Tattoos were present as early as 3300 BC in Europe, Egypt, China, Japan, India, Indonesia, Samoa, New Zealand, Persia, and the Philippines. Tattoos meant different things in different continents. Some countries like China would have prisoners or criminals faces’ tattooed with the character for what the person did. In India and Japan tattoos were a form of spiritual protection, and in other countries like New Zealand and Indonesia, they were a symbol of status.
When colonizers from Europe explored these regions, they would often bring natives back to their home countries to show off the tattoos. Some explorers would even return with tattoos on themselves, such as James Cook of Britain. King George V was tattooed in Japan along with his sons, which began the tradition of their family getting tattoos. In the 19th century, the elite of Europe began getting tattoos. It proliferated, especially in Britain, where a poll in 1898 from the Harmsworth Magazine showed that one in five of the upper class were tattooed. People like Winston Churchill and his mother had tattoos.
Within the past century or so, tattoos have become more mainstream and accepted by the general public instead of only the social elite getting them. Tattoos also no longer only adorn gang members, prisoners, and other kinds of people you wouldn’t want to be sitting next to on the bus.
Nowadays, tattoos decorate the skin of famous actors and actresses, musicians, sports players, business people, models, your neighbor, maybe even your parents. Some people get them for religious reasons, superstition, as a way for others to recognize them, for personal reasons, such as commemorating a loved one, or perhaps simply because they think it looks cool.
Personally, I find tattoos to be a form of artwork. I have seen some beautiful tattoos done by people revered for their work, and also some tattoos that look like they were done by a ten year old. There have been trends with what kind of image people get, such as tribal tattoos based on the kinds the Mauri of New Zealand have, dragons and tigers based on the Japanese style, as well as Kanji (the Japanese name for their characters) and Chinese characters to name a few.
Considering my minor is Mandarin, I can read the characters and have seen people with characters that mean something completely different than what they intended it to mean. How embarrassing is that? That ink is in your skin forever, and instead of getting “strength” or “courage” or whatever you wanted to get, it actually instead reads “pie”. Sure, if no one you know can read Chinese characters you are fine, but once someone who can sees that, you look like the biggest idiot in the world. Or the biggest pie enthusiast.
Some people take their time to decide what to have permanently put in their skin, such as something that symbolizes a great deal to them. I have seen people with ink commemorating a loved
one that passed in the form of scripture or an image of the person or an image of something that represents that person. It is their way of showing how much that person means to them, and their way of showing to the world what is important to them.
Then there are people who get tattoos just for the sake of having ink in their skin. They usually are quick to decide what image they want, and end up with an image that they regret in a year, or an image that makes them look utterly ridiculous. Let’s be honest, when you see someone walking around with Pac Man and a couple of ghosts tattooed on them, you judge them. Why on Earth would you get Pac Man on your skin? Why not get a poster or a t-shirt with the little guy on it? Or the person who decided it would be awesome to get a tattoo that makes it look like their skin is falling off and we can see their bone. One word comes to mind when I see those tattoos: why? Didn’t they think of how they would explain that to their grandchildren, or even their children? Or how that will look when they are 80?
Moral of the story here is choose wisely when you pick out what you want to have in your skin. Those last a lifetime, unless you decide to spend thousands of dollars for a painful laser removal that doesn’t even remove it that well. Or unless you decide to willingly look like that asinine person we have all seen, go right ahead, it is your body after all.