When I was a senior in high school, back in 1996, tattoos were, well, taboo (this was in suburban western Massachusetts, mind you- not exactly a bastion of conservatism). I believe there was a perception, particularly among the dominant peer groups at my school, that tattoos were the domain of the underclass subculture- they were either "white trash" (I understand this is derogatory and I don't condone it) or for the Puerto Ricans.
I knew of only a few guys that had them, and it was usually one on the arm or shoulder- they weren't "tatted-out" by any means. Hispanic males more often had them, and they'd often have something to reference their familial/ethnic background. White guys had mostly 80s rock emblems, like something you'd find on Axl Rose's body. Much rarer was the female tattoo, which usually took the form of a small object on a non-revealing part of the body. Girls with tattoos would keep them hidden, it was not something to flaunt. They didn't want anyone thinking they were a slut.
Maybe I'm wrong about the cultural meanings we, as naive teenagers, ascribed to getting tattoos. After all, we were Generation X, and we felt the same way about tattoos as we felt about everything else in the world at the time: indifferent, disconnected. If there was a reason tattoos didn't appeal to us it was because we despised trends; pop culture was not something we wanted to emulate ("Smells like teen spirit" said it all, really).
As I've gotten older, I've noticed that the social circle I interact with has grown considerably to include those in their younger 20's. A main reason for this, not surprisingly, is because I frequent the bar scene. The tastes and preferences of the younger generation, Generation Y, is thus something that I am exposed to quite frequently. In fact, I'd argue the preferences of people in their younger 20s tend to dominate popular culture at any point in time, but this is another matter.
There are a lot of differences I perceive between generations X and Y, and I don't want to go into them all here. This post is about one of them in particular that I am having trouble understanding: why is Generation Y so obsessed with tattoos? Frankly, I'm shocked to meet someone under age 25 that doesn't have at least one. In comparion, much fewer of my Gen-X peers (those in their late 20s to mid 30s) sport them. I don't have any tattoos myself, and I don't see the appeal.
Of particular shock to me is the number of young women that have tattoos. A particularly horrid display, to me, is the "tramp-stamp" or "slut butt", a generally large display of ink forming an emblem in the lower back region. I have also noticed that Gen-Y women are not timid about displaying their tattoos publicly, even in business environments (like my workplace). Gen-Y ladies are also incredibly attracted, it seems, to tattooed males. This, of course, means that the young dudes have to go even more hardcore than the girls, sporting sleeves and all sorts of tribal stuff, even lower leg tattoos. Some of these guys look like they did a stint in San Quentin.
What's going on here? Is getting a tattoo a rite of passage for Generation Y? What say you Cyburbians (particularly you Gen-Y'ers)?