A month or so past my 18th birthday and just out of Navy basic training is when I first considered getting a tattoo. Along with other ex-boots in early 1944, I was at the Navy base on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. We were waiting for our first World War II sea duty assignment.
On liberty in San Francisco, we teen swabbies followed old Navy traditions in an attempt to look like old salts. With our fake ID cards proving we were over-21-year-old adults, we proceeded to get sloppy drunk at several bars. The next staggering steps for some of us were to a tattoo parlor. Fortunately, I didn’t follow. Instead of getting my skin illustrated, I took a bus back to the Navy base to sleep it off.
I managed to make it through the war without becoming a walking picture gallery. In most of the years since, I didn’t see many people with tattoos. However, that colorful social statement today appears to have exploded in popularity. Tattoos are now wildly popular with entertainment and sports stars, as well as with their me-too followers.
During my twice-daily hike along Santa Monica Bouevard in West Hollwyood, I see many tattoos. Not on old sailors, but adorning scores of young adults, some with necks, backs, arms and legs totally covered with the colorful skin illustrations.
Of course, my old guy opinion is that they should consider what happens when they get to my age. Then, skin bags and sags, colors fade and the drooping illustrations look similar to grafitti on public toilet walls.
Aged illustrated skin is not pleasant to behold. Young people who continue to get frequent tattoos should think of what happens in later life. It can become an addiction like smoking, except smokers don’t have to worry about getting old. Of course, that’ll be the subject of a future rant.