Ask any pensioner about their regrets in life and you’ll get a list of things they DIDN’T do. Yet it is uncanny how often I’m asked if I think I will regret my tattoos when I’m older. Being only forty and in the prime of my life, it is difficult to answer the question with any confidence. So, for this series of blogs I have collected opinions about ‘wrinkly ink’ from people of all ages.
Young at heart?
Most images of tattooed people we see in the media (and this includes the tattoo media) are of young people. Although the tattoo scene is widely varied, it is predominantly the young (and the young at heart) that are represented and catered for. This image of a typical ‘youthful’ tattoo fan clashes strongly with the typical image of older people, and it seems many people cannot imagine a point where the two may overlap.
Those outside the recent tattoo revolution may not yet have updated the ‘tattooed outcast’ stereotype which they use as a default setting, and so they are unprepared for ink fans that do not fit this image. The increasing numbers of tattoo owners from across the demographic spectrum have laid waste to this stereotype, not least because some of the newly tattooed are already old. And as time progresses, the current batch of tattooed youth will become old too, diluting and mixing these stereotypes still further.
“If you’re going to be wrinkly anyhow, what’s wrong with being wrinkly and colourful? I don’t understand what there is to worry about. I think perhaps some people are uncomfortable because I don’t look how they expect an older person to look. They expect retired people to gradually fade away as they get older. I can assure you that I won’t be fading away any time soon.”
Dr C Alvin, Bradford, Age 63
“The ‘plain’ folk of this world need to start getting used to seeing tattooed old timers. The western perception of old people and how they are subsequently treated is not particularly healthy. If having tattoos helps to break down this image that old folk are ‘past it’ then I applaud it wholeheartedly.”
Peter. Bristol, Age 65
Vida Loca: How old are you and when did you start getting tattooed?
Stephen: I’m 66 now and I acquired my first tattoo at the age of 49.
Vida Loca: What brought that on so late in the day?
Stephen: I had always been intrigued by body decoration and just a little by tattoos in particular, but my lifestyle at the time wasn’t very accepting of tattooed folk so I put the thought out of my head. Eventually though, I got really small piece and kept it very well hidden. I was working as a chartered accountant for a big American multi-national at the time and I was almost paranoid that they would see my tattoos and disapprove in some way. I look back now and I don’t know what all the fuss was about. Times change I suppose.
Vida Loca: You’re almost covered now. How did that come about?
Stephen: I think I’ve got bolder as I got older. After quit accountancy I worked for the BBC for twelve years as a broadcast journalist, first on local radio and then on BBC Radio 4. In the early days I was quite discrete, but as time passed and I had my feet under the table a little I let more people know I had tattoos. The media is a lot more liberal than the world of corporate accountancy. Over the years I have just collected more and I have been quite a prolific collector over the last five years in particular.
Vida Loca: How does your peer group receive you?
Stephen: Believe it or not it is rather a non-event in most cases. Those who know me don’t make a big deal of it and even when I meet new people the initial astonishment soon fades. My wife is usually the instigator looking to shock new company. First she raises the subject and then encourages me to take my shirt off. But as I say, once I put my shirt back on it all seems to be quickly forgotten. I sometimes wish that I had told my parents about my tattoos, but I never did, just in case they were offended or disappointed.
Vida Loca: And how do young people react?
Stephen – They love it! It is something that I have in common with many young people.
Vida Loca: So being a tattooed old person is OK then?
Stephen: Absolutely. I’m not too wrinkly for 66 and I’m in pretty good shape compared with many my age, and I don’t subscribe to many of the conventional perceptions of age. But neither do I act or wish to appear younger than I am. I just happen to be 66 and I just happen to have lots of tattoo coverage. It really isn’t a big deal. As I get older my body is changing; it’s breaking down and getting wrinkly and even a little flabby in places, but collecting tattoos has ignited a new enthusiasm for how my body looks. Tattoos make my body look more beautiful as it ages and I love it for that.