This Goes on Your Permanent Record

Pretentious people are pretty lucky, if you think about it – there are all kinds of things that society says tell the world all about you. Your haircut, the clothes you buy, the car you drive, the books you read. But hair grows back, clothes can be changed, cars cycle in and out, and you’re always free to pick up a new author or genre. You can be individual today, and a different person but just as individual next week. Or you can take after one of my favorite retail spoofs, which suggested that you wear Gap clothing to be an individual … just like everyone else.

And then, there are more permanent ways to announce yourself, like body art. I’m not against tattoos – hell, I have one. I went in 1994 with my fraternity brother, Rob, and we got our letters inked on our ankles. I don’t regret it. To me, it’s a reminder of ideas that were important to me and still are, and it’s a fun reminder of a good time in my life. And I went the conservative route by putting it somewhere where a sock lets me keep it to myself. Most people who know I have it don’t care much either way and if I had the decision to make over, I would likely do it again.

Even more important than being sure that whatever you’re getting inked is something that you want to remain there for a long time, though, I have a serious suggestion for the tattoo afficionados out there: know what the damned thing means. For example, I would never get a Chinese character that I couldn’t read myself. Never mind the huge number of characters that have alternate meanings; I’d just be too afraid that when I asked for “samurai,” some artist with a warped sense of humor would know how to spell “douchebag” in Japanese.

Poor Brandy.

Imagine being a pop star and thinking that you’ve struck on something totally new, unqiue and interesting. Something that energize your fans. She got something like this:

Then when she tweeted about it, one of her following asked, “Is that Ganesh?” To which she enthusiastically responded, “Yes it is! Egyptian god! Remover of all obstacles. :)”

Only, Ganesh isn’t an Egyptian god. He’s Hindi. You can get ink, but fans and opponents of tattors alike are going to judge you on whether it’s something that is worth putting on your permanent record. When Tupac bared his six-pack and prominent “Thug Life” tattoo, it didn’t matter whether you approved of body art; it made sense, regardless. When Mike Tyson got tribal patterns down his face, you had to think to yourself, “Well, yeah. That’s batshit crazy, so yes! Totally you.”

So, no matter what people think about tattos, one of the universal expectations when you get Ganesh on your wrist is that you know what pantheon he’s from. To each her own, but it should at least be something important enough to you that you know what it is.

Missing the cliche rose and butterfly, but I still think this tat has something for everyone.

Looks to me like even the Remover of All Obstacles can’t avert a PR disaster.

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3 Responses to This Goes on Your Permanent Record

  1. Tom says:

    On Failbook the other day, a girl had posted a pic of her new tattoo, some Chinese characters. A Chinese person commented: “Hey I don’t know what they told you at the tattoo shop but that means ‘picnic tables'”

    ^I just spent 2 hrs roaming this site, just a warning

  2. bonnie says:

    Another issue with characters seems to be that they can mean different things in different dialects. My parents were told in Singapore by several Chinese shopkeepers that the character we see most commonly meaning good luck was also the character for their last name (so they bought everything they could find with that character) — until they visited Taiwan, when they were given an entirely different pronunciation and meaning for it.

  3. Paul says:

    There’s only one acceptable tattoo for the biceps: “USMC”.

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