Want to rebel? Don’t get a tattoo. No tattoos are the new tattoos...
- Credit: Nick Butcher
If I had endless pots of cash, I know where I'd be investing it: in a chain of tattoo removal clinics.
Summer reveals acres of flesh and, even if you try, it's impossible to avoid staring at an endless sea of tattoos, most of which you can imagine are already an embarrassment or are an embarrassment in the post: it's one thing having Tweetie Pie etched on your chest when you're 22, quite another when you're 64.
I am currently trying to persuade my daughter that no tattoos are the new tattoos.
Everyone has a tattoo, hardly anyone doesn't have one, so if you're trying to be all cool and marginal and edgy, it stands to reason you probably shouldn't do something your Mum did when she was 16 (this is what I'm telling her – my Mum didn't have a tattoo at 16, or if she did, she's not admitting it or showing it off).
It always struck me as somewhat bizarre that tattoos were favoured by criminals and those on the edge of society: surely if you're breaking the law you need as few distinguishing marks as possible. Tattoos must be the gift that keeps on giving to Homeland Security and the CID.
Perhaps prominent tattoos need rebranding to become the sign of an upstanding citizen who is beyond any reproach whatsoever – everyone in national and local government should be forced to get one to prove their commitment. I'd like to see Nick Clegg with a spider web across his face or 'cut here' across his neck.
The current age requirement for tattoos is 18. I think it should probably be at least 60 – after the mid-life crisis has subsided – or perhaps 80 (with parental consent).
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I had my tattoo before it was legally allowed (not a million miles away from where I work – no one asked to see any identification. I remember the tattoo artist saying to me: 'are you drunk?' and when I assured him that I wasn't, saying: 'that's a shame. It'd hurt less if you were') although to be fair to the tattoo artist, I looked about 25 by the time I was 12 thanks to a freakishly large chest and a general 'old before my time' demeanour.
When you're 16, you want to be different, just like everyone else. I had various bits of my anatomy pierced for the same reason because at that point I hadn't realised that standing out from the crowd doesn't have to involve looking like a human colander or a walking comic.
Back then, the only celebrities to have tattoos were rock stars and mass murderers.
These days, Samantha Cameron's got one, Felicity Kendal's got one, David Dimbleby's got one – let's put it this way, if I'd thought Denis Thatcher had had a dolphin tattooed on his ankle back in the late 1980s, I wouldn't have had a tattoo myself.
As it is, my tattoo is fairly small, fairly inconspicuous and fairly inoffensive. If I could rub it out with an eraser I would, but faced with painful laser surgery it'll probably stay, a testament to a summer when I genuinely thought having a tattoo of an Egyptian symbol put me on an equal footing with Wat Tyler.
New research shows that one in six people hates their tattoos so much they want them removed, 34 per cent worry how their tattoos will look as they grow older and half admitted that their tattoos could hold them back in their career.
A fifth of us still hide our tattoos from our parents (I did too until the fateful day I was shopping with my Mum and saw a necklace that featured the same design as my tattoo. 'Look! It's like my tattoo!' I said. 'What tattoo?' she replied) and 12 per cent of us have had tattoos because we've been inspired by a celebrity. Lame.
My problem with tattoos is extremely specific: I don't mind other people having them, I quite like some of them, I am fascinated when someone is covered in them and I understand why people want them – I just don't want my kids to have stupid or really visible ones.
Of course that won't stop them. It might, in fact, be the vital element of rebellion that they need to have a tattoo in the first place. Perhaps I need to rethink this: children, if you have stupid tattoos, I will start wearing mini skirts and crop tops whenever I have to be with you in public. Think carefully.