ESPN Does Nudity the Right Way

The Body Issue is art. Why aren’t we treating it that way?

Odell Beckham Jr CREDIT: Carlos Serrao

Odell Beckham Jr CREDIT: Carlos Serrao

Tomorrow, ESPN the Magazine will release its annual “Body Issue.” If you’re not familiar, the issue features photos of elite level athletes in the nude. At first look, it might appear to just be an answer to the swimsuit issue released every year by Sports Illustrated. It’s a natural comparison to make, but the Body Issue is only like the swimsuit issue in the most superficial ways. Yes – they are both exhibitions of the human body found in sports magazines. But while one uses sexy decadence to create attention and sell issues, the other is a true meditation on the nature of the body. Let’s put it this way – if the two annual issues were made into science fiction movies, one would be directed by Michael Bay and the other by Ridley Scott.

Perhaps the first edition of the Body Issue in 2009 was a response to SI‘s iconic swimwear showcase, but its true inspiration is rooted in some of the great works of art ever produced. While bodies have been the subject of many mediums, in no other form does it quite come to life as in sculpture, and most of the great sculptures are studies of the idealized human body.[1] For thousands of years we have been fascinated by presentations of human physicality.

And while the Body Issue springs from this ancient facet of our consciousness, it also exists at a time in which reevaluating physical ideals is a constantly trending topic. Discussions of body shaming, standards of beauty, health, and objectification are consistently lighting up social media and appearing *ahem* on blogs. At times it seems like no one really knows what to make of everything – it’s a complex conversation with its own lexicon.

So, knowing that humans have a history of considering physical excellence and considering the fluid and nuanced modern perceptions of the body, it might seem safe to assume that the contributions of SI and ESPN are just two more planes in Dechamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase. But I do not believe this is the case. Rather, the Body Issue makes a definitive statement on the matter through a beautiful expression that is both a work of art and a triumph of human physicality.

This year’s edition will, like past issues, feature an eclectic group of elite athletes, including behemoth Vince Wilfork, tall and graceful Elena Delle Donne, petite and powerful Christen Press, and transgender athlete Chris Mosier, all of whom will be featured alongside more conventional Greek Gods like Greg Louganis and Nzingha Prescod. And they are all beautiful. They are all ideal. They were given different body types, but through their natural talents and hard work they perfected their bodies into their version of the ideal athlete. Color, shape, and size doesn’t matter in the Body Issue.[2]

By featuring the bodies of elite level athletes, ESPN promotes goals but denies standards. It displays the ideal, but subverts understanding of what is better or more beautiful. Just because there is something else we should strive for does not mean we need be ashamed of what we have. If the photos were just of attractive people with impressive physiques, it would lose some of its potency, because these bodies are shaped into serving a specific purpose. These impressive figures are used to compete in the great arena of sports, and knowing that there is a specific intent that goes into making these bodies makes them that much more inspiring and beautiful.

So our culture asks: What is the ideal body type? What is our standard of beauty? ESPN can answer by holding up any photo from their Body Issue archives.

Again, this does not mean that we are not beautiful just because we don’t look like Greek and Roman sculptures. What it means is that our beauty and our physical excellence is not defined by our skin tone, height, facial features, bra size, jock size, or bone size. It’s based in being our best self. Is that cliche? Maybe, but it’s the message of the Body Issue. It’s the message of I don’t know how many pop songs[3] and that remarkable AXE commercial from earlier this year.[4]

Sure, athletes are endowed with some things the rest of us don’t have, but they are not all equally endowed, and 99% of them only made it to the big time by improving on their natural gifts. They are the most excellent version of themselves – and that is a goal for any of us.

It’s the missing component of sport that makes me say that Sputting plus-size model Ashley Graham on the cover of their most recent swimsuit issue is a minimal effort at changing the body image discussion. They are still saying that beauty is based in a lascivious presentation of breasts and hips and a pretty face. And they are still making sex the purpose of her figure. They are not presenting her, or any of their models, as figures of speed, strength, and agility – just figures of sex.

But some might say the Body Issue is no better. They may claim that it is really just lewd objectification. What? Nude photos? What could be redeeming about that? My guess is that people who say this have not actually looked through the Body Issue galleries. Yes – some photos are a little more risque than others, but the vast majority have a clear artistic intent, and that is to demonstrate the excellence of thw athlete’s body. Something that makes these photos remarkable is that so many of them are of the athlete in a natural athletic position. In the photos, they are doing something that we would see them do in competition, and now, with clothes removed, we see their body in all its glory doing that athletic thing. Might that thing draw attention to their legs and buttocks? Yes – because the athlete needs their legs and buttocks to looks fabulous in order to do the things that they are doing. Christen Press, who will appear in this year’s issue, talked about how her body looks like soccer. The Body Issue captures the specific beauty of each sport as represented in the physiques of its athletes. It’s possible to see physical beauty without sexual edification, and that is what the Body Issue does. It’s beautifully designed, directed, photographed, and presented.

And maybe some will avoid the Body Issue on the simple basis of nudity. And maybe that’s best for some people, but, as a culture, this is the kind of nudity that we should embrace (uh, phrasing?) in the same way that we embrace the great works of nude sculpture. If nudity is a problem, it’s because we’ve made it a problem. We’ve lost the gift of admiring the strength, grace, and beauty of magnificent bodies because of our collective lechery. I hope that, through proper understanding of things like The Body Issue, we can recover a useful appreciation of the human body. And, to do that, we kinda have to look at the body when it’s naked.

The body and how it is valued and presented will continue to be a contentious subject. And, as confusing as some of it may be, these are good discussions to have. Meanwhile, the great sculptures will remain in museums to be admired by millions of visitors every year.

And, tomorrow, ESPN will once again step into these two facets of culture and expose us to the best kind of art – the kind that is beautiful and creative, and the kind that teaches us something about each other and about ourselves.

Forth now, and fear no darkness.

Soli Deo Gloria

– Peter

10 of the Best from the Body Issue

  1. Indianpolis Colts offensive line
  2. Aly Raisman
  3. Nigel Sylvester
  4. Angel McCoughtry
  5. Kenneth Faried
  6. Sydney Leroux
  7. Danell Leyva
  8. Ashton Eaton
  9. Destinee Hooker
  10. Jon “Bones” Jones


1 But not just in the splendor of David or Venus – in the pain of Laocoon, the sleeping faun, the weary boxer, the winged woman, the defeated warrior. There wasn’t just one way to portray an ideal body in sculpture.
2 There have also been physically “disabled” athletes. I will add that there has been a dearth of Asian athletes. It’s possible that’s a cultural thing about modesty and Asian athletes turn down the offer…because obviously there are Asian athletes with impressive bodies. Then again, it could be a sorta racist thing (white imagination has a way of distorting views of non-white bodies).
3 Isn’t Mary J. Blige great?
4 I’m serious when I say this commercial is a work of genius.

The Morbid Beauty of Marat

Allow me to explain why a painting of a man murdered in his bathtub is one of my favorites.


The above painting, The Death of Marat, by Jacques-Louis David (1793), is one of my most favorite paintings, and it has been ever since I came across it in a history textbook in eighth grade. The subject of the painting is Jean-Paul Marat, a radical journalist from the French Revolution who was murdered in his bathtub by Charlotte Corday, a political enemy. Painted just months after Marat’s death, it has become one of the most famous images from the revolution.

I believe we most appreciate art when we

  1. admire it on first glance, then
  2. grow to appreciate it more when we learn the story and see the details, and
  3. make some aspect of the work applicable to our own life

This, obviously, is just my own rudimentary outline, but I think it holds up.

Like many (but not all) works of art that I admire, Marat intrigued me upon first look, in spite of its violent material. It is, like so many of the best paintings, one that is visually attractive even as we might react with shock or discomfort. It’s a sad image of a man either dead or dying in his bathtub, which should instantly make us wonder – why did the artist paint this? What’s the story? Why was this worth taking the time to turn into a work of art? Who was this man? However, the detail achieved through the oil medium, the use of lighting, and Marat’s idealized figure all remain visually compelling. What I did not know until recently was how similar Marat’s figure is to Jesus in Michelangelo’s Pieta (which is up there with my favorite sculptures) and in Caravaggio’s Deposition of Christ (also a favorite of mine), and given the acclaim for all three of these works, it suggests that this pose resonates with people.

These initial impressions of beauty and gravitas develop upon observing the painting more closely and learning more of the story. You might notice that the murder weapon is still at the scene, or that Marat is surrounded by white cloth (important symbolically), or that he is still holding his quill pen, even if death has already taken him. You might also see that writing is visible on the letter and the box, and pursue what those French words mean (more on that later).

The painting’s meaning enhances when we pursue answers to those questions about the subject and its importance. What we find in this painting is that Marat was a radical journalist, writing about politics during the turbulent French Revolution. His enemies believed his rhetoric dangerous, and, as a result, he was silenced.

And that’s when it might hit you – he was killed doing the thing that got him killed. So maybe the cause of death is resting in his hand, not on the floor beside it. This enhances Marat’s martyrdom, as a writer who was killed while engaging in written correspondence.

And, not only that, but he was still writing even though his skin disease (which David opted not to depict) had forced him to semi-retire. He was bathing regularly to help his condition, and still kept writing.

But what about those French words? Well, the letter says Il suffit que je sois bien malheureuse pour avoir droit a votre bienveillanc, which can be translated as “Given that I am unhappy, I have a right to your help.” This seems rather inconsequential, to me at least, until realizing who wrote the letter: Charlotte Corday, the woman who murdered him. Corday was able to get close enough to stab Marat because she had written him a letter promising him aid in his cause. This makes Corday that much more villainous, and the death that much more tragic, but even this has a story – Corday did not flee the scene. Rather, she waited for police to arrive, and she was executed four days later. So are there really two martyrs here?

The writing on the box was, so far as I can tell, added by David in later versions after the original just contained David’s signature (“To Marat – David”). This version reads n’ayant pu me corrompre, ils m’ont assassiné, which can translate to “Unable to bribe me, they murdered me.” With a little more information, what was at first a beautiful but also thought-provoking painting unfolds into a story that augments the narrative the image was already suggesting.

And, then, finally, I believe that a work of art secures itself in our imagination when some aspect of the work becomes applicable to our own life. I’m a writer, so to see an image of a slain writer is going to resonate with me in particular ways. Marat wrote things that were so piercing, so politically charged, that his craft resulted in his death. He died for what he wrote, and he died while still writing. Will I ever write something that moves people in such a way? Will my thoughts on religion, race, and other controversial topics make me an enemy to some people? Will I have the courage to keep writing even as I take on the vitriol of my detractors? I know what it’s like to labor over a work of writing, to worry about what others will think, to receive criticism, and to feel like I’m about to die as I type away at a computer. And so did Marat, but at a level I can’t imagine, and though he died hundreds of years ago, still he dies in my mind’s eye, surrounded by ink and blood, if they really are, for him, different.

These applications do not fade – rather, they are refreshed as I continue to pursue writing and as I read what others write. I have said, and I continue to maintain, that internet literacy is a problem my generation must confront, and that the wild west of idiots with an internet voice (of course I’m being ironical) must be refined into something more useful. Is everyone on the internet ready to write with the gravitas of Marat? The better question: is anyone?

There you have it – in a thousand words I explained why I like this painting, and perhaps I’ve helped you to appreciate it, too. But that isn’t the sum of purpose for this post.

I wish everyone could readily name a favorite work of art, and then, for the sake of good conversation, tell me why. Could you? Could you name a work, and then take me through the three steps that I outlined earlier? If not to the same extent as I did, at least with the same verve and vigor?

Art matters even if we don’t talk about it. But it’s meant to be talked about. It’s meant to be appreciated – not just in our minds but in communal expressions of “I like this!” and “Whoah what is that?” and “Ohhhh, now I get it!” We already do this – what do you think makes Pinterest so popular, or trending topics so compelling, or comment sections so irresistible? So why don’t we do it with art? There’s a vast ocean of art just a few clicks away – you can see everything from ancient cave drawings to Renaissance sculptures to contemporary DeviantArt posters – and it need only take a few minutes of time. Why don’t we fill up our Facebook and Twitter timelines with great works of art?

Why not start right now?

Forth now, and fear no darkness.

Soli Deo Gloria

– Peter

Emotional Confirmation and the Addictive Beauty of Art

The Novel Reader

The ideas in this blog post may one day be used as the building block of an academic work (a professor’s suggestion, not mine). If for some reason you want to take some idea from here and run with it, please give credit where credit is due. That goes for all content on this blog, but perhaps especially this one. Thank you.

At times, the consumption of literary, performing, and screen arts has been reduced to mere escapism; some believe that people read books, go to plays, and watch television shows and movies in order to distract themselves from real life in a world that is imaginary. Glib pessimism aside, this might be so. The working person turns on the movie channels to relax after a long day at work. The elementary boy gets lost in fantasy books to forget about bullies. The teenage girl binges on Pretty Little Liars to escape high school drama. It’s not so hard to see how people, for a variety of reasons, turn to various arts in order to transport them away from reality, particularly if that reality is difficult and often if the art is…. less strenuous on the mind.

However, to term this reality-shifting mechanism as escapism – certainly a reductive moniker –  is to overlook what might be a more directed, revealing, and beautiful function of art in dealing with the ups and downs of life. In a sense, to call it escapism belittles the utility of art from something that enhances the mind and emotions into something that tranquilizes them.

Aristotle’s metaphor of catharsis in Greek drama reveals art to be aimed with intent at doing much more for the mind than providing an alternate reality. While scholars disagree on some of the finer aspects of Aristotle’s work, the main idea is that the emotions produced in a play could help purge the audience of their own emotions. The audience’s place in the performance would act as a release of emotion that could provide relief from certain emotions, such as fear. So, seeing something horrible happen to a character on stage, though upsetting, would ultimately act to, by the end of the play, cleanse the audience of their own fears and apprehensions as they felt the character’s fear and trauma but came away unscathed. Aristotle’s theories of catharsis support the idea that art’s work in the human mind is much more than a distraction.

I believe that an aspect of art – in literature but perhaps especially in visual, performed arts like the stage and screen – that makes it such a powerful drug in the human mind is what I will call emotional confirmation. This post is, more or less, an outline for an idea that requires much more expansion and research.

Emotional confirmation depends upon two basic principles of human emotions. They are that 1. humans are emotional creatures that must feel emotions inwardly and express them outwardly and 2. humans have an imperfect sense of what emotions feel like, what they look like, and when they should feel or express them.

The first part is simple enough, right? If you’re reading this then you’ve felt and expressed your own emotions and interpreted others’. In I, Robot, one of the things that Dr. Lanning gave Sonny was emotions, and while they are difficult for him to learn, it is his expression of emotions that make him significantly more human than the other robots. (By the way, that has to be one of the most underrated films of the last 15 years).

But, as Sonny finds, emotions are difficult. This is the second part of the two principles. First, how do you know what an emotion feels like? How do you know when you are scared or just nervous? Amused or elated? Infatuated or in love? Second, how do you interpret the emotions of others? Can you be sure that they are as happy as they seem? Are they depressed or just quiet by nature? What does it really look like when someone is angry, happy, or sad? But what really mystifies all of this is our social conditioning regarding emotions. In short, culture and society teaches us what emotions we should feel as well as how we should display them. (Men don’t cry, for example).

For an emotion to properly accomplish its purpose, it must be correctly recognized by the subject, correctly displayed by the subject, and properly received by the audience. If the emotion is unrecognized, misidentified, suppressed, blunted, ignored, or misunderstood along the way, then at least one human is going to be left in a state of confusion and/or frustration. This confusion and frustration is augmented by the first principle: if humans have an innate sense of emotions and a desire to express and understand them, any failures or ambiguities involved will be stressful and uncomfortable.

Art provides a remedy for this with emotional confirmation. In art, a subject can, with certainty, recognize a character’s emotions. More than this, they can identify with that character and feel that character’s emotions as their own, knowing that they are feeling the proper emotion as well as being in a setting where it is acceptable to feel that emotion.

The certainty of emotions in art rests on the premise that the audience can be sure of what they see. Plainly, this accomplishment is not just a side effect of good art, but a prerequisite. If an author cannot use words to describe emotions, they are probably not going to connect with the reader. Prestigious awards are given every year to actors/actresses that can most vividly portray emotion. Great writing and great acting leave little room for uncertainty. When Shakespeare writes King John as saying the following, there is little question what the king is feeling:

“France, I am burn’d up with inflaming wrath;
A rage whose heat hath this condition,
That nothing can allay, nothing but blood,
The blood, and dearest-valued blood, of France.” (3.1.349-52)

The written communication is almost too easy in this sense. It even works to some extent in bad writing: “He was mad.” The portrayal of emotion in acting is rather certain as well. The following scene, basically on its own merit, won Anne Hathaway an Oscar, mostly because of the sheer power of the emotion she conveys:

To make matters easier, performance can benefit from music, visual effects, and so forth. Side note: I left the above video playing as I continued to write, and when she sings “He took my childhood in his stride” my mouth literally dropped, the chills hit, and I teared up a little.

Whereas in real life, emotions are tough to discern and interpret, in art the emotions are made plain. This alone would be enough to make art desirable; watching movies, seeing a picture or painting, and even reading a book that allows the viewer/reader to accurately perceive someone else’s emotions is, for lack of a better word, fun. It’s healthy. Humans spend all of their social time hazarding guesses and jumping to conclusions about someone else’s emotional state, as their mind works at a million miles per hour trying to interpret myriad signals. Having the chance to safely and correctly view emotions is part of what makes Emotional Confirmation so addictive. Not only that, but the viewer/reader does this subconsciously. They begin to feel sad or angry or happy naturally as they view the art.

However, there is another dimension to Emotional Confirmation that makes the experience so edifying, and it is related to Aristotle’s ideas of catharsis.

Art heals our emotions as it prompts and guides us to emotional clarity, bidding us to emote in a certain way and reaffirming our efforts to do so.

This all depends upon the great mystery of how humans come to identify with fictional characters. This identification is what makes us affected when something happens to a character, and it is what makes us keep reading to find out what happens next. Have you ever stopped for a moment when watching or reading something and asked: “None of this actually happened, so why do I care so much?” It’s because you’ve subconsciously put yourself in the story. That’s one of the first things anyone praises about an author – the ability to put the reader in the story. This is, in part, why we care.

This gives us an astounding amount of immediacy to art. We can find ourselves actually taking the place of one of the characters, or standing in very close to them. When a character gives a tearful farewell speech, we imagine they are giving it to us, not just the other characters on screen. When someone wrongs the main character, we get angry because we feel as though they did something wrong to us.

Identifying with characters allows us to cheer for bad guys. Some of the most popular characters in recent television history have been bad guys, or at least guys who do bad things (Walter White, Tony Soprano, Dexter, Stringer Bell). The reason we can want these bad men to succeed is because we’ve taken their side; we’ve come to identify with them and with their cause.

This means that, in many cases, when a character displays an emotion, and a viewer/reader accurately identifies it, the viewer reciprocates the emotion as if they were in the character’s shoes, or at least standing right besides them as a close friend.

Why is it so powerful when Samwise says to Frodo, “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!” and then picks him up to walk the final distance to Mount Doom? It’s because we have put ourselves on the journey with Sam and Frodo (and Gollum). It’s as if Samwise is picking us up, not just Mr. Frodo. That’s part of why it’s so powerful. Also Howard Shore’s score.

The coup de grace: the art tells us its okay to feel that way.

Perhaps some social situations will still prevent some people from displaying some emotions while viewing art. This is probably why, and I know I can attest to this, the affects of art are usually augmented when viewed in solitude (that may be another paper).

But, generally speaking, art gives the viewer/reader a safe place to feel and express emotion. Not only that, but it encourages it. Art draws our emotions from us, and makes it so that we can do so easily and willingly.

And that experience, of clearly seeing and feeling an emotion, and being free to express it, is a powerful drug. And, according to Aristotle, upon realizing it is all fictional, our emotions are healthfully cleansed in catharsis.

Of course, all of this may be significantly more nuanced, detailed, researched, and supported. And, of course, there are exceptions in art that confuse or contradict my assertion. For instance, what of character’s like Hamlet, whose emotions are much more difficult to identify?

But for now, I stand by my outline of the concept of emotional confirmation. Entertainment in the form of movies, plays, television, books, and even music (though that’s another thing) is much more than a distraction. It is a place to settle the tumult of emotion that we live in every day, elucidating these troublesome variables and giving us a safe place where we are encouraged to be hit in the feels, as they say.

Forth now, and fear no darkness.

Soli Deo Gloria

– Peter


Skinny Buddha

Today I went to Skinny Buddha Tattoo to get the 1-1-Six on my arm touched up (it’s standard for a tattoo shop to give one free touch up, seeing as they can’t be sure what ink will fade after the initial work fully heals).

Yes, the straight-laced middle-class Christian white boy has a couple tattoos. And he’s not done (sorry Mom).

It has amazed me how dis-unified society’s view of tattoos is. Even among young people, the idea floats around that permanent ink is somehow a product of a seedy low-class society or is just a stupid thing that we’ll regret later on. Enough of the adults in our lives come from an era in which tattoos belonged only to convicts and soldiers. Yet there are many people (usually younger than about 35) who view tattoos as perfectly acceptable, even normal.

At the very least, I would say we have moved far enough along to recognize how cretaceous that article by David Whitley on Colin Kaepernick was. Of course some people surely agree with Mr. Whitley, but I think in general we can say those people are being rather obtuse. Still, it is not no-holds-barred when it comes to tattoos. They still make a lot of people at least a little uncomfortable and there are some work-places where they are just a flat-out no-go.

Let me tell you a quick story, give some encouragement, and then debunk a few myths about permanent bodily ink.

When I went to Skinny Buddha a few months ago, two of the employees, thoroughly inked on their arms and neck, walked into the shop talking about how some people nearby were giving them dirty looks. The woman at the front desk, a perfectly “normal” looking lady, who has one of the more beautiful pieces I’ve seen, shook her head and said sarcastically, “That’s right, we have tattoos which means we must beat our children.” She was aware of the way people must think of her and the people she works with, but she knew that those stereotypes were false because she, you know, actually spends time with those people.

The people at Skinny Buddha are friendly people. They’re cool people. They’re funny and polite. Same goes for the guys at the shop where I had my leg done. And the same goes for most of the other inked people I know, including two of my managers at work.

Maybe once upon a time if you saw a couple of heavily tattooed guys sitting in a parking lot smoking cigarettes you’d be right to be a little wary. But now? That’s just a total case of stereotyping. It’s unkind, really. Having tattoos does not make someone a freak. It’s a safe way of self-expression, of engraving something important, or just displaying art.

Which is why I would encourage you to think about getting one. I’m not telling you that you should, but just that you should think about it. And if after a lot of thinking you still think you want one, then go for it. Do your research of course, and be smart about it, but don’t let society’s false assumptions dissuade you if you find that it is really something you want to pursue. It’s fun. It’s meaningful. And it’s something to look forward to and something to be proud of. It’s a natural thing for humans to want to decorate their body, and tattooing (by no means a new thing) is one of many ways to do this, along with piercing, hair-styling, heck, even the way you dress.

So let’s debunk a few tattoo myths real quick:

Tattoo parlors are sketchy: Not if you choose the right one. There are a ton of artists out there. Some of them are running questionable operations out of a smoke-shop, others are working in a highly professional work space. Others are working in a clean, hip, residential office space. Yes, you could easily get a tattoo in a dingy building from an ex-junkie motorcycle gang member. But you can just as easily go to a totally chill art studio and find professional service operating under government-approved health procedures.

It’s dangerous. Again, not if you go to the right place. If you go full-janky on this, then sure someone might re-use a needle and you’ll get a disease. But if you go to a reputable establishment with paperwork on the wall, there is nothing to worry about.

It hurts. Okay this is kind of a loaded question, because it really does depend. And there are also people out there who will quickly say “no it doesn’t hurt.” Let’s get one thing straight: it can be quite uncomfortable. There’s no denying that. However, this discomfort can vary greatly depending on where you get the tattoo. Muscular areas are not a problem while bony and fatty areas hurt more. Additionally, it’s kind of an in-the-moment pain. Just a few minutes after I always feel like I could go for another session no problem. I don’t hurt just thinking about it. Then again, I have not been tattooed on the foot or on the side, which I understand can hurt quite badly. So yes, pain is a factor, but if you’re looking for something on your arm, I don’t think you should let that hold you back.

It’s expensive. This also depends on the shop. You don’t want to be a cheapskate here, because every single bad tattoo ever done came at a cheap price. However, you can definitely overpay. The first place I went to, which is an award-winning shop that regularly tattoos Green Bay Packers, was overkill for the lettering I wanted done. You can find perfectly good artists for reasonable prices. Also, it’s for life. So if you think about it that way, it’s not that expensive, especially in comparison to the 10 bucks you spend on dinner or lunch that lasts you twenty minutes and is probably no good for you. Or the hundreds you spent on that dress you’ll only wear a couple of times. This is a very strange thing to accuse of being too expensive. Speaking of which, even though they don’t need to be so expensive, I’m not sure why people think it’s a waste of money to buy video games. I have never quite understood why a video game someone might spend 60 hours playing is considered over-priced if he buys it for $60 bucks. In the words of Napoleon Dynamite, “That’s like a dollar an hour!” (Granted, there are better things to do besides play video games. I’m just saying it’s unfair to call buying them a waste of money).

What if it doesn’t turn out well? No big deal. Tattoo artists are exactly that: artists. They see things we don’t see. They can turn a disaster from someone else into a new piece of art. I mean, a complex back-piece might be tough to fix up, but if that hummingbird on your shoulder doesn’t look so good, another artist can turn it into something else beautiful no problem.

You’ll regret it later in life. Blah blah. Consider these reasons:

  1. The art has advanced. They age better than they used to. And, like I just said, cover-ups are usually a cinch. And you can always pay a few dollars for a touch-up.
  2. Won’t you look awful anyway? No offense, old people. But I think it just comes with the territory. It’s not like you’re out trying to attract mates. Usually.
  3. How much skin are you going to be showing? Old people, particularly old men, have such an amazing selection of swagging wardrobe choices. And most of the time they involve long pants and long sleeves. So now and then you might have shorts and a t-shirt, but, again, how often? And if you do, it’ll probably be in a setting in which no one will care if you have some old ink.
  4. That will probably be the least of your problems. Your friends/spouse will be dying, you might be getting diseases, children and grandchildren will be off in the world, and all manner of other old person things will be happening in your beautiful later stages of life. A faded tattoo won’t be worth worrying about. And, actually, seeing it might be an encouraging reminder to you of something from your youth.
  5. Your choices are limitless. You can tattoo just about anything on your body. So if you don’t pick something stupid, you won’t regret it. It’s really pretty simple: don’t but something stupid on your body. If you can see yourself being proud to wear whatever it is for the rest of your life, then don’t worry about whether or not it will look brand-new in fifty years.
  6. Your current self gets cheated. I generally tend to think that our older, wiser selves know best. But, is that always true? For example, do old people really understand love, or do young people in the throes of infatuation? I don’t know. Think about it. Anyway, why should the 50-75 version of you rob the 20-40 version that will enjoy having some tattoos?

Well there you have it. There are a lot of myths floating around there about tattoos. Get informed. Oh, here’s one last thing. I have to complain about something real quick. There are plenty of things having to do with people who get tattoos and the way people react to people who get tattoos, but let me just throw out one of them right now: stop calling it a leg-tattoo. I don’t get this. The only body parts this works with are leg and neck, and in neither instance does it make sense. You don’t say arm-tattoo or chest-tattoo. What is so significant or strange about having a tattoo on my leg that makes you label it not “a tattoo on your leg” but a “leg-tattoo” like it’s the same sort of thing as a “neck-tattoo?” So please don’t call it that.

And one more thing: I’m not in anyway saying that there are not stupid tattoos, seedy shops, or sketchy artists. There are. So you can’t just jump into this haphazardly. But there are enough of us sensible people out there that there’s plenty of opportunity to do this in a totally cool way.

Soli Deo Gloria