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Correcting Your Behavior Since 2017

Marked for Life

Tattoos are for pirates, bikers, sailors, and tramps. If you are a member of one of these groups, by all means, mark your skin with a lifelong identifier. This will help people know that you can probably win at arm wrestling, might be out to loot and pillage, know how to batten down a hatch, or are accustomed to waking up in strangers' beds. If not, I implore you to consider soberly before hopping onto a trend that, unlike the ink, will not last forever.

For many decades, no one knew anyone who had a tattoo. It was tacky. It was low class. It was the mark of ruffians, brawlers, folks who had chosen lives far outside of mainstream society. A tattoo said "beware.” It said, "Stay away or take your chances." Yes, Popeye had a tattoo, and he was perfectly nice. But he was a sailor. The happy, singing characters in the musical South Pacific had tattoos. They were in the US Navy. Everyone else? Bad news. Today it seems nearly everyone is marring their perfectly nice skin with gobs of ink depicting everything from tiny bees to sprawling phrases in Arabic. But as far as the Curmudgeon is concerned (as a person who generally prefers things as they were), they're still vulgar. And years from now, when they rotate once again out of style, today's hipsters will still be stuck with the Chinese symbol for water on their necks or the Minneapolis skyline across their backs.

If history has taught us nothing else, it's taught us that today's fashion is tomorrow's faux pas. Have we forgotten the godawful neon trend of the 1980s? The after-shame of polyester? Are our memories so short that we no longer recall such hip-at-the-time looks as the leisure suit, the patchwork midi-dress, leg warmers, popped-up collars, dickies, mullets? What about MC Hammer pants? Mom jeans? The Jewfro? Linebacker shoulder pads? Fanny packs, for heaven’s sake? Haven’t we learned anything?

Mark my words, the day will come when tattoos go the way of fingerless mesh gloves. But unlike those useless accessories, tattoos aren't easily removed. And then what? Ah yes, you've forgotten old age . . . when your skin's elasticity starts to consider retirement. How will you feel when that cute little rabbit tattoo starts to look more like an elephant with whiskers? When your philosophical mantra is rendered illegible by virtue of folds and wrinkles? And when you’re ruthlessly mocked by a younger, tattoo-less generation that looks at you the way you now look at people who are on AOL? As always, this old stick-in-the-mud Curmudgeon will be proven right in the end. If for some strange reason you feel that you truly must disfigure yourself, if the urge to have some scraggly dude needle something onto you is just too powerful to resist, remember this: a tattoo is a commitment. I don’t know about you, but my tastes and beliefs have evolved over the years. Is your chosen design something you’ll still want when you’re 67? Keep in mind: your favorite musical artists will be uncool at some point. Your philosophy may prove no more than youthful folly. Plan that disfigurement wisely. And please—even if my warning is lost on you—do me this one small favor: proofread.

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