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Body modifications, such as tattoos and piercings, have continued to gain traction among many people in different societies. Some civilizations have reportedly used tattoos to define themselves and mark their status among other reasons from time immemorial. Today, tattoos and piercings are considered being typical of low class individuals and the ones involved in crimes and extreme behaviors like overindulgence in drugs and sexual activity. It is rather an individualistic way of presenting oneself to the world. Each person has his or her motivation for why he or she modifies their bodies either through tattoos or through piercings. Thus, it is always important to find a real reason behind an individual’s body modification before passing a judgment on their character. This essay explores the reasons why body modifications, especially tattoos and piercings, have become so widespread. To analyze this effectively, interviews of three individuals who have body modifications are used to establish their motives, experiences, and their current feelings about the results.
Jake Andrews is a twenty-two-year old university student majoring in literature. He has a number of tattoos, most of which are quotes from famous books and one from the Bible. As Jake says, he is not a Christian and does not plan to write a famous piece of literature. His love for words is however undisputed as he pulls back his sleeves to show off numerous tattoos on his arms. Jake says that his motivation for tattoos is passion for words. He reads a lot, being particularly interested in ancient writers who used grammar and style different from the present ones. As such, he adores the works by legends like Shakespeare and King Solomon, as well as David. The quotes are mostly meaningless from the onlooker’s perspective, but they seem to remind this student of the most extraordinary styles of writing that were used in the past. Concerning the experience, Jake Andrews notes that tattoos are somehow painful to get, and he almost changed his mind midway through his first tattoo. However, once the pain had subsided, he was so satisfied with the outcome that he could not stop wanting more and more tattoos. Jake says that even in old age, he will not mind having more tattoos, as this will help explain to his children and grandchildren what they mean to him.
Martha Atkins is a twenty-eight-year old pharmacist and a mother of one child. She has a lower back tattoo and a number of piercings on her body, including eyebrows, belly button, and the tongue. It is rather easy to notice that Martha Atkins is not proud of her decision with respect to such body modifications. She does not wear rings in any of her piercings, and the only way one can get to know that she has a tattoo is by asking her directly. Marta says she got the modifications during her teenage years, just after high school, when she left home and entered a college. At that time in her life, tattoos and piercings were the first expression of independence, which made her feel like an adult. Despite having this experience more than a decade ago, she remembers the pain during and after her body modifications. Marta admits to using drugs in order to bear the pain, and at some point, one of the piercings caused an infection, and she had to be admitted to hospital off-campus. However, she was happy with the outcomes. In several years after that incident, Marta wishes she had not permanently marked herself like that.
Lacey Jenner’s case is somewhat different in a way that her tattoos are part of her identity. Lacey belongs to a gang, and as a sign of membership, she has to have specific tattoos on her arms, back, and neck. She is only sixteen now. As far as motivation is concerned, she associates the tattoos with her identity, stating that she has joined the gang by choice. Thus, Lacey likes the tattoos and the fact that they tell people that she is part of the gang. The experience itself was very painful. However, an initiation rite in a unisex gang is expected to cause such feelings. The healing process was speeded up by the fact that she was happy and excited to belong with other gang members. To her, the respect and protection of the latter was worth the pain she had endured during initiation. She continues to enjoy her tattoos being uniform signs that identify all gang members, although sometimes they cause her trouble with the authorities.
The motivations and experiences of the three individuals are very different based on the discussion above. One is a student whose tattoos are an indication of his commitment to the subject he is studying, another is a professional who is filled with regrets for her rebellious teenage years, and the other individual is a teenager who belongs to a gang. The differences between these individuals bring to light the fact that tattoos today are not a symbol of financial status or moral inclinations unlike in the past. They are simply an expression of human individuality. Common justifications for tattoos include the following.
In the world where people are always seeking to be different, the need to express one’s personal identity is obvious. People try to look for ways in which they can stand out and be recognized from the crowd. Tattoos are like a personal style that makes people recognize the individual. It explains why most individuals seek unique tattoos that mean something to them, like a favorite word, place, name or even a car among others. The idea is to get something that can be used to identify one’s personality. It is possibly the reason why most gangs today have a distinct tattoo that they use to identify their members. Some use nicknames, while others have specific patterns that imply membership to the gang. The idea here is to generally identify an individual and allow peers to recognize his or her easily.
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Like fashion, tattoos are rather a sign of being trendy, and sometimes they come like a tidal wave, sweeping everyone with them. An example is a butterfly tattoo and numerous little stars on the neck. These tattoos are mostly meaningless, but they have been hyped up in the popular culture by big names in show business. As a result, many people had tattooed themselves with butterflies and stars. The influence of the popular culture in this case is considered as one of the impacts of the media on society.
Young adults like being considered rebels and thinking that they own their lives and can make all major decisions by themselves, especially if their parents or guardians are to accept that they have outgrown constant supervision. Body modifications are especially common amongst teenagers who have just left home for college or those who are about to finish high school. Every individual is responsible for his or her body, and in most cases, body modifications aimed at expressing rebellion often end up creating regrets in the long term. They may be laughable at the adult age, but the fact that they are often meaningless reduces them to a momentary lapse in judgment for that individual. More so, explaining such modifications is often very embarrassing for adults.
Commemoration of Special Events and People
One rather understandable justification for body modifications is to mark history by commemorating a special person or event in one’s life. Some people have tattoos of their spouses, parents or children, even in the form of photographs instead of just names. It makes more sense than having butterflies and stars, especially because these tattoos are as permanent as the love for a dear one. Other people also choose permanent reminders of special events in their lives. These can be weddings, graduations, first car, first baby, first business deal, or even the first championship win for sportsmen. The fact that the ink is permanent implies a consistent reminder of the event or person that one intends to remember.
Body modifications have been in existence for a very long time. The reasons also vary from one person to another given that each individual has their own perspective on the subject. Some people who have tattoos point out fashion influences, popular culture, personal identity, rebellion and memories as some of the motivators that allow them to get these modifications. The process is also rather painful with a risk of skin infections later on. In regard with the question of outcomes, most people who get body modifications are likely to be satisfied in the short term. In the long term, responsibility and adulthood are likely to make tattoos and piercings irrelevant. Since most body modifications are permanent, it is important to consider carefully before making a tattoo or piercing.