Walking down the streets of the world I constantly run into tattoo shops or people with tattoos, which makes me wonder whether I should get one too.
Reasons to Get Tattoos
As getting tattoo usually requires more thought than buying a coffee, I often wonder what are the reasons people get tattoos. After asking around people who have tattoos I came up with a short list of reasons why people get tattooed:
- Belonging – Shows people as a part of a certain group, such as people who get prison tattoos they want to express that they have passed through a prison or they belonged to a gang;
- Meaning – Through this tattoo people want to show a memory of a meaningful event or person, such as to remember a latest trip to Thailand, or a birth of a baby;
- Art – “Because it looks nice” kind of reason;
- Stupidity – Because people got drunk, they are dared to get a tattoo, or have any other reason that lacks minimal rational reason, which is more likely to cause regret in the future;
- Experiment or just to have a tattoo – For me this seems to be the biggest reason why people get tattoos. They see everyone else having a tattoo and just want to have know how it feels like to have one.
Still, to me these verbal expressions often are not explicit of the real reason why people get tattooed, as I believe there is a deeper and more accurate reason why people do it.
The REAL Reason Why People Get Tattoos
Studying psychology and being more of a honest guy with my feelings I often think that the real reason why people get a tattoo is because of SEX.
Of course, sex is a big word. In our society today we have very complex rituals to get to this thing called sex. We drink, party, do sports, act smart or stupid, spend money or save, and do all sort of other things, including getting tattoos, all for the sake of sex.
Indeed, if you take away the sex aspect of tattoos than what left? The extent we are looking for sex becomes obvious when consider people who decide to give up sex altogether, such as Buddhist monks who aim at removing all worldly desires, including sex, is order to attain Nirvana. I chose Buddhist monks specifically, because they actually give up sexual desires and not just say that they do. Essentially, they spend all the days meditating and releasing themselves from worldly possessions that hold them back. If you look at their lives, you may consider them boring as they don’t get tattoos, decorations, dreadlocks, bracelets, paint their hair, try different styles of cloth, buy luxury cars, and do anything else beyond meditating.
Of course, even a Buddhist monk can get a tattoos if they think it will enhance their practice, such as if often happens in other religions, or when people just want to remember a specific meaningful event in their lives, such as birth of a child. These reasons to get a tattoo are only for a person themselves and not for anyone else, meaning that we will not consider them as sex driven. Still, they probably explain only 10% of all people who get tattoos. The rest of people get tattoos because of other people. They do it to stand out, show off, and to get a different treatment from others. Even a guy who gets a war tattoos to intimidate his opponents is doing so to increase his chances of survival, and consequently reproduction.
But that would mean that almost everything we do is for the sake of sex. And why is it so hard to imagine it? Even people who are in monogamous relationships often don’t stop making sexual displays of availability, but still dressing up and acting like sexual beings in presence of other people, meaning that actually you could explain quite a lot of human behavior, including wars, with sex. I mean, what does a dog, bird, or any other animal do when they are well fed, secure, and have no immediate concern about their survival? And why is it different for humans?
Regret and Other Reasons Not to Get a Tattoo
On a flip side, when considering getting tattoos, I think it is just a good practice to consider reasons NOT to get a tattoo. Some of such reasons are:
- Permanent nature of tattoos – Most tattoos are made in such a way that they stay us for years, which is not surprising that some people after getting a tattoo regret getting it, because they change, their desires change, and ultimately tattoo changes over time.
- Imagination vs. reality – Sometimes an idea of having a tattoo may sound great in peoples mind, but when a person tattoos it on their body it takes a completely different form.
- Work and tattoos – Often people don’t want to gat tattoos because they are afraid that this will prevent them from acquiring future jobs, partners, or limit them in any other way in their lives.
- Money reasons – Tattoos are usually not a cheap acquisition, meaning that specially for a respectably big tattoo, or a series of tattoos, sometimes we need to have a good financial backing.
Beyond a First Tattoo
I often hear stories of people who were afraid of getting a tattoo and after getting one they get a bunch of them in a rapid succession. They claim that this is perhaps because they got over their fear and now they get tattoos all over their bodies.
When I hear this stories I think that perhaps tattoos really work, which certainly they do for some people, making them “cooler” individuals. On other side, perhaps they don’t work and people just compulsively get tattoos pursuing some imaginary carrot that they can never catch. Either way, getting many tattoos can be costly, and completely unnecessary, meaning that there are many other options to enhance “sex appeal” and to spend money in a more rational way.
Tattoo and Me
Lastly, one of the reason I wrote this post is to understand whether I wanted to get a tattoo for myself. I am tempted by an idea of experimentation and to see how other people will react to me, but I am scared that I wont like it in a long-term. I, also, don’t want to spend my money on something that I may feel like I can never have enough, while the opposite is never to get a tattoo and live happy without them, as many people do. Together all these reasons lead me to a decision that at this point of time I don’t want a tattoo, but maybe my decision can still change in the future.