The art of tattooing has been around for centuries, all over the world. From Samoan tribes to Native Americans, to China and Japan, to Europe in the early 1700s, to today’s mainstream American culture. People of all walks of life get tattoos for so many reasons, including commemorating significant life events, showing status, being branded by a government, showing an allegiance to a subculture, and as a symbol of being able to endure the pain associated with getting tattooed.
Whether it is palms painted with henna, a permanent or temporary design, people of all ages love them. The website www.tattooyou.com makes mention that, “Temporary tattoo designs may have first been offered as surprise gifts in boxes of Cracker Jack at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.” Painless and fun, they were smudgy recreations that didn’t last long on the skin.
With the recent creation of numbing cream that takes the pain out of the process for permanent art, you can’t help but wonder: does a painless tattoo defeat the purpose?
Coming of Age
In many cases, a tattoo not only pays homage to an important life event such as a birthday, anniversary, or death of a loved one, but it may also signify a rite of passage or coming of age. Some tribal cultures mark young women to show that they have reached the appropriate age to marry. Legally, in the United States, like being able to vote, you cannot get a tattoo under the age of 18, or without parental consent. Teens often choose to get inked when they turn 18 as a symbol of coming into adulthood and being able to make a decision without parental supervision.
Allegiance to a Subculture
Tattooing was originally very popular with sailors and other military men. Getting a symbol of the branch of the military under which you served embedded on your arm, chest or back showed your dedication and commitment to that particular unit. Sailors proudly displayed their Navy artwork of anchors, ships and the American eagle to show their allegiance to fellow sailors. Marine Corps members proudly show off their commitment to the United States with the popular “USMC” or “Semper Fi” or “Death Before Dishonor” images and logos.
Tattoos became more popular in America in recent decades, where you did not have to be associated with an elite group of sailors, soldiers or airmen, but simply if you wanted to identify with others in your profession. Hairdressers get tattoos of scissors and combs; hunters get tattoos of deer or their favorite guns; musicians get tattoos of their favorite guitar or band logo, and the list goes on.
Is Pain Part of the Process?
Many experienced tattooed individuals would argue that the pain is part of the process, and taking that away also takes away some of the legitimacy of enduring that pain. With the recent invention of numbing cream, painless tattoos are becoming a reality, and that may prompt people who have always wanted a tattoo but were afraid of the pain level that accompanies the process, to get inked. However, tattoo artists and other “purists” may argue that enduring the pain of getting a permanent design on your body is the only legitimate way to do it. In other words, if you didn’t experience the pain of the process, your beautifully crafted design is actually worth less than if you did feel the pain.
Temporary Tatts: An Alternative
Whether you are a proponent of painful or painless tattoos, one thing is certain regardless of the process – ink under your skin is permanent. If you are not sure of the pain or the permanence, or both, there is another option for people wanting to decorate their bodies. Temporary tattoos, such as ones from the are high-resolution works of art that combine ink and glue. They last for up to a week and a half and are removable by using olive oil, baby oil, rubbing alcohol, cold cream, nail polish remover, or clear adhesive “Scotch” tape. Henna tattoos, originating from a south Asian tradition and popular in Middle Eastern cultures, may last a month or more because they stain the skin.