News just in: lots of people have tattoos. Get over it.
- Credit: PA
Opinion: It's time to ink-out outdated views on tattoos, says Steven Downes
When I was growing up, tattoos were definitely not the done thing - unless you were in the Navy, a builder or Popeye.
They were sneered at and seen as something for people with no class (or of low class).
Even a few years ago, you'd hear the phrase 'tramp stamp' to describe a tattoo on a woman.
I have no idea when or how the switch was flicked, but now permanent body art is everywhere.
Tattoo parlours have emerged from the back streets to the high streets and are no longer regarded with the same disdain as sex shops.
No part of the body is out of bounds for the tattoo artist's needle, including eyelids and the soles of people's feet.
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Some of it's bold, some beautiful, some subtle, some downright disgusting. All of it makes my eyes water as I try to turn cowardice to courage and get my first skin sketch.
But there is still a strong anti-tattoo sentiment in some areas.
A letter to the editor this week contained the following sentences: 'The human body is God's most wonderful creation.
'It needs no embellishment, certainly not inked on.
'Those Renee Magritte nudes uncovered in Norwich recently make my point.'
Where to start?
Well, I think the Magritte nudes look rather ridiculous and would benefit from some sensible clothing. Just because people tell me something is a masterpiece, I can still think it looks like a piece of GCSE art and design coursework.
And anyone who thinks the human body is God's most wonderful creation hasn't seen mine.
Somewhere between the drawing board and the production line, 'wonderful' became 'comical'.
Tattoos would play the twin roles of providing a distraction and covering up some of my milky skin.
The 'God's creation' bit won't wash with the majority of people, who don't believe in God.
In essence, though, this attitude is becoming archaic.
And taking against tattoos is an exercise in futility - and entirely out of step with modern culture.
They are not wrong, they are not going to go away and they must not be seen as socially or religiously unacceptable.
There is still the unwritten tattoo taboo that in certain jobs you shouldn't be able to see them when you have your professional clothes on.
But employers are going to have to get over it.
Millions of young people have tattoos. The same millions of young people have or will have important jobs.
It is on their industry and inventiveness that we pin our hopes for Britain's future prosperity.
So what if they have a demon on their neck or the names of their five cats on their forehead?
I used to be bothered by tattoos but now could not give a damn.
In fact, I am looking forward to the day when we have a prime minister with a sleeve tattoo or an archbishop with 20 ear piercings.
Dr Martin Luther King said he looked forward to the day when his children would be judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.
That battle was and is considerably more serious than tattoo tolerance.
But I hope that in a few years people will cease to notice tattoos and worry about something more important.