything customized must be drawn from scratch and thereby entails more work.  The flash masters are indeed artists and may charge as much as $125 an hour.  Considering that some tats will require five or six hours to create, this becomes quite a little investment.  In New Jersey, bank on paying out 7% sales tax as you would for any other product.  However, this is actually a service so expect to tip the artist as well!


Another thing to keep in mind is the need to be very proactive in locating a reliable establishment; if you don’t there can be serious and even life-threatening repercussions. You must ensure that the tattoo parlor itself is clean, stocks sterile bandages, and uses clean needles.   You do not want to get any infections or contract HIV.  You definitely do not want to be overcharged either.  You also want to make sure that the person doing your artwork has experience, because it really is quite difficult to get the colors mixed properly to make the picture realistic and show some depth with shadows and light.


One other thing to think about before going under the needle is that you must be very sure that you really want this: a tattoo is permanent.  If you should decide to put your girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s name on your body and wind up not staying together, the next person with whom you forge a relationship may not like it much (witness: Angelina Jolie, who erased Billy Bob’s name as her eye wandered to Brad Pitt).  Tats can be removed with lasers but this method can be very expensive.  Last but not least, can you stand the pain?  The tattoo process can be somewhat painful, as needles are used to carry the ink into the layers of skin.


If you want to consider something a little less permanent, you might give henna a try. This natural, reddish-brown dye has been used throughout history to create temporary tattoos.  Popular in Middle Eastern and Indian cultures, henna tats are created for many special occasions such as weddings and anniversaries, and are usually used to adorn one’s hands and feet.   Some pregnant ladies put henna designs on their growing bellies as a sort of charm to ensure safe pregnancies resulting in the births of calm, healthy children.  This is a practice of Indian and Moroccan cultures, particularly when the woman is at full term.  It is used to drive away any evil spirits before the child is born.


If the prospect of getting a tattoo scares you a bit or does not appeal to you, you are like me.  You may wish to simply stand back and admire the tats of others.  Tattoos are living art, and some are genuine masterpieces with so much color and attention to detail! 

This post was written by:

- who has written 82 posts on Write On New Jersey.

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50 Responses to “Rat-a-Tat-Tat”

  1. Sweet Melissa says:

    I don’t understand the entire tattoo craze; I just don’t like the way tattoos look on anyone, man or woman. The large ones are particularly offensive to me.

    I will never get a “tat” and will just have to rely upon my dental records to identify my body in case I ever come to harm and the police need clues to find the guilty party.

  2. Cotton Mouth says:

    ITA with the poster above. My grandfather had a rather large tattoo of the bald eagle, as well as the American flag, from his time in the service, just as the writer says. It used to terrify me for some reason when I was very small! The article, however, was interesting.

  3. Dark Eyed Cajun Woman says:

    An interesting read. I, too, prefer my artwork on canvases rather than on human flesh. To each his or her own.

  4. Julie says:

    I agree that tattoos are living art, but they just are not for me. Many people, especially girls, get them when they are way to young and usually due to peer pressure. I think that many will regret them someday. When they are 60 and their skin begins to sag a little, it won’t be quite as beautiful…of course, this is just my opinion.


  5. Susan says:

    I’m with the author when it comes to getting a tattoo. I have absolutely no desire for one myself but there’s a lot to be said for the entertainment value to be had in observing & commenting on the tattoos of the brave (or idiotic – depending on one’s view) souls who do get them.

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    lol, Angelina is so funny! I love her.

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  38. smalltown girl says:

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  48. Hosea DeMarzino says:

    I personally have a meaning to my tattoos now and the ones I get in the future. It not your choice whether you can accept it but this is America and you should respect it. This is our body and our choice, you dont need to try to but any religious values or whatever upon us why its wrong. Some people use a paper as their canvas and some there skin. I cant wait when im old to look back at all the memories and explain what each one meant and still means to me and how it shaped who I am and represented who I am. If your that offended im sure there is a country where they are banned you can move to 🙂 Youll be surprised how many of your respected people actually have one somewhere.

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