Monday, July 6, 2009

Generation Gap

I have a few friends who don't quite understand my lack of understanding of tattoos and body piercings. I've been meaning to broach this topic for a while, but avoided it for fear of offending someone. Sometimes no comment is worse than a politically incorrect comment, so today I'll go ahead and tempt fate.

The original offense I committed actually was on where I selected "turn off" under "tattoos" in my profile. This immediately caused distress to one of my friends who obviously had some ink and (I'm interpreting now) probably thought I somehow found her awful and disgusting (for the record, the answer to that is no). On the other hand, when it comes to attraction, I don't find tattoos and certain body piercings to be, well, attractive.

I started to think about why this wasn't attractive to me. Aside from the obvious answer ("to each their own") I believe part of this is a generational thing. When I was growing-up in my formative years in the late 60s through the 70s tattoos were something you saw on military men and bikers (guys with motorcycles). If you saw tattoos on a woman, it was not considered fashionable (considered kind of "lower class"). Piercing anything except your ears was pretty much unheard-of (except in some eastern cultures). The idea of putting anything through your tongue was downright gross. That was 30-40 years ago. Times may have changed, but for many of us in our late 40s our concept of beautiful (from an appearance perspective) has been pretty much sealed.

That doesn't mean I'm so closed-minded as to think of pierced-up, tattooed people as lower class or disgusting (usually), but it does affect how I am attracted to them in a romantic or sexual way. Before hitting "reply" and calling me all sorts of names, consider that too many women seem to consider a guy who's 5'6" to be too short, and that's just the beginning. We all have our idea of what is and isn't beautiful. I also can't tell you why pierced ears (once pierced, not 5 in each ear) and a pierced nose looks nice, but a pierced eye brow, under-the-lip, nipple, belly button, etc. doesn't look nice to me. I still think the pierced or split tongue is gross. Sorry folks.

Now back to my lack of understanding: I don't even understand why anyone would get tattoos or unusual (to me) piercings. There is a certain amount of pain associated with each. I don't understand the meaning of most of the tattoos, and why someone would want to make it a permanent part of their body. If the answer is, "to make me unique" or "to express myself" then that's probably why I don't understand. I just don't understand the body as a canvas for artistic expression. Creativity is a turn-on, but I look for it on a more cerebral level such as a painting, a song, writing, a computer program, or some scientific discovery (as examples).

To go a step further (and possibly offend even more people), I tend to be more attracted to women who wear little to no make-up than to someone who has tried to look "nicer" by adding unnatural coloring to their face/eyes and so on. On an unconscious level, it's likely that I see that someone who is comfortable with their natural beauty and are comfortable with who they are, and are strong enough to reveal their real self. I've heard some people comment on women who don't wear make-up to be lazy, or poorly dressed, and I just don't agree. Then again, I never have been one to go with the crowd. This one isn't a generational thing, it's just feelings peculiar to me.

Really, though, what looks nice and doesn't is an individual thing. If tattoos were a universally-admired feature, then wouldn't have that specific item in a list of turn-ons/turn-offs. The question my friend posed was, "If someone had a small tattoo that wasn't normally visible, would she be someone you would immediately eliminate as someone you would date?" I probably wouldn't immediately eliminate her so long as there was something about her that made that one thing less visible in my mind. Seriously, isn't that what we all do in one form or another? "I don't like his big nose, but his charm makes up for it!" "He's kind of short, but he has a great sense of humor and really treats me well." This is one reason why computer matchmaking is full of problems. It's hard to justify what makes-up attraction and lack of it, though.



JC said...

Funny you should post about this - I just went home for a funeral and had to reveal my new tattoo and nose piercing to my family. The only person who dislikes it is (oddly) my father. I say oddly because he himself was a pot-smokin', long-haired-having, VW bus-driving, guitar playing hippie. (my words, not his.)

He's now 60 and still pretty liberal, although definitely no longer a hippie. I'm 37 and very liberal, but I do have a job in software sales that requires me to present to groups of customers, sometimes C-level (CIO, CEO, etc.), so I do need to be able to cover them up for my professional life.

After a year of wearing a metal armband around my bicep and realizing I really liked it, I got a tattoo on my right arm (yes, an armband, NO, not like Pamela Anderson's!) about 13 years or so ago. It's a cat's face hidden in a tribal band, colored with tigerstripe colors. It's original, and I love it.

My new tattoo is a cartoonish female cat on my left shoulder with big blue eyes (she's me) with an extremely long tail that curls around onto my left bicep and around a stylized scorpion (that's my husband's symbol). I got it a few mos ago in Peru, in his hometown, and I love it. I'd been planning this tattoo for about 4 years now, so a lot of thought has gone into it.

I'm not sure of your age, but my dad, for all his belief in 'freedom of expression', does NOT dig the body art. And to me, and most of my generation, that's exactly what it is. Permanent self-expression. And to answer your question about the pain, yes, there is an element of pain involved, and for some people, that's part of the allure. In Peru, they asked (to my horror)if I wanted the area anesthetized first, and I said, "now why the heck would I want to do that?" The pain does generate an adrenaline rush which can be rather addictive for some people.

JC said...


But anyway, my dad and I are best friends, but we agree to disagree on this point. His theory is that every generation has to come up with something to piss off the generations before theirs: I told him I thought that was rather egocentric, to think that I would permanently mark my body just to make a statement to anger my father (at the age of almost 40!) - I've got better things to do, frankly. It's definitely not about pissing off or alienating anybody else. it's just something like my hair color or choice of clothing or non-permanent jewelry that makes a statement about who I am.

Like most things about me, when people are curious, I let them look or I explain it to them and don't get defensive about it - it is what it is. It's definitely not for everyone, that's for sure.

But I do get judged because of it. One evening, I spent about 6 hours of my time taking an elderly neighbor's cat to an emergency vet because she didn't have a car. The very next day, I'm in line at the post office, and a bunch of little old blue-hairs are eyeing me suspiciously and murmuring about "what a shame..." blah blah blah. If they knew what I had done for my neighbor the night before, would they be so quick to judge? Probably not. So I ignore most of the judgemental stuff that comes my way. I know who I am and what I stand for (cats, mainly!), so their opinion doesn't worry me too much. I actually started laughing when I realized what they were saying about me.

My husband and I do happen to roll with a motorcycle group (who are mostly cops and very family oriented), and tattoos abound there, it is true. But they've spread outward from biker groups to the general population. And I gotta say, my husband (who had one large tattoo when I met him, and now has about 7!) looks HAWT!!! with his tattoos. :)

Like you, there's some piercings I don't understand - the tongue thing (my sister did this! It has since grown out, thank goodness), belly buttons (EW! and OUCH!), and in more private areas just skeeves me out, but hey, to each their own. Just getting my nasal lobe pierced was difficult enough for me (I do NOT enjoy needles).

My sister also got her name (allegedly) in Chinese symbols on the back of her neck/spine. I told her that I'm pretty sure that doesn't actually say "Jessica" but that it does look an awful lot like "Beef with Broccoli"...