*Shakes Fist At Damn Kids Today*

I think we need a site category for “general dumbassery” and “get off my lawn:”

Johnny Depp once had “Winona Forever” tattooed on his shoulder but changed it to “Wino Forever” when his relationship with Winona Ryder turned out to last somewhat short of “forever.” Angelina Jolie once sported the name “Billy Bob,” for Billy Bob Thornton, but, since she began a relationship with Brad Pitt, has had it replaced with the global coordinates of her children’s birthplaces. She is also emblazoned with the legend “Know Your Rights.” The British writer Simon Mills likens that to a sign hung in small-claims court.

David Beckham has turned his body into a billboard of Hebrew, Chinese and Hindi characters, not to mention a semi-nude representation of his wife. Victoria Beckham, the aforementioned semi-nude, is graffitied with Roman numerals and Hebrew lettering. As for the conspicuously tattooed Amy Winehouse, her lyrics bespeak an intelligence that someday — if she has a someday — will cause her to wonder why she never gave that day a thought.

Celebrities! Getting tattoos of which Richard Cohen does not approve! Good Lord, whatever shall we do!

But wait, it’s not just Richard wanting to imagine Angelina Jolie’s gloriously demarcated body and David Beckham’s unbelievably sculpted ass (drifts off into happy daydream on both counts). He’s gota larger issue to explore:

The permanence of the moment — the conviction that now is forever — explains what has happened to the American economy. We are, as a people, deeply in debt. We are, as a nation, deeply in debt. The average American household owes more than its yearly income. We save almost nothing (0.4 percent of disposable income) and spend almost everything (99.6 percent of disposable income) in the hope that tomorrow will be a lot like today. We bought homes we could not afford and took out mortgages we could not pay and whipped out the plastic on everything else. Debts would be due in the future, but, with any luck, the future would remain in the future.

Here and there the occasional scold warned that all this was unsustainable. Social Security is underfunded. The government ought to — just occasionally — balance its books. But for a long time, the unsustainable seemed sustainable. The immutable rules were mutable. Virtually the entire political establishment insisted that tomorrow would never come. Republicans joined with Democrats in never calling in a loan. Who says bipartisanship is dead? Not when it comes to fiscal irresponsibility.

Wait … what? We’re in debt because Angelina Jolie has hot tattoos? I know, I know, metaphor, but … shitty metaphor, okay?

Back in the olden days, tattoos MEANT SOMETHING:

I recall a tiny scandal of some years back when it was alleged that George Shultz, then secretary of state, had a tattoo of a tiger on the nether reaches of his body. This was credible because Shultz had gone to Princeton, where such tattooing was once customary for undergrads, although not, I hope, for the faculty. (I am thinking now of Einstein.) I also know a Navy man who had a bicep done in World War II, not that it stopped him from becoming executive editor of The Post. I withhold his name out of consideration for his family.

But the tattoos of today are not minor affairs or miniatures placed on the body where only an intimate or an internist would see them. Today’s are gargantuan, inevitably tacky, gauche and ugly. They bear little relationship to the skin that they’re on. They don’t represent an indelible experience or membership in some sort of group but an assertion that today’s whim will be tomorrow’s joy.

You know, I really hate selfish nostalgia. Really, really, really hate it. The good old days always sucked for somebody, you were never as awesome as you think you were (and the people who don’t go around yelling about how awesome they are were more awesome than they know), and on balance, stuff now sucks about as much as it’s ever sucked. I’m not happy about global warming and gas prices and clothes that only last one season but I’m crazy about the Internet and that my hypothetical children will be able to marry whoever they like. We’re all doing the best we can.

I have decades’ worth of photos of me wearing clothes that now look like costumes. My hair has been long and then longer and then short. My lapels have been wide, then wider, then narrow. I have written awful columns I once thought were brilliant and embraced ideas I now think are foolish. Nothing is forever.

So, wait. Is impermanence bad, then, or good? I thought we were saying Brangelina needed to stop inking and start thinking? WTF?

Jesus, the entire commentary: remember back when you were young, and you didn’t suck? I swear, some of these guys, I just want to send them a Hallmark or something: IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO STOP BEING A GINORMOUS DOUCHEBAG. It’s like they think there was a timestamp on being awesome, and now it’s all over, so might as well make it the fault of the world, time itself, or people today who just aren’t as great as they were in their distant youth. This kind of excuse-making drives me crazy. Once and for all, Richard, if you’re not who you wanted to be when you grew up, last I checked you were still breathing, so quit making excuses for why you suck and try not sucking for a while.


19 thoughts on “*Shakes Fist At Damn Kids Today*

  1. A few years ago one of the administrative assistants in our IT department introduced me to her daughter, who was enrolling at the college. The young woman proudly told me she was getting a tattoo during the coming weekend in celebration of her 18th birthday. Her mother looked mortified so I smiled and asked her daughter what design she had chosen. “A butterfly…right here”, indicating her right breast. Without missing a beat I replied “Cool…so when you’re 80, we’ll witness the amazing sequence of a butterfly turning back into a caterpillar.” Her mother roared and the daughter’s now over at the university where I transferred and stopped by to tell me that she’s still tattoo free.

  2. I didn’t get my first tatt until I was 34, and I currently have three…I love my ink and they were carefully chosen/designed. My next ink-carnation will be something totally custom-designed that blends a photographic image I took of my dear New Orleans and some other elements.
    If people out there don’t like ’em, fuck ’em, my body, my art – I didn’t get them for everyone else.
    And no, not all tattoos nowadays are for “fashion victims” – do you even have any ink Eric? Don’t complain about tattoos being lame unless you have been there and been inked.
    Elspeth (who will never opt for the removeable ink – it’s a conscious choice and if I want it, I want it for good)

  3. Hey, Eric Blair: I gotone to commemorate achieving my blackbelt, right above the multiple-entry surgical scar over my left hip (I was born without a hip socket on that side). Not all tattoos are fashion statements.
    As for Cohen writing“The average American household owes more than its yearly income.” Isn’t that how a mortgage is supposed to work, asshole? No “average American” pays off a house in a year, ya moron.

  4. I’m enjoying the idea of Richie Cohen sneering at some Marine’s tattoo and getting his teeth liberated from his skull…

  5. Methinks Cohen spendswaaaay too much time keeping up with the state of celebrity ink. Perhaps he should cut down on his “National Enquirer” and “US Weekly” reading.

  6. uh, dick, what does tattoos on celebrities have to do with poor saving rate?
    yes, more ants, less grasshoppers. but clarity is nice.
    i too think of aging and tattoos. plus i would get bored and hell, i draw better than that! would consider a little smiley face where i can’t see it. or a lady bug on my foot, but nah. to trendy.

  7. The part about that essay that makes me laugh the most is “But the tattoos of today are not minor affairs or miniatures placed on the body where only an intimate or an internist would see them.” How would he know? If he’s not intimate with any of these people, how would he know theydon’t have tattoos? Sure there are lots of people walking around with visible tattoos, but for every person I know of who has a visible tattoo, I know three who don’t. (My sister has three or four tattoos, none of which show when she’s wearing clothes.) Maybe things are a bit more conservative here, but just about everyone who gets inked gets “office tattoos,” that is, they don’t show while wearing normal business clothing.
    I’m also vaguely embarrassed to admit that now I’m curious as to why David Beckham has Hebrew letters tattooed all over himself. Is he Jewish and belongs to one of the factions that don’t think tattooing is a grave sin? Does he speak Hebrew? Is he just a culturally-appropriating moron? (I have to wonder because I’ve pondered getting ashin — my initial in the original — tattooed on me somewhere, but considering how vociferously some Jews react and why*, I don’t think it’d be a good idea.)
    * It’s a reaction to the Nazis’ forced tattooing of Jewish concentration-camp victims.

  8. Interrobang, perhaps the Beckhams like the way the Hebrew lettering looks? My uncle is a lettering artist and I grew up w/a love of the way words are written and embellished – and am an admitted font-a-holic (gawd help me if I ever have to pick out wedding invites…it will take for-evah!). Some words written in different languages just look better to some. (kind of the way opera sounds better to me when sung in Italian and French over English/German…personal preference, not saying it’s better…)
    Or, they could just be culture-appropriating morons. πŸ™‚

  9. Don’t give a damn about the distractions — notice the FUCKING BIG LIE: Social Security is underfunded.
    That’s his excuse for this whole projectile emesis episode, and it’s NOT TRUE.

  10. Wow, Eric Blair. I don’t have tattoos, but I’m also not about to be snotty to those who do. And the experiences of the women referred to in that link do not in any way reflect the experiences of *everyone* who has a tattoo–as witness slim.
    Such comments remind me of one of the comments in the post about BSG and Firefly fans–“Actually, I find the opposite far more annoying. That is, people who are 100% certain that a certain show, movie, book or band must suck balls just because they’ve never been interested in it.”
    Just because you wouldn’t do it doesn’t automatically make it stupid. I wouldn’t do Orlando Bloom, but sweet jeebus, I can understand those who would.

  11. And aren’t tattoos removable now, which kinda undermines Cohen’s primary argument about Kids Today?
    And when income is stagnant or falling, when a house or a job or a career can’t be counted on in the long run, why not buy ink for yourself? They can’t take that away from you overnight, unless you know about it and more or less consent.

  12. cgeye, you are right, there are new inks out there that only take one laser session to remove (instead of a lengthy program of them). But to me, deciding on that ink makes me think whosoever is getting a tatt they aren’t soberly sure of, shouldn’t be getting ink. Although – for the average 18 year old (or not-quite legal) – it would probably be a good idea, since most tatts at that age (that is for the ‘fashion-victims’) aren’t exactly well thought-out.
    I don’t sneer at folks that don’t have ink myself. Heck, I was one of them for the longest time – but only because my self-diagnosed ADD-self couldn’t decide just what I wanted! πŸ˜‰
    The only reason I don’t have more, is because I am wanting to find the right artist and work up a nice backpiece that works in what I do have – and the budget for that has been sadly sent through my fuel system in the last year.
    I look pretty corporate and aside from my ankle tatt, the others are not viewable when my work garb is on. Folks think I am pretty straight-laced and then they get a peek of the ink and it starts conversations. If only it went so positively when I wear my pentacle…maybe someday?
    To most folks contemplating a tatt – have a henna artist put it on you somewhere first, live w/it for a week, make sure that’s the piece/location for you. If you get a permanent one, for gosh’s sake – follow the aftercare regimen and also try to stay out of the sun – respect the ink. πŸ™‚

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