Tattoos have waxed and waned in popularity in the last 100 years, but it has always been about more than simply skin and ink.
Tattooing is an ancient art, steeped in mythology, with magical powers that bring strength or protect their wearer. We can find tattoos on Egyptian mummies, still visible after 5,000 years!
The act of tattooing is simplicity itself. You likely got your first tattoo in elementary school when that pre-incarceration class delinquent stabbed you with a pencil, or when you skinned your knee on the black top and your mom didn’t have the heart to dig out every tiny black speck.
Both the graphite and the asphalt were eaten by macrophages that are pack-man type cells living within the dermis (the inner layers of your skin). Since graphite and asphalt, like dye, aren’t digestible, those marks have become part of you.
So all you really need to create a tattoo is a sharp stick and some ink; just a way to get the dye through the waterproof epidermal layer and into the living dermis.
These days – at least outside of prison – the dye is injected with a tattoo gun. Think of a sewing machine with the needle going up and down faster than you can see, each time leaving a micro droplet of dye in the dermis.
It is a rather messy business getting a tattoo. One would want the tattoo machine to be absolutely sterile, and use a single-use needle and single-use dye. When any of those procedures aren’t followed, there is a blood borne risk of disease. In fact, tattoos are the leading cause of Hepatitis C in this country. For the record, there has never been a documented case of HIV from a tattoo.
The whys of tattoos are more interesting than the hows. Tattoos are forever. That is the single most powerful aspect of what tattoos are all about. It’s permanence that gives tattoos their mojo.
Our modern society, the 24/7-ness of it; everything’s new, every second, change accelerating uncontrolled into the future. It leaves most of us simply hanging on.
For some, the tattoo is a way to draw a line in the sand to say: “Here I am and I’m not going anywhere!”
Tattoos are painful. The pain is part of the contract. It would lessen the experience to get a tattoo under anesthesia.
Putting your tattoo on uncovered skin, for all to see, shows your commitment, the importance or pride to be part of your group. When you meet people, that is one of the most important things to know about you.
Tattoos are an attempt to make your stand. It’s a blood oath, made with deep conviction, in a world where promises too often are cheap.
Life is short, be colorful.
Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.
Image courtesy/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net