Why I’m Pretty Sure I’ll Never Get A Tattoo

Tattoos are pretty bad ass. Getting one entails putting needles into your skin on purpose, which causes more pain than pleasure unless the aforementioned needle is full of heroin. You can get a tattoo of a skull or a dragon or the name of a friend who was eaten by wolves. Bad. Ass. Even tattoos that look wimpy (like a tear drop) mean bad ass things (like you killed someone). Part of me wants a tattoo. It would be cool and fierce and cowabunga (is cowabunga still a thing?). But a larger, doughier part of me knows that I’ll probably never get inked.

At the core of me, I’m a wimp. I’m very risk-averse by nature. When I drive, I stick pretty close to the speed limit. Scary movies make me squirm. I’d win most games of “Never Have I Ever,” except I’m an adult, and I don’t play slumber party games anymore. I know that tattoos aren’t actually all that dangerous, but they seem dangerous. Like skydiving. Or dating a girl with a missing front tooth. I just read that Lil Wayne has tattoos on his eyelids. That’s terrifying. It just seems like begging to be stabbed in the eye. His tattoos say “Fear” and “God.” My eyelid tattoos would say “Fear” and “A Needle Going Into Your Eyeball.” (Though I’m not sure that would fit.)

The best tattoos come from great stories. My girlfriend has the woman’s face from the Layla album cover because she grew up listening to Eric Clapton, and that’s still her favorite record. Sweet. My friend Jackie has a tattoo of a figure her grandfather taught her to draw as a child. Touching. Several of my buddies got the Pabst Blue Ribbon blue ribbon tatted on them together at a party. Grody. Like, Adrien Grody. But still pretty awesome. I don’t have any tattoo-worthy stories.

My favorite album is probably Pinkerton by Weezer, but I’d rather eat a cardigan for breakfast every day of my life than walk around with a tattoo of that artwork like the poster child for shorthand hipsterism. My grandfather never taught me to draw anything. He did teach me: “Slow down when you’re taking that turn!” That’s not exactly something I want to commit to my flesh forever. I’ve already opted out of the Pabst tattoo. Who needs to make a lifelong bad decision to remind themselves of previous bad decisions?

So what would I even get? None of the things that are meaningful to me have impressive visual representations. I like pie, but that wouldn’t make a great story. “One time, I was driving through the mountains of Montana, and I had a slice of huckleberry that couldn’t be beat. I needed to remember that for the rest of my days. Oh, hey! Please stop dunking my head in the toilet!” I’m a lifelong Boston sports fan, but I feel like a sports team tattoo is a neon sign that says: “I haven’t read a book since tenth grade!” I have a Red Sox hat, and that is good enough. I like The Big Lebowski, but a tattoo of The Dude might as well be the Latin word for “unemployable.” Being a writer, I’ve toyed with the idea of a comma for a long time. But how will people know it’s not an apostrophe? I’d have to get a semicolon, and what am I, some kind of asshole?

I know a tattoo is supposed to be for you and not for other people. It’s an expression of something meaningful to you. But you can’t just get anything you want, because how you present yourself sends a message to other people. In terms of fashion, the outward expression of my essence is sweatpants and slippers. I can’t wear that every day, though, because I’d get tired of people asking me: Is everything okay?

The biggest question, then, is how can I best encapsulate who I am in a way that makes other people understand and “get” me with only one visual cue? That’s a weighty question, especially since my sense of self could change over time. How can I anticipate what about me is permanent and what is mutable? I’d like to think I know myself pretty well, but Me in 2011 is different than the Me from 2003. Who says that Me in 2020 won’t have lasers for eyeballs and abs of steel? (Most people would probably say that.) The whole thing makes me feel overwhelmed, like the best snapshot of my identity would just be a tattoo of myself, shrugging.

And I can convey that with my body the way it is now. So why not save myself the pain, and spend my money on pie? TC mark

image – Amazon


More From Thought Catalog

  • Amber

    “In terms of fashion, the outward expression of my essence is sweatpants and slippers.”

    Date me.

  • http://twitter.com/LameFame lame. fame.

    A semicolon actually sounds like such a great idea.

    • Semicolons Yeah

      It is a great idea. A great idea embraced by an editor with a sense of humor. That would be me. 

      *Kisses left bicep with semicolon tattoo. Sweetness.


      • http://www.nicholeexplainsitall.com EarthToNichole

        Nerdy tattoos represent! Ampersand. 

      • Guest

        I think the & is a little overdone these days.  I’d go with the comma Josh.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9383035 Scott Muska

    Permission to use ‘Adrien Grody’ with tasteful frequency?

    • Josh Gondelman

      Permission granted!

  • Alison

    is your girlfriend the one who wrote the article about how people always ask about her layla tattoo? that’s so cool! if not…that’s unfortunate, since the other author seemed to think she was so original lolz

    • Josh Gondelman

      You sleuthed me out! She is!

      • lianne

        I thought this article was great and hilarious, and I loved your girlfriend’s article too.  High five to both of you!  lol

      • Alison

        agreed :) !!

  • Quinn Kummer

    Pretty sure that I AM going to get a tattoo, now. And it will be this:

    Adrian Grody ; 

    on my ass

  • Mary

    “…but I’d rather eat a cardigan for breakfast everyday of my life…” BEST LINE EVER!

    And I think a tattoo of yourself shrugging would be pretty badass.

  • Brian Pyne

    “If I ever got a tattoo, I’d get one of a pie, because I love them.  But I would rather just spend the money on pie, because I don’t love tattoos, I love pie.  That is all.”

    • Josh Gondelman

      Finally! Someone who -gets- me!

  • melis

    hahaha this is hilarious! i’ve always wanted one too (more so when watching shows like LA Ink) and it’s true how the best ones do  come with great stories. however, i’m the most  indecisive person i know who could never make up my mind AND  is very sensitive to pain which includes being scared of needles. sooo, there you go! ah wells ;p
    adrian grody. HA! good one ;p

  • Sugar


  • http://twitter.com/nawasaka Becky To

    This is great. Funny and relatable.

  • fulldamage

    Wow.  Looking at the front page, TC is all about waving a finger at smoking, drinking, and tattoos today.  Not trying to hate on any of these pieces, they’re positive I guess.  But I always thought a writer’s role was to challenge preconceptions rather than reinforcing them.  Seeing all these topics together like this is kinda bleak.

    • Josh Gondelman

      I think in general, young people (the largest demographic for TC, I’d imagine) are as pro-tattoo and drinking as they’ve ever been. So maybe having a different take on that is a challenge to preconceptions. Also, I’m a dork, is part of my argument.

      Also, are you actually hoping someone will come out pro-cigarettes? That seems shortsighted to me, if sighted at all.

      • fulldamage

        Hey, you’re totally welcome to the argument that staying away from any subcultural motifs or influences makes you a rebel!  And I wouldn’t presume to say that smoking is for people’s betterment; it’s unhealthy, that’s a fact. 

        It just got me thinking a bit about trends in youth culture, and wondering how a cross section of young writers 10, 20, or 30 years ago might have differed in outlook, which got me thinking about lots of other things.  Again, no critcism implied here.  Everyone makes their life choices to the best of their ability.  :)   

      • Josh Gondelman

        I hear you. I will say that I’m not rebellious at all, but sometimes a more conservative viewpoint is challenging for certain readers. 

        I would also be interested in that cross-section too. I hadn’t really contextualized it that way in my mind. 

        Don’t mean to come off contentious! I like your ideas!

      • fulldamage

        Aw, no worries – a little contention is good for the soul!  I just thought it was funny from a perspective of editorial selection; no doubt there will be three articles tomorrow saying the opposite thing, which is one of the nice things about the site. 

        Pie, sweatpants, and slippers will get you plenty far in life, so continue to rock those things. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/sam.corbo Sam Corbo

        What a delightfully boring and positive dialogue. Decaf tea and naps for everyone!!! 

  • Dan Miller

    You should get an emdash, upper arm.  That way it doesn’t show at work.  And the emdash is the most awesome yet underrated punctuation mark.

  • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

    I was considering getting a tattoo of an antibody or rainbow trout when I completed my Master’s…but I figured purchasing a trout pin to wear on my bag was much less permanent. I hate making decisions that I know will affect me years down the line.

  • https://twitter.com/iamthepuddles Jordana Bevan

    you could get a tattoo of your face on your face?

    • xzibit

      yo dawg i heard you like faces…

      • Len Yeh

        This comment just gave me a ‘reddit’ moment and I smiled.

      • Len Yeh

        This comment just gave me a ‘reddit’ moment and I smiled.

      • Len Yeh

        This comment just gave me a ‘reddit’ moment and I smiled.

  • Remy

    Tattoos aren’t for everyone I agree. I like you. You obviously appreciate the ones other people decide to get which is all those with tattoos could ask for. As with your point on changing over the years. Tattoos are memories themselves irrelevant of what you are getting put on your skin for what ever reason. I also figure in the grand scheme of things how much flesh do you see of an old person? Plus laser removal technology is always an option if you want to revert to being non-badass.

  • Hello

    I’m going to get a Thought Catalog tattoo… is that weird?

    • A.

      Depends on what exactly it is. Ryan O’Conn’s face is a little creepy tattooed on someone… a particular phrase, not so much.

    • Guest


      • spinflux


  • Andrew Edminister

    Easily one of the funniest articles I’ve read on here, maybe because I can relate so much. 

  • Anonymous

    “But how will people know it’s not an apostrophe? I’d have to get a
    semicolon, and what am I, some kind of asshole?”

    LOL also, as a complete aside, after speaking french for so long, i automatically read and say the word “apostrophe” as “apo-stroph,” and i was reading that paragraph out loud to a friend of mine in and i said “apo-stroph” in the middle of the fully english sentence and i sounded like the biggest douchebag who ever lived.

    awesome article

    • guest


      “I’d have to get a semicolon, and what am I, some kind of asshole?”

      yep…came here to quote that very line.

  • rooar

    this was so freakin cute. :)

  • Anonymous
  • alex

    omg, you say Adrien Grody? I say Adrien Grody! I also say Grody Jenner. crazy.

    • Josh Gondelman


  • alex

    omg, you say Adrien Grody? I say Adrien Grody! I also say Grody Jenner. crazy.

  • LioSencillo

    check out tatt.ly

    they sell designy temporary tattoos.  you could get the quotation marks and just chop them in half so that you’ve got a temporary comma

  • Anonymous
  • http://michaelynch.com Michael Lynch

    I feel bad for your friends who have PBR tattoos.

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