I’m part of that growing minority of people who have no tattoos whatsoever. Partly this is because I am covered in a fine coat of the most majestic fur and have no need of such common things. Partly it’s a lack of imagination. When some people are wasted, they go to the brothel. Others go to tattoo parlours. I just keep getting wasted, a one-trick pony with a one-track mind.
I nearly got one once, though. I’d been drinking at the Newport Arms with some primary school friends (by which I mean people I went to primary school with, not a clutch of pissed nippers in uniform). I was with Murray, my friend from the country, who’s the hardest bastard I know. He wears blue singlets, shoots roos, shears sheep, and drives a Falcon XR8… with throw cushions in the back seat. Okay, so he’s a man of contradictions.
Now, Murray likes a good tattoo – or he ought to, ‘cos he’s got a few. At any rate, once we’d had a few too many drinks, Murray said, ‘Ga’an, let’s go to the Cross and get some ink.’
On the forty-five minute drive, I had time to get a little sober and reflective: what would I get? What was it that was really, really meaningful to me? Even as we got out of the cab, I was still drawing blankety blanks, yet there I was in the tattoo parlour. Murray knew straight away what he wanted: some drops of blood for the barbed wire on his right arm, and a bit of green shading for the snake crawling through the skull on the left.
Meanwhile, I was frantically scanning the stencils on the wall for one, just one, which was even vaguely approximating what I wanted. But, like most pissed eighteen-year-olds, my mind was totally blank. After half an hour, the bikie with the tattoo gun just said to me, ‘None for you tonight mate. You don’t know what you want, so I’m not doing one for you.’
Ten years on, and that’s still the closest I’ve come to ‘getting some ink’. Mine is not the pride of the person who survives a fad without succumbing. Rather, it’s a sense of relief. It’s so easy to get a tattoo, but so hard to get a good tattoo. Most people have bad tattoos. A lot of people have the wrong tattoo. Nearly everyone has a dated tattoo. The only good ones, in my book, are the big fuck-off tattoos, and that’s simply ‘cos of my admiration for someone willing to really go the whole hog.
Maybe one of the reasons why we want to get tattoos is because we’re looking for some permanency in a world where everything is a short-term contract, formed on an ad-hoc basis and subject to change. But even so, think about your favourite t-shirt. Then imagine wearing it every day for a year. Would you be sick of it? Now imagine wearing it every day for the rest of your life… in fact, is there anything of yours that’s ten years old that you’re still into? What we really need are modular tattoos – something that, like Ikea furniture, can modulate and keep pace with your ever-changing lifestyle. Murray, if you can hear me, I need help.
in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked
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