A few days ago, I had a "teachable moment" when reading a friend's status update on Facebook. He described being at a concert and watching a few girls take Snapchats of a guy who was dancing his heart out -- i.e., dancing like a fool -- and mocking him as they ignored the rest of the concert altogether. Several people wrote in the comments about how gross it is to take photos or videos of strangers and post them online, and how no one is better than anyone else. It's weird, because I share that same philosophy and would never post a video like that online myself, and yet I've been writing STFU, Parents for years. I don't believe any deserves to be "shamed," but I'm also interested in the ways people present themselves online and the thinking behind the decisions they make. We all make choices in life, and some of those choices are, to put it mildly, questionable at best. Like all of the times I got multi-colored rubber bands for my braces that just made me look like I had food in my teeth. Why did I do that?
For me, there are only certain aesthetic choices worth mocking (but not exactly shaming), and those are the ones that have some amount of permanence. I couldn't care less how a person wears her hair, but if she chooses to name her kid Princess Mykhennzhi, she's got my attention. And when it comes to mocking truly subjective choices, like art, I usually put the focus primarily on art that lasts, like tattoos. Sure, I still enjoy curating a selection of ephemeral, outrageously bad (subjectively speaking) maternity photos from time to time for the sake of my own low-brow "art" -- evil, cold-hearted ridicule -- but those photos don't represent the same permanence that a confusingly awful tattoo has. More so, I'm baffled by the enthusiasm and pride some parents take in their terrible tattoo ideas. I mean, don't get me wrong, variety is the spice of life, and I'm damn happy there are so many people who cover themselves in body art (good, bad, and ugly), but let's be real: Sometimes questionably good tattoos need to be compiled and displayed for amusement. I'm not knocking people for being unique, but I am putting their body art on blast and asking "Why? No, really. Why?"
Besides, I'm not the only one who wonders about odd tattoo trends, specifically among parents. Remember when everybody wrote about this guy for having a picture of his baby tattooed on his face?
It was his choice, okay?! Maybe he's only 20 years old, but he knew what he wanted and he went after it! Isn't that what our parents and teachers are always telling us to do? (Side note: I wouldn't have tattooed the ear lobe. Just throws the whole thing off for me.) It's not like portraiture tattooing hasn't been gaining popularity over the past decade, so why should this come as a surprise? Maybe most people choose to only frighten their loved ones with portraits of their kids' faces on their legs or back, but who says the side of one's face isn't a perfectly good canvas for such a thing?
This is the 'shopped photo going around the internet this week that inspired this column. You're welcome!
More commonly, though, I would say the harrowing world of "parent tattoo trends" leans more toward the sentimental. Even the current baby portrait craze stem from pure emotional sentiment, rather than say, grief (since portraiture tattoo art was traditionally more of a remembrance tribute), but I would argue that the more popular fad these days is to "label" oneself with "a piece of their child." One way of doing this is to tattoo your child's birthmark onto yourself so you're twinsies:
This can and has been taken to extremes, though, such as in the case of these parents who both got identical birthmark tattoos to match their daughter's, so she'll grow up feeling "comfortable and not ashamed." When asked about the possibility of her daughter's birthmark fading or even disappearing over time (while the tattoos, of course, remain), the mother said, "We'll treasure it forever, so even if hers does go she knows what was once on her leg." That's got to be one of the dumbest statements ever uttered about a giant, "painful" tattoo that lasts a lifetime. But hey, at least she's confident in her decision. It's never going away, so that's important.
But back to the sentimental labeling: I'm fairly certain nothing perplexes me more than the trend of tattooing something that a child either wrote or drew by hand (or, in some cases, ate). I know people frequently get quotes or messages of encouragement tattooed in a specific person's handwriting as a measure of comfort, but that doesn't mean I can stand behind the parents who do this:
Remind me not to run into Dawn in a dark alley. Anyone who has half her leg tattooed with pictures of her children's nursery school pictures is probably, if not definitely, capable of cutting a bitch. It's funny because tattoos like the "DAD I LOVE U" tattoo above are so sweet and inspired by such loving feelings, but if a guy I met on OK Cupid showed me this tattoo on a date, I'd be texting my friend under the table that I'm on a date with either The World's #1 Dad or a completely deranged psychopath. To parents who get tattoos like this, though, their body art is an expression of the affection they feel toward their children. I can appreciate that, but when something can come across as either "aww-inducing" or "creepy as fuck," my advice would be to veer away, or at least sleep on the idea for several years before plunking down the cash. I'm sure this dad still loves his tattoo three years later, but that doesn't mean I'm any less weirded out by its existence.
With all of these trends in mind, and with Halloween just around the corner, let's take a look at some other questionable-but-totally-subjective examples of tattoos parents got in honor of their kids. I'm not saying everyone will find these tattoos as stupefying or scary as I do, but I'd be surprised if anyone reading this column would be willing to get any tattoo replicas, even with significant financial compensation. Feel free to let me know in the comments if I'm wrong.
1. Baby Feet
One of the most popular tattoos parents get to commemorate their kids is of their children's feet. Without being a tattoo art historian, I'm going to go ahead and assume this idea was originally adopted from the tradition of getting baby foot prints in hospitals, which came after the centuries-old tradition of bronzing baby shoes. Baby feet are symbols of childhood, so it's no surprise so many people get them tattooed on their body. The odd thing is that you're getting a body part tattooed onto another body, and the even odder thing is when parents opt to get a baby foot tattooed on their own foot. In theory, this is supposed to be charming. A tiny foot on a bigger foot! Very meta. Until that baby foot turns out to look like a cross between brass knuckles and a penis, and you've just gone and made your foot look fuglier than you ever could've imagined.
Of course, most people get their child's baby feet tattooed somewhere more generic, like their back. While this idea doesn't tend to go awry as much as the foot, because the surface is flatter, the execution is still going to be hit or miss.
Is this the most precious tattoo you've ever seen? Or is it kinda eerie? I'm sure once the redness fades, it won't appear as painful, but right now Allison's shoulder looks like a branded piece of meat. It's the shoulder of a victim on Law & Order: SVU. Let this be a lesson to consider waiting until the swelling goes down before posting any pictures online.
2. Bad Ideas = Poor Execution
Hmmmm...I'm not sure the word that comes to mind here is "cute," but okay, I'll try to go along with that. I just hope the final outcome doesn't turn out like this, because wow:
So, if I'm putting two and two together here, Savannah has a daughter named Cadence Rayne, and she got this tattoo of her name, and the word 'Cadence' is in a cloud, with her middle name "raining down." Right? Right. Horrible.
3. This Is A Placenta Tattoo.
I wish I could remember the back story behind this submission, but I know about as much as you do: Debbie got a tattoo of a placenta with a lovely umbilical cord border, and, if memory serves, it started out as a red, swollen, infected-looking mess, but now it just looks like the gleaming, spectacular placenta that it was supposed to be all along. Debbie wins! She has a blood-red tree of life stamped onto her body for eternity, just like she always wanted. It almost looks like a tattoo of a wax seal stamp, until you squint and really take in all the membranes.
4. Tattoos Aren't Trashy, These People Are Trashy.
I'll let the submitter explain this beaut: "This woman is a tattoo artist. This is a picture of a tattoo that her 3-year-old put on someone else. I think her brother? Aside from the fact that it looks like spider veins, it kind of makes me uncomfortable (and I'm a heavily tattooed person myself)." Well, Submitter, perhaps you're uncomfortable because this makes a mockery of the skill that goes into the ancient art of tattooing? Or perhaps you're put off by the fact that in most states, it's illegal to HAVE a tattoo before the age of 18 without parental consent, much less give one. Either way, I agree with you about the spider veins.
But back to that whole "age threshold" thing...
I wanted this exchange to be fake. I wanted it to be fake so badly, until I read the submitter's email which confirmed its realness. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that this dad is possibly-seriously asking where he can get his 2-year-old toddler her first tattoo, but somehow America still manages to shock me every now and then. Cheers to this idiot and his moron friends for keeping me on my toes.
5. I'm Blind Now.
Finally, we have the tattoo that I stared at for at least three solid minutes while gripping a glass of wine so tightly it almost broke. This is fucking scary. And what's even scarier is Jodi's enthusiasm, because she's the one who's going to see this thing more than anyone else. This is truly the gruesome tattoo interpretation of "kids rip your heart out, man," and that is not a compliment. At least Jodi's husband always has a go-to Halloween costume at the ready. I'll give him that. I guess if you're going to tattoo a pair of baby hands ripping through your chest to expose your beating heart, you may as well go whole hog and look like you've been violently assaulted. Makes sense. And hey, as long as Jodi and her husband love it, isn't that all that really matters?