Tattoos Blues

Well, Christmas and New Year’s are over, and if you live in Australia like I do that is a hot time – literally. It’s summer here, and while December wasn’t as warm as it usually is, January is looking like what we Aussies call a “scorcher”. This means, of course, that everyone heads to the beach and dresses in less clothing than usual, and that means that those people with tattoos have the opportunity to flaunt them.

It seems everyone under the age of twenty is getting a tattoo these days. It seems to be a trend for both guys and girls. I don’t have any problem with tattoos as such, but if young people are giving in to peer pressure to get them then that is a cause for concern, given that it is a permanent commitment. And I know that when I was a teenager I was interested in styles and things that are no longer to my taste. So the designs that a teenager gets whilst still maturing intellectually and physically may not be what they want in twenty years’ time.

One teenage girl I know announced proudly that she was getting a tattoo and I asked where. She said “On my neck.” Two stars, apparently. I warned her, being the grumpy old man I am, that some employers are not going to like people with tattoos on their neck, or anywhere else visible for that matter. She shrugged the suggestion off, stating that she could hide it under her hair. I haven’t seen the tattoo yet, but it gave me cause for concern.

Another girl I know got an Eye of Horus on her stomach. She proudly showed it to me and I, in my tactless way, asked what happens when she needed to have her appendix out. The scar would go right through the design. She stopped smiling and said she hadn’t thought of that. The next tattoo she got was on her foot.

But that’s a side-issue. Teens are getting tatts, if not always in the right places,and I guess until the trend wears off (unlike the tattoos themselves) there’s not much we can do to dissuade them. I personally think they are ugly, but that’s me. Each to their own.

But I was amused, and I guess a little saddened, by a tattoo I saw a few days ago when I was waiting to get on a ferry. There was a shirtless young man, about twenty or so, sporting a tattoo of the Southern Cross on his arm.

Now, the constellation of the Southern Cross, shown below, is very important to an Australian. It’s on our flag. Every Australian not only knows the Cross but can see it almost every night when we look up at the sky. It is the smallest constellation of them all, but is also one of the most recognisable and easily identified. And one of which we are justifiably proud.

The point about this guy’s tattoo, however, was that it was backwards, flipped left to right, thus:


This just doesn’t look right. The tilt of the horizontal arms is wrong and the fifth star is on the wrong side.

How did this happen? Did the tattooist get it wrong or just didn’t care about what way he drew the pattern? Did the guy getting the tattoo look at it in the mirror and it looked right that way? I admire his attempt to be patriotic but some people would regard this as an insult to our country. The Southern Cross is a cherished symbol of Australia. Perhaps he intended it to be this way. Perhaps he was making a protest.

I told a friend of mine – who has tattoos of bows on her legs – about this backwards Southern Cross and she said she had seen one on a guy’s chest without the fifth star. That star is important. Again, maybe he was making a point.

It matches a few other tattoo mistakes I have seen. Not counting just plain badly drawn ones, which are more common that might be imagined. One man had a crucifix on the back of his neck. When he held his head forwards you could see the whole design, but when he held it normally Jesus’ middle section was hidden, with just his head and feet showing. Again, maybe intentional, but also maybe he had his head forwards when the tattoo was being done and the mistake wasn’t realised until he stood normally.

I admire people’s choice to be individual. But perhaps getting tattoos as a result of peer pressure isn’t such a good idea. Especially skinny white guys with tribal tattoos.  They are really trying too hard to be cool, and just looking weird.

I don’t have a tattoo. I never want one. I have seen good ones, on both men and women. If someone wants to get one, as long as it is their choice and not just to fit in, then that is fine by me. But perhaps they should take more care in getting it right, and where they get it. Just saying.