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ISSUE 119 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 4/28/2006

I ink, therefore I am

By Jean Mullins
News Editor

Friday, April 28, 2006

My grandpa, who served with rowdy marines during World War II, calls tattoos “permanent reminders of temporary insanity.” Grandpa no doubt knew some marines who probably had a little too much fun one night and now have a reminder on their bicep.

Tattoos are, of course, permanent, and sometimes reminders, and sometimes the result of “temporary insanity” (think Angelina Jolie tattooing Billy Bob Thornton's name on her arm), but not necessarily all things at the same time. Tattoos, in fact, have become a part of popular culture and style. Remember when butterfly tattoos were all the rage? How about those random Chinese symbols? A fairy tattoo on the lower back like Britney Spears?

Of course, tattoos have been around for a long time, and there are the classics: the skull and crossbones for pirates, “Mom” with a heart for bikers who wish to proclaim their love for the woman that bore them, Celtic knots for the proud Irish and crosses for the religious types.

Tyler Hauger '08 got a cross inked Saturday in Northfield.

“I picked it to have a constant reminder to myself that Christ is always leading my feet in everything I do,” Hauger said.

While Hauger had been pondering a tattoo for a while, he spontaneously got it Saturday while on a first-year screw at Hogan Brothers Restaurant, down the street from Northfield's own Spirit Garden Too.

“I realized that this was a better time than any other,” he said. “So a few of my friends and I marched over there and got it done.”

And then there are the tattoos that have a personal meaning behind them, reminders of an event or philosophy. In the case of the 2004 St. Olaf men's cross-country team, a tattoo is not only a reminder of success (they placed seventh that year at nationals) but of camaraderie.

“We agreed that if we placed top 10 at nationals as a team we'd get some ink,” Jason Havey '06 said.

Havey, Sam Hauck '06, Dane Hamann '06, Malcolm Richards '05, Tony Hoff '07 and Marc Ellingson '06 all have tattoos of an “O” with a winged foot inside of it on their thighs.

“Whenever I look at it, I think of 11-mile tempo runs in and around Dundas,” Havey said.

Some are more personal, reflecting an influential philosophy. Bryan Stevenson '06 has a tattoo of the Latin word for peace, “Pax,” in an eighth-century Carolingian script on his back right shoulder.

“I got it as a time in my life when I fully realized that I wanted to lead a life dedicated to pacifism,” Stevenson said. Stevenson thought about the tattoo for a full year, researching the script and choosing Latin to pay respects to his chosen study.

Amanda Swanson '07 has two tattoos, each of which she drew. One of them, a blue key with a cross design built into the bow on the left side of her chest is not the key to her heart, she explained.

“As a fiction writer, I take my characters very seriously and love them dearly,” Swanson said. “One of my characters wears a key like my tattoo. Since he is the character dearest to my heart, it is for him.”

When getting a tattoo, many factors must be taken into account. First, careful thought must be given to placement on one's body. After all, aging happens to everyone, and while we look young and hot right now, that will not last. For example, girls with tattoos on their tummies may one day get pregnant. Does one really want their dolphin to turn into a blue whale?

Second, thought must be given to the body art. How will this symbol represent oneself? That, of course, is a personal matter, but again, I would encourage people to think about the examples of Angelina Jolie, Pamela Anderson and Johnny Depp: Tattooing the name of one's beloved makes for an expensive break up when the tattoo must be removed by lasers.

Finally, thought must be given to the future, because the tattoo will be there forever. For example, ankle tattoos with skirts could be considered unprofessional later in one's career. Furthermore, the tattoo may represent one's life now, but will it represent one's life 20, 40, 60 years in the future? Or will it be remembered as a token of “temporary insanity?”

Everyone interviewed for this article reported that they do not anticipate regretting their ink any time soon.

“I haven't regretted getting it thus far, and don't suspect I will any time soon,” Stevenson said.

Swanson agreed.

“I doubt I could ever regret them,” she said.

Some even reported they are considering a second or third.

“They're so addictive,” said Leigh Anderson '07, who has three and is pondering a fourth.

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