Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What Once Was Isn’t Anymore

Remember when tattoos were a stigma? I do. When and where I grew up usually only two types of people had a tattoo or multiple tattoos, a) you were either in the service or b) you were in the joint. In some cases in my family it was both. The war tattoos were something that every member of my family that got one eventually regretted getting. The prison tattoos, well let’s just say that those individuals (who are still alive anyway) are still “living the life” that those tattoos carry and each and every one on their bodies means something in the sub-cultural society that they inhabit within the confines of prison and the subsequent prison gangs for which they are representational.
However, on the streets in suburban America where I now reside there are small armies of men and women with their bodies covered entirely in tattoos. I’ve noticed a huge number of these neo-rockabilly types with pompadour hair-do’s, black primered hot rods and Betty Page look-a-like girl friends (with just as many tattoos) bopping around Marin county and I almost always smile to myself and wonder what they’ll be doing in ten to fifteen years when the party is over, but not all of the costume comes off.
Now, I don’t have anything against tattoos (I have some myself…well concealed), nor do I have anything against rockabilly or hot rods and I sure as hell don’t have a thing against Betty Page! I guess it just seems that the days of when something as personal (and artistic) as a tattoo held a lot more weight and was, for lack of a better term much more underground and individual. Now tattoos seem as common and commercial as a Nike swoosh across someone’s t-shirt, which brings me to certain t-shirts. CBGB’s t-shirts and Ramones t-shirts, twenty five plus years ago were an almost underground phenomenon to let other hipsters know you were in on the joke. Now the jokes on the consumer as these same two t-shirts are sold online as well as in most major department stores in any mall across America. In the past two years I have noticed that 9-out-of-10 people who wear a Ramones shirt or a CBGB’s shirt are usually male and under the age of fourteen. The last part of my rant is the middle aged guys who dress like they are still in junior high school. What with the grey (long) soul patch under the lip, a few silver earrings in each ear and the obligatory baseball cap worn backward. Yep, I’m sure they have the tattoos and are the 10th person (from the 9-out-of-10) who wears a Ramones/CBGB’s shirt. “Dude.” It’s not like I feel everyone at a certain age should wear a tie, work in a corporate office and play golf because, hey they’re already dead so…! No, but Jesus there are whole armies of idiots who think they’re “thinking” and they are not, well at least not for themselves.
I really have no answers and I certainly hope that I am not coming off as self-righteous or the like. These remarks are me merely wondering aloud. I still wear tennis shoes (mostly skate shoes for that matter) most of the time. I’m no different really. I wear t-shirts and jeans primarily in the winter and I still surf whenever there is a swell and on occasion I skateboard (I skated today to get a small coffee this morning before I settled in to work). Perhaps we are experiencing a sort of arrested development/adolescence in the cultural mainstream? Maybe it’s a need from a populace that is feeling even more disenfranchised and is crying out for attention, or maybe just maybe I’m reading way too into this and it’s far more basic. Maybe people just think that their new tattoo and Ramones shirt looks pretty damn cool. Period.

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