Dazed and Confused

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 21, 1999

LEE DRESSELHAUS / L’Observateur / July 21, 1999

So. You know, I have a great deal of sympathy for people whose lives spinout of their control, good people who have bad things happen to them that they just can’t get a handle on. Like when someone gets laid offunexpectedly from a good job, or when someone is hit in an auto accident by some at-fault idiot with no insurance. But I have very little sympathyfor people whose lives get messed up or become complicated because they do extremely stupid things. Actually, I should rephrase that. I have nosympathy for them. None. Zip. Nada. Case in point: A young man recently went to a tattoo parlor and decided it would be nice if his name were tattooed on his back in Chinese, for whatever reason. A while later he emerged, the proud owner of a 6-character tattoo that started somewhere about the middle of his shoulder blades and descended right along his spine, each character getting slightly larger the further down it was, to somewhere about the middle of his torso. He thought the six characters spelled the six letters of his firstname. Just imagine his surprise when, lo and behold, he finds out that itactually said, “Kung Po Karate, martial arts expert, and Shaolin fifth”. Notonly did our young hero not get his name tattooed on his back, he got something way different, and the something way different doesnt even make sense. And now, the nature of tattoos being what it is (permanent),he’s stuck with it unless he wins the lawsuit hes slapping the tattoo parlor with for laser surgery to have it removed. He is disappointed andangered that this would happen. I would like to inject one of my kind andgentle observations at this point.

Well, DUH! Now, I would think that anyone who could even spell his first name in any language would make darn sure, before putting a permanently disfiguring mark anywhere on his body, just what it said. Granted, the tattoo parlortold him it could spell his name in Chinese, but just why would anyone believe that without verification? In fact, it may not even say what he thinks it says now! It could say anything. He’s lucky the six characters onhis back don’t say, “Kick me, I like it. Really.” Sort of a permanent Kick Mesign stuck on his back for all the world to see, a cosmic Chinese joke.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t feel like a victim if this happened to me. I’d feel really, really stupid. And I sure wouldn’t tell anyone about it.Ever. Much less get my picture in the newspaper the way he did. That’s the trouble with tattoos. Someone once said that tattoos werepermanent proof of temporary insanity, and this little incident certainly bears that out. I never got a tattoo, although it was a close thing once inmy youth. The combination of being with friends who were bound anddetermined to permanently express their temporary feelings of the moment with tattoos, mixed with a rather large amount of adult beverages nearly caused me to make that decision. One that I’m sure I’d be regrettingevery time I had to explain to someone just what that meant. I’ve alwayswondered just what the tattoo would have been if I had followed through with that evening’s impulse. I don’t think it would have been my girlfriendof the time’s name. Even then I had the sense to know that, boy, would thatever be a bad move. I wonder how many guys out there are married to aSally but have Cathy tattooed somewhere on their body. And don’t thinkSally hasn’t taken note. And, guys, she doesn’t believe a word of yourexplanation or forgive you, either, even if she says she does.

It wouldn’t be one of those panthers on my forearm, or my astrological sign. And it sure wouldn’t be my own name. I know my own name, thankyou. I dont need it emblazoned forever in my skin to remind me. Which brings me back to the inspiration for this column, our hero with the Kick Me sign. In his defense I have to say that, it is his body, and when youare an adult you can have it tattooed, pierced, shaved, or changed any way you want it. You can make it fat or thin and dress just any old how, fromItalian suits to tie dye. That’s your choice. And your business. But whenyou get a tattoo, at least be sure of what it says. I mean, what if you gotone in Chinese or Egyptian hieroglyphics because you thought it looked really cool and it said, “Warning! Contagious Leper!” Oops, too late.

Well, anyway, I’m a firm believer in the right to self-expression, but I think that I understand the little criminals who use a spray can and someone else’s wall for their graffiti a little better than I understand the whole body graffiti/tattoo thing. That canvas can be washed.

Copyright © 1998, Wick Communications, Inc.

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