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How 'bout a tattoo for Mom?

Published:Wednesday | May 2, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Dennie Quill, Columnist

It just seems nowadays like every young person has been tattooed or pierced in a world where body modification has become the new item of self-expression. I have heard that one of the most appreciative gifts one can give a young woman today is a tattoo.

Oh, how times have changed. Used to be that ex-convicts wore the old crossbones and skull tattooed on their arms as a declaration of how bad they were. Military types and leather-clad bikers were also often inked.

Even before that though, tattoos were a rite of passage for some ancient cultures. Also, the henna dye used in Asia for religious reasons made elaborate patterns, but these are not indelible and can be washed off.

Part of a lifestyle

Tattooing is no longer the preserve of men; it is part of a lifestyle, and women are taking trips to tattoo studios in droves to have their skin poked, prodded and pierced at several sticks per second. Some people say it is painful and some are even allergic to the ink. There are also fears that tattoos increase the risk of contracting sexually transmitted and other infections.

But people have different reasons for getting tattoos, like the sportsman who got a tear drop below his eye as a memory to his dead brother. Many others do it because it is trendy; yet there are teenagers who do it to annoy their parents.

So it was not entirely surprising to learn that tattooing is the sixth-fastest growing retail industry in the United States. One just has to turn on the sports channel to a basketball match to appreciate that nearly every player has tattoos - and loads of them. Like a walking billboard, some of these players sport elaborate tattoos that tell the world what things are important to them. Instead of hanging artwork on their walls, they wear them on their bodies, including their faces.

The fact is some professions demand that tattoos be covered up. The Marine Corps has banned large, visible tattoos, and there are instances when professionals have reduced their chances of being hired because of that tattoo.

Serious commitment

Getting a tattoo is a serious commitment. It is also expensive. When people are in love, for example, they tattoo each other's names on their bodies. Then when they break up, they have to undergo expensive laser surgery to remove it, and the skin is scarred for life.

Old folks may have the stereotypical view of women with tattoos as being trashy, but this view is being erased with the number of professionals and middle-class people who are being inked. And it seems that tattooing is quite addictive, because one is never enough; they keep going back for more.

So as you contemplate what to give mother for her special day, this year, perhaps, she may want to have a frog leaping from her throat or a dragon breathing fire on her behind. Oh, Goldie Hawn, the sweetheart of film, got a heart tattooed on her foot when she turned 60, and the wife of the British prime minister has a dolphin tattooed below her ankle. Maybe there's something to it, after all.

Dennie Quill is a veteran media practitioner. Email feedback to