The waitress arrived with order pad in hand. She was heavily “inked,” as they say. A lavish feast of illustration covered both arms from under her wrists to disappear beneath her shirt sleeves – stylized dragons interwoven with many-petaled exotic flowers, intricate jewels and symbols. When she turned to deliver our order, an ornate rose could be seen on her lower back.
In 1991, a 5,000-year-old “inked” man made headlines in newspapers around the world when his frozen body was discovered on a thawing glacier in the Alps. That’s how old body adornment is.
Anyone who has ever lived with a teenager knows this: There is no power on earth stronger than the human urge to display, to show the world who we are, what we want to become.
I watched my teenage stepson show me and everyone else who he was, with a distinctive haircut etched with razor-hewn zigzags, a Superman emblem tattoo on his upper arm, his bedroom papered with poster blowups of the Michaels – Jackson and Jordan – and of M. C. Hammer and Malcolm X. For a while the house shook with the heavy percussion and in-your-face sounds of hiphop.