From Me to You Tattoo

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.

Dead Son Tattooed into Mum

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?


Filed under Essentialism, General Thoughts

13 responses to “From Me to You Tattoo

  1. danwest

    Bruce, my feelings about tattoos match those expressed in paragraph two above. With time they look less like art and more like a stain.
    A painless, changeable, removable tattoo? My ashes will be etched on someone’s ass before those are available.
    Bet I’d make a lovely full moon.

  2. I have tattoos and I think of them much like positive scars. My entire life has covered me with scars I have no control over. I have been attacked by animals (job related risk) and people and every scar is a memory of something unpleasant. Tattoos are an opportunity to memorialize something pleasant in my life, so that not every mark on my body has a negative memory associated with it.

    My mother was horrified and said “But it’s so permanent” and I found the statement relatively absurd. At 30, I have another 50-70 years before my body is dust. That is the opposite of permanent.

    As far as decreasing in attractiveness with age, that’s no different than our skin anyway. There are also locations on your body that deal with less sag and wrinkling over time and a good tattoo artist will discuss that with you.

    Modifiable tattoos seem cool, great idea, but probably not for me. I do, however, love the idea of the tattoos that change color to indicate your blood sugar levels. I’ve wanted to get one for my diabetic boyfriend for ages!

    • brucehood

      Hi Jamye – I guess the permanence is part of the allure- otherwise it does signal commitment.
      “attacked by animals” Jeez – this I gotta know more about. Bigger than a bread bin but smaller than a horse?

      • Indeed. Most bites were from large pythons, but the worst attack was from a dog that went for my throat and took off the lower quarter of my face. I’m very lucky to have had a very skilled surgeon that did the reconstruction and I was young enough that it healed with minimal scarring. I worked in animal rescue and pathology for 8 years before becoming a high school teacher. Now, most of the scars are just mental ones. 🙂

    • danwest

      Jamye, that’s an interesting take on tattoos: a positive scar. The first person I met with extensive tats was an old sailor who seemed to have a tattoo from every place he’d ever been, and every woman he’d ever known. Body art is much improved from the black/greenish marks he had, these days I see some tats that are very colorful and beautiful.
      I do wonder how far this is going to go though, will we be seeing teenagers with full body ink before their braces come off?

  3. When my dog passed away earlier this year, I did consider having her ashes used in a similar memorial tattoo of her paw print. I still have her ashes, and it’s hard to figure out what to do with them. Essentialism to the core, I know, but nothing seems ‘right’. I can’t bring myself to just throwing them away.

  4. Jacob V

    For me the biggest barrier to getting a tattoo would be the cost of a high quality one and the necessary difficulty of finding just the right design. I have no idea what a tattoo that involved some of my favorite activities would look like. And would anyone want to see a tattoo that incorporated golf, sex and good wine?

  5. I once wrote a post mentioning a woman who had her dead husband’s ashes packed into her breast implants…..

  6. very nice post and i enjoy the comments!
    thank for the post!

  7. highnumber

    I got a tattoo when I was 18. At the time I thought it would be the first of many. Things didn’t turn out that way and now I view it as a permanent reminder of where my head was at that time, which works also as a reminder of Emerson’s warning about a foolish consistency.

  8. Lisa the Lipstick

    i think this is a brilliant idea and i am wanting in every way to keep Lily (my Dead Dog/child) close to me forever. For 14yrs she went to every job with me, every party with me, rooftop parties in NYC, gay pride in Columbus ,Ohio, Hiking in the woods in Philly, literally she has never left my side but for times when i’d travel on a plane. so in a sense i am closer to lily than some people are to their own flesh and blood. i spoiled her like a queen and now that shes gone i feel almost as if i’m missing a limb. Lily lived a hard life like me and she never got to see me succeed and make the life change i so desperately have been trying to make for 15yrs. So now my memorial to her is to clean up my act and get her face with her name tattooed on me so again she will be with me forever, and with the ashes of her in the ink it will only make me feel complete again. Does anyone know the price of anything like this and where they would do it. I live in freaking Oho so there may not be an option to do that here. thanks for this post and cheers to my baby Lily!!!!!

  9. Good idea, it’ll be interesting to see how successful they are in the attempt to make this product a reality.

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