Regret can be trendy

If you live here in Portland, are under the age of 40 and don’t have a tattoo, it is likely you are in the minority.

If you live here in Portland, are under the age of 40 and don’t have a tattoo, it is likely you are in the minority. The Portland Tribune has recently done the math and reported that our fair city has more tattoo shops per capita than any other city in America, and local customers are proving it. Just look around Portland State—it’s hard to imagine there are more un-tattooed versus tattooed students. That quiet guy in your cluster class could be sporting a full sleeve.

So what is the deal? Why are we so tattooed? According to a 2003 study by an online company called Harris Interactive, among an average West Coast community, about 20 percent of residents were tattooed, compared with about 14 percent of populations in the rest of the country. It is probable that the popularity of tattoos has grown since this study, because the tattoo industry has shown growth.

Geographically, we are already more likely to be tattooed. Tattoos used to be mostly limited to blue collars and sailors, the roots of Rose City. The recent migration of young, creative and artistic people to Portland has no doubt contributed to our tattooed status, along with our vibrant music scene.

What began as rebellious and edgy has slowly become mainstream. It is no longer shocking and let’s face it, no matter how much of a misfit you want to be, tattoos are trendy, especially in Portland. Trends are by definition fashionable and fleeting, yet tattoos are very permanent.

So what could possibly be wrong with permanently adorning your body with something trendy? Well, perhaps youthful rebellion will fade and so will the colors on your back piece. Then you are stuck with a permanent and imperfect reminder of your anarchist phase.

While artistic tattooing can be an aesthetically pleasing trend that enhances the joy of Portland people-watching, it is also slightly ridiculous. It’s easy to blend in here by just getting some ink, but what if you don’t stay here? Portland’s acceptance of body modification is not necessarily indicative of a national trend. It is a lovely, weird and utopian thing in Portland not to judge, but how realistic will that be if life takes you elsewhere? The way the economy is going here, once you graduate, moving could be your reality.

Rebecca Morrison-Stoney, president of the Advantage Staffing agency, told the Portland Tribune that many companies do not want to hire people with visible tattoos. Maybe you think that you wouldn’t ever want to work somewhere so repressive, but as we age our priorities tend to change. Once you hit 30, you will probably care less about your image and more about your retirement. I know it sounds boring, but such is life.

Why the hating on tattoos? It is worrisome that some very young people have quite a lot of them in places that they will never be able to hide. Why stack the odds against yourself at an age when you hardly even know your potential of success yet? College students especially are aiming to find more sophisticated employment after graduation. Unfortunately, the HR department at your dream job might not share your love of dragons.

There are many reasons people get tattoos. Many of these reasons are valid and understandable. People think of them as adornment and choose to beautify themselves. A tattoo can also be a symbol of something that a person values or believes in.

It can just be something that they like, too. They can be funny and show that people don’t take themselves too seriously. But if you are just going through a phase and end up with an entire arm or leg covered with tattoos, that is a lot of space for regret.

Making any kind of life-altering decision in youth comes with some risk. Tattoos are no exception. We grow and change a lot in our 20s. Choose your tattoo images and placement carefully because you will have to live with your choice forever. You know how you buy a weird shirt and are really into it for a couple of months, then you can’t stand the sight of it? Make sure the tattoos you get are more like your favorite hoodie you’ve had for 10 years and still love.