For the most part, I view tattoos kind of in the same way I view organized religion: not my thing, but perhaps other people get something out of it, so who am I to judge? I am not against them for any moral reason; it’s mostly aesthetic. No matter where you put a tattoo, eventually, that skin is going to sag, and it’s just not going to be cool anymore. All those freaking sorority girls that went to Cancun during spring break their freshman year of college and got a tiny butterfly on their ankles? Those are going to look pretty fucking stupid when they’re fifty and have to wear pantyhose with their mother-of-the-bride dress.
I personally would never get a tattoo because I cannot think of anything that is important enough to me to have on my body until I die. When I realize what I would have willingly put on my skin ten years ago, I shudder. The way I see it is, if there’s any sentiment or symbol I feel that strongly enough about, I’ll just make a T-shirt.
For the rest of the world, though, I have taken it upon myself to compile a list of acceptable and unacceptable tattoos. My basic rule of thumb is if you’re going to do it, do it up old school, and remember: when in doubt, don’t.
- skulls and/or crossbones
- roses (extra points for a rose between the teeth of a flaming skull)
- snakes (especially cobras)
- mermaids (especially on the forearm, so she can dance when you bend it)
- dragons (especially dragons coiled around knives)
- hearts with banners (The coolest, most classic tattoo ever. The only acceptable names are Mom—not Mother—Rosie, or Roberto.)
- suns or moons
- cartoon characters (for the love of God, especially “Taz”)
- fairies (or, if you insist, faeries)
- flags of any kind, especially confederate flags (pirate flags are exempt)
- Grateful Dead bears
- Jesus fish
- anything that is the Chinese, Egyptian, or Celtic symbol for a virtue
- barbed wire around the bicep
- anything related to an athletic team
IFFY (very few people can pull these off):
- ninja stars
- Pixies’ winged P logo
- Superman logo
- planets (Saturn only)
- hot rods (only if they are shooting flames as exhaust)
- motorcycles (see above)
- names in Old English letters across the back (Who am I to trifle with your Latino gang?)
- anything Star Wars related (Boba Fett is okay; the Millennium Falcon maybe; Ewoks, definitely not)
- molecules, atoms
I encourage you to print out this list, and pass it out to friends, family, or just strangers on the street. Their mothers will thank you.