July 24: tatoos on the bus

Oh, you are nowhere without a tatoo these days. As a little exercise on the bus in Manchester I thought I’d try and find someone without a tatoo. Not easy. All the young people have tatoos. All the single mothers have tatoos. The students have tatoos. There was an old woman. She won’t have one. But wait, there it is, a serpent sneaking up her ankle. And that woman over there won’t have one, will she? Oh but she will. It’s creeping up her neck from out of her collar. There’s a baby in her pram; she hasn’t got one. Yet.
What are the functions of the tatoo? One, it is decorative. Two, it signifies apartenance. You post up your tribe to the world. Three, it signifies your creed. Three reasons to exhibit a tatoo. As a tatoo-wearer you are committed to aestheics. You are tribal. You need to define and publicize your beliefs. It was traditionally a working class aesthetic. The patricians would not look to define themselves. The patrician did not commit. He hedged his bets. The patrician was a diplomat. A Hermes. He held himself in a number of loci. His identity was slippery. He had a bank account in Switzerland or on the Isle of Man. Just in case. For the tatoo-wearer there is no just in case. You only define yourself if you are committed to remaining fixed. What is the old woamn saying? I may look a bit thick round the waist these days, but I’m still basically a sleek and serpentine individual. I have not changed.
But what is this blog of mine if not an attempt to define? Although I do find that much of its material is the impossibility of definition and how changeable identity is.
I confess I am not a lover of the tatoo. Neither as a decorative feature nor as an idea. Of course, this is mostly a generational, cultural thing. I am not for a moment claimimg that I can transcend my own particular tribe and hold an individual opinion on the matter. Oops! Crown Point Denton. Time to get off the bus

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