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Matthew Von Pinnon, Published August 21 2011

Von Pinnon: Everyone but me seems to be sporting body art

You’re looking at him: the last person on Earth to not have a tattoo.

I used to think I might just be in rare company, that there must be a few people without ink, as they say.

Nope. I recently became convinced I was the last one. I was at a water park in Aberdeen, S.D., when it hit me. Everyone there had a tattoo: moms, dads, teens, grandmas, grandpas, toddlers and even a few infants. They must be doing that now, right after cutting the umbilical cord.

Doctor: “Congratulations, Mom! It’s a girl.”

Mom: “A girl? Oh, honey, we have our little girl.”

Dad: “Little Madeline. Oh, babe, we have a little Madeline.”

Doctor: “Dad, want to do the honors?”


Mom: “Don’t forget, Doctor, we’d like that unicorn placed on her bum for good luck.”

Doctor: “Sure, we’ll get to that in a minute, Mom, but don’t you want to hold her first?”

OK. Maybe it’s not quite that early, but for sure by the baptism. I see kids walking around with tattoos all over the place, presumably with permission from their tattooed parents. And it’s not just that end of the age spectrum: More and more people with age spots are sporting naked ladies and the like, and not all of them earned them in World War II or Vietnam.

I don’t necessarily disapprove. People can do what they want with their bodies, and perhaps this is simply an expression of that most individual of rights.

But I’ve often pondered the quintessential questions of our era: If I did have a tattoo, what would I want tattooed, and where? Perhaps I’m too indecisive or simply don’t want to be labeled, but I can’t think of any image or word that so speaks to my being that I would want it forever on my body.

I kind of get it when people have their loved ones’ names tattooed. I find it endearing, an outward display of dedication or love for another person.

What I don’t get is when people have the kinds of tattoos everyone else has, and I see those the most: butterflies on women, barbed wire on men, those kinds of things. Aren’t tattoos supposed to speak to a person’s individuality? If everyone has the same tattoo, doesn’t that defeat the purpose? They might as well just shop at Abercrombie and Fitch.

I also don’t get when people have messages of inspiration tattooed in a foreign language or symbol that they otherwise know nothing about. Those are probably meant to be exotic or conversation starters, but tattoos shouldn’t need an interpreter.

And where to place the body art? Some people want it where everybody can see it: the face, neck, thigh, calf, upper arm. Others are slightly more discreet: the small of the back, the shoulder, the ankle, the foot. And yet others are even more private, placing them where only the wearer or select viewers may ever see them. Bankers and funeral directors are encouraged to choose the latter.

I used to figure the only people who were really bold in their tattooed glory were either independently wealthy, never aspired to be independently wealthy or are tattoo artists who never aspired to be wealthy but became so as this phenomenon swept the planet.

Now I’m not so sure. When the faith leaders and church ladies openly sport ink, something’s changed.

Forget the stock market these days. I’m putting my money in a recession-proof tattoo parlor. After all, babies are being born every day.

Von Pinnon is editor of The Forum. Reach him at (701) 241-5579.