I used to think that tattoos were like venereal diseases: just something you woke up with, but now I am reconsidering. Wandering around downtown the past week or so I've been thinking about how an informal sampling can sometimes provide a pretty accurate picture of a genuine trend. With the warm weather upon us, women especially are wearing outfits that reveal more skin-- something I applaud, incidentally. Hardly a trend worth noting, except that more and more of the skin I'm seeing is tattooed.
I started counting, and estimated that about a quarter of the women under 40 -- and a fair number of the women over 40-- were sporting one or more tattoos. Women are better for this sort of study. They are more interesting to look at generally, of course, and they expose more skin than men do, but in the interests of science I started surveying the ornamentation on men as well. A friend of mine likes to say that he has told his kids that if they want a tattoo they have to join the Navy first, but from the available evidence it would appear that tattoos have appeal beyond the crusty old mariner demographic.
With my raw data in hand, I turned to the internet to see if my observations could be verified. Tattoo Facts & Statistics yielded some numbers:
"The National Geographic News stated in April 2000 that 15% of Americans were tattooed (or approximately 40 million people!)
"Esquire Magazine estimated in March 2002 that 1 in 8 Americans was tattooed.
"According to the American Society of Dermatological Surgery, they stated in 2005, that of all the people they treat with laser and light therapy, only only 6% are getting a tattoo removed.
"Harris Poll, 2003, estimates that fully 36% of those aged 25-29 have one or more tattoos.
"A 2006 a study done by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that 24% of Americans between 18 and 50 are tattooed...."
The Harris poll, which is quoted at length, is particularly notable for a number of reasons (Democrats are more likely to be tattooed than Republicans; and Republicans are more likely to regret being tattooed. There is a Hillary Clinton joke in there somewhere, I'm sure.) Harris is vague on the big tattoo question, though. Although people with tattoos are usually eager to explain why they have a particular design, "Why did you get a tattoo?" seems to be a harder question to answer. A hint is in the answers to the question, "Compared to not having a tattoo, having a tattoo has made me feel...." Five percent reported that their tattoo made them feel "More intelligent". These are undoubtedly the people with mis-translated Chinese characters on their necks. Twenty-nine percent said that their tattoos made them feel rebellious-- presumably not the people who choose pictures of their baby, but then again, what do I know? The largest single group, 34%, reported that their tattoos made them feel sexy. Chacun à son goût, I reckon. If you think former Secretary of State George Schultz is a sexy looking guy, maybe a tattoo is just what you need to hotten up your look.
When I read stuff like Gary Kamiya's "I'm Younger Than That Now", I just want to scream.
"Lately I've been asking myself: When did I get so damn old?
"Will it be on Saturday, when my son graduates from high school? Did it start 10 years ago, when my knees gave out and I had to say goodbye to sports other than bocce ball?"
Get a hold of yourself, man! You are, according to your whiny article, 53. Do you really mean to say that you gave up sports when you were 43 years old? Good heavens, you lump, no wonder you feel like hell. We defy age by continuing to do the things we love to do, not by shrugging and saying, "Well, I'm old now." When I see guys in their 70s and 80s out running, I think, "That's what I'm going to be like," not, "I wonder how they do it?" How they do it is simple: they never stopped. Count on it, those people are still having sex, too> They don't think, "Wow, my body sure is decrepit." They think, "This is great!"
"Age defying" is either a bogus tagline for a product that probably doesn't work-- or it is a way of life. People who say that they aren't active because their knees hurt make my head hurt. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing."
I'd like to tell Mr. Kamiya to grow up, but he'd probably dry up and blow away.