Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Do you have a tattoo?

Last Sunday, people-watching at a park with the family, I remarked to my wife how some people like to get tattoos on their necks or arms. You just can't miss a neck tattoo. It conveys a certain je ne sais quoi. Actually, in California, it conveys that you belong to a gang.

"Why would you get a tattoo?" I asked.

"Well, my sister has a giant eagle tattooed on her back," she said.

I didn't know that. My sister-in-law is a bit of a daredevil, and as she nears 40 with two kids, still enjoys the flying trapeze.

"Yes, she did it in her 20s."

And here I must admit that I did, briefly, in my 20s, consider getting a tattoo. It was during my summer in the Canadian military reserves, at Camp Gagetown, New Brunswick. A bunch of mates and I were off-duty at the Canadian equivalent of the Px, as it was too early to start drinking. One guy pointed out a tattoo parlor. "Hey, let's all get tattoos," he said. There was a folder with art samples you could ask to have permanently inked into your skin. I examined the catalog. It seemed to consist exclusively of logos of heavy-metal bands. Jazz being more my thing, I excused myself to get an icecream cone, while my mate rolled up his sleeve, indicating his preference to display an image of Mötley Crüe's "Dr Feelgood" on his bicep until the day he died.

I wonder whether he still feels good about that decision.

That summer was remarkable for me. My eczema completely cleared up. I suspect it was because, being a trooper, I was ordered around the whole time and never had to make a decision for myself. (I kid you not--on the first day, we spent hours learning how to take one step forward.) No decisions, no stress. The warrant officer could singe my ears blue with profanities, informing me that the way I was shouldering my rifle was far from ideal. It didn't matter. I just marched where I was told.

But even then, with perfect skin, I knew that getting a tattoo would be a bad idea. I think I've had eczema on every square inch of my skin since then. Every square inch. What does eczema do to a tattoo? If you scratch, does the ink get torn up and the picture blotched? I'd think so.

Have you gotten a tattoo?


  1. Ha, very topical: I just got a Google Alert about someone freaking out because they are getting a tattoo (which can take more than one session apparently) and it caused an outbreak of eczema. Maybe it was the ink. http://ask.metafilter.com/220318/Eczema-on-my-new-tattoo-Help

  2. Had very bad eczema as a kid, but except for a few small brief flare-ups as an adult, have not really had problems with it since. Now as a middle aged grandma fighting cancer, I had to get radiation tattoos (tattooed dots to line up where they want to nuke you). They itch like heck, have red scaley eczema rash that I remember from my childhood circling each one. Am currently taking oral benedryl and using hydrocortisone creme to try to control it. I would really advise anyone with a history of eczema, even if it is not currently in a flare-up, to avoid tattoos.

  3. I have 3 :)

    For my 30th Birthday I got a foot tattoo, very colorful and VERY painful (apparently I was one of the only people that smiled through it and the place gave me a HUGE discount, since they block out more time for these because people can't sit!)

    Mine are covered though, except for the foot. They are on my back so I can wear short sleeves etc. There is one that is very small and I am considering getting removed.

  4. Well that's fun! I am envious. I could use something that made me look a little less square and a little more edgy.

  5. I have a huge one on my back of roses...I have had eczema my whole life but it comes and goes but recently ive had 3 serious flare ups which has effected my entire body except for my tattoo..! not one inch of my tattoo has been affected weird huh...i so desperate to get more but im a little scared my eczema could come back and mess them up but who knows

  6. I have multiple tattoos (the majority of my back, foot, arm, shoulder) and have had pretty bad eczema my whole life (32 years)...however, just like "Anonymous" above, I do not get eczema flare ups on my tattoos. My guess is maybe it has to do with the scar tissue? I don't know, but I plan on having more as I grow older, and the fact that I remain eczema free in those tattooed spots is just an added bonus!

  7. Same as the 2 above, my arm and whole back is inked up. Been having full body eczema flare ups and everywhere except on the tattoos.