Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Needle and the damage done

"Ain't Tat Something" by Julie at The Corner with a View
Trista at Not a Minx, a Moron, or a Parasite
"Needle and the damage done" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

The "Bright Maidens" were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!

How appropriate that we review a topic like tattoos after one of the most shirtless days of the year!

In April, I made a little comment about the calf tattoos (calftoos or calftats, if you will) I saw when running in my first anything-K race. I took a dip in my gym's pool yesterday, taking a look around at the surplus of Americans celebrating America's day.

Then I started calculating how much all of that ink was worth.

A friend once showed me his three inch ankle tattoo and told me it cost him almost $200. It costs at least $60 for the tattoo artist to touch the needle to your skin. You better know what you want because not only are you paying a hefty amount upfront, but you're generally stuck with it. No pun intended, but pun emphasized.

Let's get out of my penny-pincher mind; what are the teachings and why?

Many Protestant theologians teach that the Bible forbids it, often citing this: "You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh on account of the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord" (Lev. 19:28).

If these preachers stick to this (look, another pun), then I assume they also don't wear blended fabrics. Leviticus is certainly an important part of the Bible, but we need to be careful not to pick and parcel out what we want to believe from what we don't want to believe. That's how the Protestant churches lost sight of the true teaching of the Eucharist.

So what does the Catholic Church teach? The consensus among Catholic biblical scholars is that this teaching on tattoos is not part of the unchanging moral law.Cite 

Like many parts of the Catholic Church's teachings, they leave it up to the church members (you and me) to discern. The Church teaches that it is not in opposition of the Bible to tattoo oneself, but they offer sound principles explaining why, in some situations, it is sinful to be tattooed.

Sinful? Now, no one wants to hear that! Do you know how much I paid for this?! It's a picture of my dog playing a keytar, get a grip, Church!
A lot of pain for no gain. Gross.

Calm down for a second. For example, if one gets the tattoo with a bad intention, like in spite of one's parents, that person is sinning against them. If the intention of the tattoo is not one of love ("I want to piss off as many people as possible, because I can"), the evil intention makes it a sin, according to the Church.

To get a clearer understanding of these principles, read here. 

Back to the pool

After hanging out at my gym's pool, my family held a little Independence Day shindig (Happy birthday, Gramma!). One of our guests was a man who went to the Naval Academy. You would think a midshipman who is officially a member of the Navy would have dozens of tattoos by now, easily hidden, of course.

He surprised me by vehemently exclaiming that he can't think of one item he would want to have on his body for his entire life. How succinctly put!

Tattoos have a special, quiet place in my opinions. I have so many that they nestle quite nicely among the spiky, bickering items like abortion, justice and crunchy vs. creamy peanut butter (crunchy, obviously).

I have wanted a tattoo (or several) for the last fifteen years. Throughout those fifteen years, if I shared that tidbit with friends they scoffed in surprise; never could they imagine their quiet, somewhat-goodie-two-shoes friend inking herself. Part of me still wants to shovel out the ridiculous amounts of money to get one.

Much like I know not to date bad boys or have multiple drinks at a cocktail party, I know I won't get a tattoo. 

First of all, the double standard on tattoos makes them very undesirable on female skin. Yes, that's still true. No, it hasn't changed.

Second of all, after youthful days pass me by, I'm more likely to find a jalapeno pepper in the exact same place I had once paid someone to ink a strawberry.

Thirdly and most importantly, I ask myself, why do I want to get a tattoo? I can't think of a single answer at which I wouldn't roll my eyes. 

So often, tattoos are a fad that fades with youth. They skipped my parents' generation, perhaps proving their trendiness.

When I ask myself, why don't I want to get a tattoo?, I have a thousand answers. The big one: I don't want my future kids to see a tattoo on their mom.

Because of my remaining desire to get my own tattoo, I don't judge people who have their own (except to think, how in the heck did you pay for that?).  We make our own decisions in life.

Like any decision that affects us for the rest of our lives, we shouldn't take the decision to go under the needle lightly. 


Sarah said...

LOL a dog playing a keytar. Are you familiar with http://ugliesttattoos.failblog.org/ ?

Emily said...

I agree. I wouldn't want my child to see me with a tattoo on me. And you're right, it is a huge decision to get a tattoo.. moneywise and for your future.

Awesome post!

Chloe said...

What are people really investing in, when they invest in a tattoo? Leviticus is a really difficult book to understand, without Tradition- yeah, just went there ;). It reminds me of Simcha Fisher's "Why doesn’t the Church just make a list?" re: NFP. Obviously the subject matter isn't the same, but it's the same argument.
I imagine the world scoffing: "for all of those rules and regulations you Catholics have, you really don't have an answer for these things?" but that forgets WHY we do the things we do. We do everything (ideally) to honor the Lord. We abstain from meat on Fridays to unite ourselves with Our Lord- not simply because we read a certain passage that could be "interpreted" as such. If your future children ask one day why you're the only mom they know without a tattoo, you'll be able to share with them that you thought of them, long before they were even here, and wanted to reflect beauty and love in every possible way. It's a beautiful sentiment.

(as a sidenote- what is up with all the shirtlessness, anyway? Male Modesty, anyone? I feel compelled to avert my eyes out of embarrassment for them, when water isn't involved. "yeah... chillin in the yard... without my shirt on...")

Anthony S. Layne said...

You're right about the double standard, although with men it's not really that much better. A man can have one or two tattoos (someplace covered up by a short-sleeved shirt) without being written off as trailer trash; a woman can barely get by with a daisy on her ankle — anything more and they start to look at you as if you make your money pole-dancing. Tribal tats? Chinese letters (which usually say something like "this space for rent")? You've condemned yourself to Slackerville ... very, very difficult for the Catberts and Mr. Ditherses of the business world to take you seriously. No, tattoos may not be immoral of themselves, but I don't recommend them to anyone. (Unless they say "USMC"!)

danardoyle said...

I'm not really into tattoos. I'm not sure if they would be categorized as "sinful." I kind of think of it as a moderation thing. Getting your ears pierced for example isn't really self abuse, but when you start piercing every part of your body, it's kind of difficult to convince someone that you don't hate yourself. Jesus told us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and should be treated as such. ??? I must say that the Guadalupe tattoo in your post's picture is really quite pretty.

Mandi said...

My last tattoo cost $500!!! You hit the nail on the head about them being expensive. I don't have a problem with my children having tattoos as long as they get them as adults, really think about what they want, and are careful where they place them, so I don't mind that my children will see mine (mine are not visible when I'm wearing [modest] clothing anyway). I really appreciate that you weren't condemning about tattoos - I get that a lot!

Kathleen Peterson said...

Beautifully balanced blog post. As a youth ministry leader and diocesan coordinator, I get lots of questions (challenges) from teens about getting tatted. I plan on sharing your post.

I wish you God's peace!
PS: Love, love, love the Our Lady of Guadalupe tat!!!

Jamie said...

Hi I'm a new follower... I've had quite an exciting train of follows this afternoon - @NFPandMe -> #CathSorority -> BrightMaidens -> to the facebook pages, through the pics, and clicked on this story.

Lately I've been thinking about tattoos a lot, and I'm not quite sure why. After 25 years of being strongly against a tattoo on my body, I think I'm changing my mind. There are a lot of reasons not to get one like you say, and one of the biggest, for me at least, is that crazy price tag. We'll see what happens, but I probably won't end up getting one.

LOL @ 'it skipped our parents' generation, perhaps proving their trendiness'. My dad is completely against them and thinks the Church is too. Glad to see some proof as to what the Church actually teaches. :o)

Feel free to come by my blog.

For Love of Cupcakes

Unknown said...

The difference between tattooed people and people without tattoos is tattooed people don't care if you don't have any tattoos. Heavily tattooed people are everywhere. I work as a center manager at a retail location for a major shipping company. I have over 100 hours of tattoos, but you can't see them behind the suit and tie I wear everyday. Not all of us are sinners.

Elizabeth Hillgrove said...

Welcome, Jamie!! I will stop by!

Unknown - Welcome to you! Well, I beg to differ. We are all sinners, whether or not we add ink to our skin.

I hope you understood my object in my post here... I said that getting a tattoo is not (necessarily) a sin. If you got a tattoo of Jesus stabbing someone in the heart with something else outrageous, yes, I think that would be bad. But tattoos aren't inherently sinful.

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