I’ve been thinking about tattoos quite a bit recently. I suppose it started when I went to TAM and saw so many people with them including the former JREF president Phil Plait who has meteor on his shoulder that he had recently done courtesy of LA Ink. Phil claims it was all part of a bet but deep down, I think that he wanted to join the growing ranks of geeks who have them. Carl Zimmer, who I met at SciFoo even has a science tattoo emporium which is well worth a visit. Why do so many people want to be inked? It can’t be for individuality.
I think that I am increasingly becoming a minority and I suppose each to his own. Some that I saw at TAM were very beautiful but I am such a fickle individual that I could never commit to a permanent pattern on my skin. Also, I have always thought that while tattoos may look cool on young skin, the ravages of time, gravity and tissue distortion rarely do justice to the artist’s original designs when you get to the wrinkly old age I am – there again who cares?
However, help may be at hand for the less committed like me. At SciFoo, I heard from the director of a new company that is working with silk of all products to produce a tattoo that is modifiable using electronics and light-sensitive components. If they manage to pull this off then this will be a megabuck industry. I am reminded of a good female friend of mine who revealed that her Chinese character tattoo for “woman” that she had done on her arm raised a titter from a native speaker, who said that she had been in fact, been permanently inked with the symbol for the ladies. It would be like having “Gents” tattooed on me.
So where’s the woo angle here. Well this need for an intimate, permanent display reached a supersense level when the Metro reported that a 50-year-old British mother, who had lost her son Lloyd to a drugs overdose, had his cremated ashes mixed in with ink and then tattooed into three patterns on her back. She said, ‘I’ve put Lloyd back where he started – he’s in my body again. As soon as I knew it was possible, I wanted to have the ashes tattoos as a tribute to Lloyd.’ This is reminiscent of the Victorian mourning jewellery that was made from the deceased’s hair. However, technology has moved on and as I noted in an earlier post, it is possible to have the carbon ashes of your loved one made into a diamond by LifeGem. However, incorporating the remains of the lost one into your body in a tattoo seems more intimate – a feature of essentialism that I discussed in the book.
So what’s your opinion of tattoos? Do they need to be permanent or would you prefer the option of changing them? And what about having the remnants of a loved one permanently etched into your skin?