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Tattoos: The Illustrated Body
March 18, 2013 | By: High50

You might just regret the tattoo you got one drunken night as a kid, a university sophomore or—worse—as the ink dries. By Scott Indrisek

That tattoo on your chest of a busty bargirl riding a missile might’ve seemed like a fantastic idea when you were 18, but age brings wisdom – and regret. Ink, lest we forget, is permanent. (In some cases, really permanent – the Daily Mail recently reported on a 2,500-year old tattoo on the body of a Siberian princess, preserved by permafrost.)

Based on findings presented at the 2012 British Association of Dermatologists (B.A.D.) meeting, nearly one-third of people with tattoos now have second thoughts about that decision, with more than half of the 600 respondents aged 40 and older.

In 2012, a Harris Interactive poll tracked tattoo regret at around 14% of those surveyed (down from 17% in 2003, to be fair.) Clearly, this proves that a sizable chunk of the population is still busy having lover’s names, 1980s cartoon icons, Asian characters, and the losing team’s political logos painfully inscribed on their bodies, ostensibly because – as that Harris poll shows – around 30% of the tattooed population thinks their ink makes them “more sexy.” (Another stunner: In the U.S., around one-fifth of the population has at least a single tattoo.)

With the majority of tattoo removal options both expensive and uncomfortable (laser surgery, sanding, or excision) or ineffective (“removal” cream) most of these poor souls learn to live with their hastily-chosen ink. It’s true that the quality of tattoos can often suffer over time, as colors fade and once sharp lines lose their definition. But for some, this gradual degrading and softening is something to be celebrated.

“Tattoos on older people continue to become more beautiful over time as they slowly fade and blur,” says Bret Slater, 25, a Houston-based painter whose body is adorned with tats. (Two of the pieces he’s most proud of are based on works of visual art by Russell Sublette and Otis Jones.) #

“Part of my reason for getting tattoos is to admire them when I’m old, since they’ll remind me of my youth,” Slater says, adding that he’ll probably stop getting ink by the time he’s 30.

But part of the solution to possible tat-regret might be delaying that first piece for a while. As the B.A.D. paper revealed, “Men were three times more likely to regret their tattoo if it was done when they were under 16 years of age.”

Friday Jones, who has jabbed very sharp needles into clients includingAngelina Jolie, Janeane Garofalo, and Robbie Williams, appreciates those who are coming to the tattoo game a bit later.

“I cater to an older, more established crowd,” she says. “They’re often the ones who have been putting off getting tattoos for one reason or another, and then have that birthday and finally get a little mark. Then a bigger mark. Then it’s usually full-blown concept time within a year.

“It’s pretty wonderful watching people blossom like that, out from under their suits or aprons or whatever.

“They’re not big trend jumpers—believe me, my industry goes through trends like any other. They’ve thought hard about their tattoos and they’ve got lots of stories on their progression to my chair.”

In other words, waiting until you’re 40 or 50 to take the plunge should be seen as a wise choice, not the symptom of a mid-life crisis. And it could mean the difference between meaningful ink and an image of the Tasmanian Devil hoisting a beer keg.

That said, if one of Britain’s most famous artists somehow offers to design your personal tattoo, the answer should always be “yes, please”.