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Bob Bader Going beyond skin-deep on the subject of tattoos

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Bob Bader

Posted: Thursday, February 2, 2012 12:00 am

Tattoos, who knew? I have been writing this column for a quite a while, I have had a small group of people writing their opinions on my opinions on occasion. The most reader comments, by far, came on the subjects of tattoos and big cotton bloomers. That whole dang deal flat blew me away.

Tell ya what I did learn about tattoos:

There is a common old-fashioned feeling about tattoos. I learned from people who have tattoos that I was totally wrong about some of my conclusions.

My readers took it for granted that I assumed that a person with a tattoo had an almost ethereal affection, maybe an addiction, with their ink in that many of the marks had been indelibly etched into their skin because it meant something so very important to them. Examples like "Mom," the giver of life, a lover, the person who makes life worthwhile and children, most especially a child who was an early entrant into heaven and is missed with every fiber of the being of the person or parent who has the memorial tattoo.

Sure, I shoulda mentioned some people with tattoos have especially meaningful connections with friends from groups such as comrades-in-arms, fellow soldiers, sailors, even fellow bikers and sports fans. Or, like my older lady patient, sorority sisters intent on pulling a trick on their parents, which does add fuel to my thought that kids will get tattoos for spite, trickery or what-not without much thought concerning the permanence of the act. Then, in that one case, it becomes a little "I'll never tell but I would give plenty to relive that moment."

That's not to say some of the young ink recipients weren't blitzed to the eyeballs and weren't talked into the tattoo by equally drunk buddies. Anecdotally, I could easily back up that thought by walking down the street and just asking whoever had a tat as to what they were thinking when they staggered into the tattoo parlor.

I checked, there were eight kings in Europe who had tattoos on their persons, all the way from "a tattoo on an undisclosed spot somewhere on the body" to a tattoo that covered "nearly his whole upper back."

A great percentage of professional athletes wear tattoos called "sleeves" that cover the whole arm.

And who could forget the former heavyweight boxing champ, little Mikey Tyson, who had his face tattooed. In that case it wasn't disfiguring. He had a head start on that matter. He just looked like the side door of a wrecked 1929 hot-rod Ford with those painted faux flames.

I was told that tattoos don't always suggest that the person with one or 100 of them is a criminal. Without getting back into trouble with my critic, I can say simply that my overly tattooed patients have told me in confidence they got a lot of their artwork done while they were in prison. Prison tattoo artists aren't always beautifully accomplished, so one can kinda tell that particular work is not professionally rendered.

They are worth whatever they're paid, but a great tattoo done by a seriously artistic pro costs a lot of money. Taking it off will cost even more, according to a tattoo purveyor with whom I talked at some length.

Google says tattoos have a lengthy history. Sailors wore tattoos more than 300 years ago. As a matter of fact, the tattoos were a sort of a walking Social Security identity card, since no two were alike; they were used to identify the body should that situation arise.

In earlier days, in Japan, women criminals wore tattoos that covered huge skin surfaces, generally the whole upper back. It was a sort of a status symbol.

In any case, it was an art form done with great care, detail and talent. Life magazine did a lengthy pictorial on that some 50 years ago. I think the artists used bamboo splinter needles, so I decided those women were not only trusting and brave — they might have had a little too much sake, or too little, depending.

Bob Bader is a chiropractor and tattoo observer. You can reach him at Be nice, some of his best friends have tattoos.

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