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Tattoos: The Need To Stand Out

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This weekend on Long Beach, NY, I learned two things: one, umbrellas bought at the dollar store cannot sustain winds over 1.5 knots (sorry nearby family of four!) and two, tattoos are everywhere! Many of those inked creations made me laugh out loud, some of them made me gag, but most of them made me realize that people will do anything to stand out.

But I gotta ask: what part of getting a tattoo is original? Tattooing has been around for over 5,000 years in Chinese, Polynesian, Celtic, Greek, Roman, and Native American cultures, to name a few. The art is ancient. I understand that what's actually inked on the skin is individual and left to one's own free will, but the choice to get a tattoo says something about the desire to not only stand out, but to stand together with others that stand out. How innovative is a tattoo when there's a 36% chance that if an 18-25 year-old walks by, they'll have one too?

I mean, humans have been trying to showcase originality for millennia, from cavemen to current presidential candidates. And because tattoos are attempted markings of uniqueness, it becomes less about the archaic idea and more about the actual "art."

With that in mind, let's take a look at a smattering of ways men and women who sunned on Long Beach this weekend decided to draw attention to (read: ink) themselves: there was a Tasmanian Devil waving a confederate flag, an eagle (in color!) spread across a man's chest, a giant squid (also, in color!) twirling around a woman's calf preparing to devour her knee, and the piece de resistance, it's a bird... it's a plane... no! It's a Superman logo, life-size and you guessed it, (in color!) dominating a guy's chest and stomach. I think it was Superman himself that once said that there are two tragedies in life: one is to lose your heart's desire; the other is to get a tattoo you might regret.

Then, of course, fellow beach-goers had a vast assortment of tramp stamps, barbed wire, wings on shoulder blades, and last but not least, the intensely creepy facial portrait. Note to all my loved ones: when I die, please do not tattoo my face onto your body; no offense, but your bicep is not where I'd like to spend eternity. That's what your mantel is for.

Although I rag on tattoos, I can't say that getting one hasn't crossed my mind. In high school I wanted a lightening bolt on my lower back, in college I wanted a sailboat on my foot, and I've recently fantasized about a bald eagle on my left shoulder carrying an American flag in its talons. Thankfully, I'm aware enough to know that an ironic, patriotic tattoo is funny at 25, but becomes exponentially not funny the older I get. It's this forethought that sets me apart from those experiencing the pains of laser tattoo removal right now.

As we search for ways to identify ourselves and display for everyone to see the choices we've made knowing they're permanent, tattoos will become even more popular. Census surveys taken only two years ago show a steady rise in the number of inked Americans. It also estimates that one new tattoo parlor a day is built in the USA. Look for more people trying to join the others by "rebelling" with a tattoo in a city near you.

Before I go, I wanted to make clear that I'm not immune to feeling the need to stand out, even though I haven't gone the permanent marker route. I don't have any cool scars or birthmarks, but I've always wanted something like that. Maybe a bad-ass animal bite wound would do. So instead of people saying, "Hey, cool tattoo!" they'd say "Holy shit! Did you just pull a shark tooth out of your side?"

Now that's unique.

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