In Which Why You Wanna Go And Do That Love Huh

Your Body Is A Wonderland

by Molly Lambert

I hate tattoos. I know this is not a particularly popular stance, it reminds people of being pro-life. “Keep your opinions off my body!” they say. And I say “Why not just keep your favorite quotes and song lyrics off of them too?” Some people have tattoos. Other people do not. Who am I to say which is better?

It is possible that I am just prudish about body modification in general. I have never been pierced, even in the ears. I do not disapprove of earrings or body jewelry, I just know that if I had any extra holes in my face I would neglect them out of laziness and let them get infected.

Some people look great with a nose ring, but they are usually people who are already beautiful to begin with. The nose ring serves to point out “look, I can put shit on my face and it just underscores that I would look perfect without it.” Like when pretty girls wear ugly clothes and they seem even prettier.

For a while I thought about getting a piercing, mostly out of boredom with looking at my face. I think this is why people get body modifications, because they are bored of seeing their same selves all the time. But a new person would not be bored of your body. They would not find its lack of marks dull.

I could not pick one shirt to wear everyday, or one piece of jewelry. I could never pick a quote or a picture to put on my body permanently. I’d get sick of it, probably right away. I would want to scrub it off in the shower as if it were regular pen ink.

When I was in high school I drew on myself constantly. My mom gave me a hard time about it. “You’re going to get ink poisoning” she’d say, but of course I never did. I drew mandalas on my hands and scenes on my calves. Anything I could do during class to avoid paying attention.

My standard line about tattoos these days is “your body is not a MySpace.” But I know that I am wrong, and that it is. Your body is yours to do whatever you see fit to do with it. Perhaps my distaste for tattoos is because they remind me of the Nazis branding Jews as cattle in the Holocaust.

And yet there’s something fascist about my desire for an unmarked body. Like Michael Chabon’s essay about superhero costumes, I feel as if a lack of tattoos makes a figure its own ideal costume. Like the perfected unmarked human forms in Triumph Of The Will.

Or maybe it is just the humorlessness of most tattoos that offends me. Kurt Vonnegut quotes are popular, and yet I think he’d disapprove of being propagandized as such. Even joke tattoos are serious in their permanence. I know that is the point, I just can’t stomach it myself.

Some people have beautiful tattoos. I have seen sleeves and back pieces that are absolutely gorgeous. But I have also seen grim reapers and Tasmanian Devils and eight balls that were nothing besides tacky, and to get tattooed seems to me to be putting yourself in a club with them somehow.

I do not aim to stop tattoos, or even really to make you reconsider them. If you have some and love them, that is great. If you are thinking about it and remain unsure, it’s still really up to you. I’m just warning you that when you show it to me I will flinch, because you were already so lovely before.

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording.

“Elegie” – Patti Smith (mp3)

“Sisters of the Moon” – Fleetwood Mac (mp3)

“Storms” – Fleetwood Mac (mp3)

Herman Melville tat is pretty good


The Best Superhero Comic Books

Alex Dreams Of Stevie Nicks

Bridget On Frank O’Hara

Of Course There Are Always Exceptions To Rules

67 thoughts on “In Which Why You Wanna Go And Do That Love Huh

  1. that butt tat is especially gross. i’m with you on this lambs. i’ve only seen one tattoo in my life that I liked: this guy had a scene from Moby Dick in line-drawing/etching style on his shoulder. the antique quality of it made it so beautiful and natural looking. i think there is some inherent connection between tattoos and the sea.

  2. I definitely like sailor tattoos the best. Queequeg is one of my favorite characters in fiction, and also a name I would maybe give to a kitten. I also have no problem with tribal tattoos when they are a tradition of someone’s actual tribe. Māori tattoos look awesome on actual Polynesians, and tremendously stupid on white people.

  3. I’ve always been anti-tatts … until recently.

    But the only thing i really want is something that is totally lame and gross (a really patriotic southern cross tattoo) vomit. So i don’t think i’ll ever it.

    I like tattoos on boys that have a cultural significance. Say, a nice Samoan sleeve on an actual Samoan or something like that. There’s nothing more offputting and unsexy than a tacky, ramdom-assed tatt.

  4. yeah I already have a this recording tat. it’s on my blogging finger.

    I seriously did not know this many people ALSO felt apologetic about hating tattoos. Love that stance. “I’m sorry I hate x.” Similar feelings here about Jenna Fischer.

    I need a time machine.

  5. I always excuse my lack of ink with an excuse about the way tattoos and body hair conflict, but underneath it is basically this same sentiment. Also, thanks for the link ot the Michael Chabon thing– Michael Chabon + comic books = happy mook.

  6. i once told diane sawyer i had a tatoo of matisse’s dancing nudes wrapped around my pengo. she giggled.

  7. I once saw a bald man with two eyes tattooed on the back of his head. I hate tattoos, they look low/no class.

  8. I totally agree, but it took me years to come to the same conclusions. I recently completed my twenty-seventh hour under the laser getting my tattoos removed. I think the scarring looks more acceptable.

  9. Amusingly, the T.S. Eliot quote was the epigraph to my “deep personal thoughts” journal (not to be confused with the “this shit happened to me today” journal) in tenth grade. The idea of having those two lines permanently on my body twelve years later gives me hives. I’ve got a tattoo, but it’s not a quote, and for this I am glad.

  10. I couldn’t disagree more. I’m no more tired of the tattoos I have than I am of my scars and freckles. They are a part of me now.

    Getting tattooed was like hanging pictures in a new apartment. Now I feel like I am home. And just because some people hang stupid posters I don’t like in their homes, doesn’t mean no one should own art.

  11. Hello! I just linked over to this post from…somewhere, not sure where. Anyway! The point of this comment is to notify you that the 1st Corinthians lower back tattoo (seriously, WHAT?!) has a typo. That poor person now has ‘it’s’ tattooed instead of ‘its’ for all to see, forever and ever. I mean, is it bad that I’m more concerned about that than the fact that some random got a bible verse tramp stamp?

  12. Well it took me a few yrs to think about something that ment alot to me. I finally got one on my shoulder (that can be covered if needed) a Symbol for def. looking back on it now its tastefull and i would not change it.

  13. You like tattoos or you don’t like tattoos. It’s your own choice. When people get really foolish tattoos, it’s humorous and sad at the same time. I do have tattoos, each has a special significance for me. I am a firefighter, I have crossed fire axes for graduating the fire academy (one of the most arduous things I’ve ever done), I have the star of life for a 2 year old I did CPR on and brought back.

    Not all tattoos are foolish or ugly. Some are quite beautiful pieces of art. I specifically avoid having any lettering or ‘flash art’ (commercial art for tattoos, usually lots of little goofy things that look like crap) put onto me.

    Neither do I think that only American Indians should wear ‘tribal’ tattoos, nor do I think that only the Japanese should have Irezumi art imprinted into themselves. The thought that “only this group can do this…” is foolish. That would be like rolling your eyes in disgust when you see a non-Irishman drinking whisky, or a Japanese guy riding a Harley instead of a Kawasaki.

    The simple fact is that there is symbolism that some people are drawn to. Who is anyone to tell them that they should not like what they do?

    Frankly, I think tattoo flash and lettering on human skin loathsome. It doesn’t preclude me from finding the occasional genuine piece of art amongst tattoo work. There are a lot of paintings not even suitable for hanging on a refrigerator for each piece of true beauty in the Louvre. To find something especially beautiful or fine and good, you must put up with seeing an awful lot of crap along the way.

    Just my ­­2¢


  14. I agree with you completely in theory. But after many years of proud tattoolessness I eventually reached a point where NOT having a tattoo was saying more about me than any tattoo ever could, and since my whole objection to tattoo-getting was related to doubting the whole project of trying to SAY something about oneself through having/not having tattoos, I cried “Uncle” and got one. It’s a tattoo that if I were to describe it you’d rightly peg me for an asshole, but it has “meaning” (“Really!”) to me and I kind of love it; what I love even more than it was the experience of getting it. Above all else, getting a tattoo is a) fun, and b) feels good. I’m desperate to repeat the experience but sort of ambivalent about actually carrying a second tattoo: quite the pickle.

  15. Some people think writing a blog is pretty asinine too, but you know.. it’s all just opinions isn’t it? Like assholes, everyone has one.

  16. tattoos are the only art that no one can ever take from you. they cant be repossessed, they cant be altered by someone elses opinion. they are there for the wearer, the canvass, and nothing more. i dont see how someone can have an opinion on something that couldnt have less to do with them, other than something stereotypical. tattoos are not for the poor. they are not for the wealthy. they are for the people who like to wear their hearts, souls, or beliefs on the outside, to be reminded of them every time they look in the mirror. Tattoos are a statement of self. every tattoo has meaning… even the silly ones, because maybe that is the side of life that person values. tattoos seep into your blood and rarely have i met someone with a tattoo that didn’t love it, even if they didnt originally. they become part of you as much as you are a part of that piece of art.

  17. Janet Jackson title? Innteresting.
    I think tattoos are attractive & respectable if some actual thought has been put into it, or if there’s some meaning behind it besides “omgomgomgomgogmomg trampstamp”/”omgomgomgomgomg let’s get matching tatts!*giggle*”.
    Although I will say that I have a secret attraction to people mostly covered in tattoos.

  18. i have a tattoo on the back of my neck which is small and says “child of the universe” which comes from the desiderata. i am twenty now and i got the tattoo done when i was 18. i don’t regret it for a second. mum and dad had just split, mum was showing signs of recovery from a 4 year strugle with depression and had also lost her way a little bit with drugs. As the eldest, my two parents who were finding it rough, turned to me for answers to the questions and problems they had. i was completley lost. i had just finished my hsc overseas at an international school and was also under the stress of moving back to australia for uni.

    when i wear my hair down, no one can see my tattoo, and as its on the back of my neck in tiny thin little writing, sometimes i forget that its there. but you know what? i am glad its there. it reminds me that i have a right to be here, that i AM a child of the universe. and it brings me peace.

    some people are offended by the fact that i have a tattoo, that i have “ruined my body” with ink. Especially amongst the private school and international school set that i grew up with.

    i think every single one of the tattoos in your blog are beautiful, and if they bring strength or hope to people who need those physical marks on them, then thats okay with me.

    thank you for posting the pictures of them.

    some people would argue that you don’t need those reminders on your body. well some of us do. some of us get to such a low place in our lives that we need words of beauty and encouragement etched into ourself forever.

    my mum, who has turned her life completley around, has the words “fortune favours the brave” on her arm – from her elbow to her wrist. i think its inspiring more than anything else, because she sees that everyday and knows she can keep going.

  19. The way I see it was summed up in a funny way by a comedian: “Marriage and kids are fine, but tattoos? no thanks, that’s permanent!”

  20. I think if you need a tattoo to make you feel better, you probably have unresolved issues. No way should you be dependent on ink for your psychological well being. Can you imagine a psychologists recommendation if that is really what people needed?
    “Get two tattoos and call me in the morning.”

    1. As a psych student? I have no problem with tattoos. It’s not a cure, but sometimes it’s that reminder that gets through. And anything that can do such a thing is to be valued.

      I plan on getting one (whether real, or henna always on the same place is yet to be determined) when I graduate. I’m going to get the psych symbol on my wrist. Because its more than a job. Its the literal example of what life is. For my own struggles and those I’ve known. I’m also considering a lyric. Because something that has saved my life and continues to do so has every right to be on my body permanently.

  21. i too have a literary tattoo and this makes me cringe. yes, there are times i just want to pretend i never got it it’s from dante’s inferno and i will burn in hell for it. it says: “abandon all hope ye who enter here” and it’s just above the pantyline, below my navel. oh the shame!

  22. The difference between tattooed people and other people is that tattooed people don’t care if you don’t have any.

    At the same time, you’re free to hate whatever you wish, in the same way that I’m allowed to hate fat people or gingers I guess.

    PS. Well written and I even though I have an opposing view point, I enjoyed it.

  23. Interesting article-although I do have an opposing view. I think tattoos used to be for “sailors”, but today that is not the case. I have two tattoos one on my side and one on my hipbone and I am going graduating from medical school this upcoming May. However, I do think one needs to consider placement and taste. I don’t have a problem with people that do or don’t have tattoos.

  24. to be honest, why ther heck would you get a tattoo on the inside of your mouth!!! man thats sick badd

  25. Live with no regrets! If you get a tattoo then be proud of it. The tattoo is permanent and becomes apart of you. The tattoo is a part of who you are. Being ashamed of a tattoo that you got is no different than being ashamed of your hair, eyes, nose, or body, etc. I haven’t had any regrets about my tattoos because each one represents a apart of me. Each one tells a little bit about me. I keep my tattoos private and only for my enjoyment. I have a quote on the underside of my upper arm that says “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” That quote isn’t there as a constant reminder to me to live life to the fullest, it’s there because it is a philosophy that burns deep inside of me. I didn’t get the tattoo for everyone to enjoy. I got it for myself. Tattoo’s like any artwork are a form of self expression. I am sorry to hear that some of you regret your tattoos.

    There’s nothing wrong with tattoos. Some people aren’t cut out for them. You have to be a confident individual who takes pride in themselves to get a tattoo and to not regret it. Those of us who live life worrying and always analyzing the world around regret tattoos. Be confident, be proud, have no shame and follow your heart.

  26. Yes, you are saying reality about piercing but when it comes to tattoos i don’t agree with you. If you have tattoo on your body then you must show this to outside world because it has become part of your life.

  27. dont get a random tattoo just to have one. get one of something u want to be with you forever something u can look at and remember. something that you see when you look at yourself in the mirror and u want to keep going.

  28. Cool site! In case any of your readers are looking for tattooing designs, here is a great site that I used, it is free. it has really neat 3D designs. love, terri

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