On My Daughter’s Tattoo

Tattoos can be beautiful and they can be ugly.

Body art is art: which means it can be good or bad.

Obviously, the Bible condemns any action taken to worship idols. We cannot mark our bodies for false gods any more than we can build shrines to them. Any good thing can be corrupted and most good things can be redeemed: including the tattoo.

Most arguments against tattoos are utilitarian: they don’t age well or they are dangerous. Of course there exist back-alley tattoo parlors, but they are easy to avoid. Permanent body art should not be purchased from cut-rate artists anymore than plastic surgery should come from a billboard doctor.

Why risk any danger? Wearing a contact lens is unnecessary and carries some risk of eye infection, so plenty of us are willing to take reasonable risks for appearance sake.

As for aging well, this again is a matter for thought and prudence in selecting body art. Some body parts sag, but I have never notice a saggy wrist! In any case, those of us who learn to love mature bodies can learn to love mature bodies with well maintained body art. Weathered paint can be beautiful on an aging structure and so can faded body art. I knew a World War II vet with a faded emblem of his service. The tattoo was an outer sign of an inner reality: he was marked by his service, but the memory was as faded as the tattoo.

He was marked by the War permanently, but time had softened the harshness of the colors. I loved that tattoo.

Some argue that a tattoo indicates disrespect for the body. It might. If you hate the way you look, then you have a problem. A tattoo is not your problem, though it might be a chosen way of acting out. If you buy a new car to cover up for your insecurity, you are a fool. If you get body art to make yourself beautiful, then you are foolish.

But surely a person may have better motives than this for creating art?

I would argue a good tattoo indicates a wholesome love of the body. A good tattoo, like a good piece of clothing, does not cover up, but accentuates. If a woman can licitly wear makeup or a man hair implants, why can’t he or she choose body art?

When asked by my daughter about her beautiful and pious body art, I thought: “Neither can I condemn thee, go tattoo some more.”

I did not mean to be trivialize her decision, because her choice of body art was meaningful, holy, and accentuated her beauty. It looked to age better than I have and was affirming of good choices in her life, not bad. It was the result of thought and not haste.

I am so old-fashioned I see tattoos as charming relics of a happier times, a bit of Victorian charm brought forward and expanded to women as well as men. In a world of ugliness to meet a man or woman who tries to create a lasting expression of beauty, brings joy not condemnation. I am not a good candidate for a tattoo, but God help me I love my daughter’s body art.


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