Sunday, August 27, 2006

Why Did You Get Your Tattoo?

David Brooks, self-professed high school nerd, is snickering at people who have tattoos:
And that’s the most delightful thing about the whole tattoo fad. A cadre of fashion-forward types thought they were doing something to separate themselves from the vanilla middle classes but are now discovering that the signs etched into their skins are absolutely mainstream. They are at the beach looking across the acres of similar markings and learning there is nothing more conformist than displays of individuality, nothing more risk-free than rebellion, nothing more conservative than youth culture.
The thing is, I know a number of people who have tattoos, and while their reasons vary (ranging from "I was drunk on my 21st birthday, and my friends..." to "It symbolizes my struggle with cancer") I can't recall a one who argues, "I wanted to separate myself from the likes of David Brooks and his vanilla (upper) middle class values," or "I am trying to be a nonconformist". I'm not excluding the fact that there are those who would get tattoos with the purpose of shocking the likes of David Brooks, but they're not in my social circle, and that's something different from rejecting middle class values.

To the extent that Brooks is arguing that something once considered outside the mainstream has become pretty much a part of the mainstream, well, sure. But he seems to be a couple of decades behind-the-times in figuring this out.


  1. There's nothing more conformist than displays of individuality? I can't be the only one thinking "Does Brooks actually go back and read the things that he writes?"

    Seriously, though, I think he's just showing his age. Baby Boomers were still of the age where only bikers, criminals and people trying to horrify their parents went out and got tattoos. Later generations don't see it as terribly different from ear piercing.

  2. Crawl into his head for a moment (but be sure to shower when you crawl back out). He does not appear to be actually asserting, "A display of individuality is conformist," so much as he seems to be describing himself on the beach, snickering at those poor suckers who think they're displaying their "individuality" when in fact he knows they're just a bunch of conformists. Through this column, he's "delighted" to share his sense of superiority with the world, demonstrating how much smarter he is than the minority of the population which "conforms" by getting tattoos.

    I think this represents Brooks at his own personal peak of non-conformity.

  3. Given that a very large portion of the population supposedly has tattoos of some kind, you have to wonder at what point he would see himself as the faux non-conformist.

  4. Faux? Faux? Did you fail to notice his salmon pink shirt?

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.