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Silver Threads: Close encounter with a tattoo

The prevalence of women in the tattoo industry, along with larger numbers of women bearing tattoos, appears to be changing negative perceptions of tattoos.

The prevalence of women in the tattoo industry, along with larger numbers of women bearing tattoos, appears to be changing negative perceptions of tattoos.

Having been born a blue-eyed blonde with scanty eyebrows and light-colored lashes, I began using eye makeup as soon as I could pronounce the word “Maybelline.” Just kidding. My mother, similarly afflicted, taught me how to apply the beauty products when I was in my teens.

It’s getting more difficult as time goes on. I have a tremor and it takes skill and concentration to achieve a look that doesn’t go off in all directions.

So when our housecleaner of 30-plus years, a 60-something woman from Breaux Bridge who has the beautiful black hair — no gray! — of some of the French, mentioned that she was considering getting a tattoo artist to fill in her thinning brows, I was tempted.

But what, I asked myself, would I do if my brow line sagged and changed alongside ever-increasing forehead wrinkles and I wound up with my “eyebrows” on my lids? Or going up and down like ric-rac braid?

I got to thinking about my close encounter with tattoos when the young wife of one of my relatives added yet more “body art” to her collection, which I’ll have to admit has been very professionally — and probably expensively — done. Beautifully colored, it covers her chest and upper back and her arms down to the elbows and could be concealed only if she wore a turtle-necked, long-sleeved shirt. She mostly wears tank tops.

When I was young, the only people who were tattooed were sailors and sometimes Marines, who usually adorned their upper arms and, like my brother-in-law, chose to cover them up with long-sleeved shirts when at the office. More exotic tattoos could be glimpsed only on the pages of National Geographic, which depicted some of the extremes to which certain tribes in, say, the Pacific islands would go with inked-in body and even facial ornamentation. Crazy stuff.

But “the prevalence of women in the tattoo industry, along with larger numbers of women bearing tattoos, appears to be changing negative perceptions,” reports Wikipedia, my online expert. “Many studies have been done of the tattooed population and society's view of tattoos. In June 2006, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology published the results of a telephone survey of 2004. It found that a striking number of Americans had one or more tattoos -- 36 percent of Americans, ages 18–29; 24 percent of those, ages 30–40; and 15 percent of those, ages 41–51, to be precise.

Subsequently, "they concluded that Generation X and Generation Y are not afraid to express themselves through their appearance, and tattoos are the most popular form of self-expression.”

Surveys have also found that men are only slightly more likely to have a tattoo than women.

I wonder how all these tattooed female Gen X'ers and Y'ers are going to feel 40 and 50 years from now when their body art sags and wrinkles? The sight may be enough to discourage Gen Z'ers and beyond from ever going near their local tat parlors.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]