Jack Chivo: Tattoos can elicit harsh reactions

I have to admit that I am guilty of a number of preconceived biases, especially about the way young people dress and behave nowadays.

Of course, I seem to forget that only a few decades ago our parents and grandparents said the same about us, when we were young, complaining about our long hair, loud music, late-night partying, swearing, and smoking too much.

What especially bothers me are those youngsters, and some not so young, parading rings in their noses, lips, belly buttons, eyebrows, cheeks, even tongues, and the awful tattoos on hands, arms, and legs, or on their shoulders, not to mention those possibly hidden on body parts only shown to the chosen ones.

Some tattoos are, at least, tasteful, but others are atrocious, provoking, mean, and disgusting.

Nothing aggravates me more than seeing young mothers, often gracious and beautiful, pushing an expensive baby carriage, with a child looking like an angel, only to display the newest tattoo designs on their shoulders, backs or feet. It makes me wonder what their husbands, boyfriends, or parents think.

I often asked myself how will these young mothers tell their daughters or sons, a dozen years later, not to go with the latest fashion craziness, when the children will look at the carvings and piercing the mothers display, and want to do the same, or more?

All these thoughts run through my mind a few days ago while watching a disturbing report on the nightly news about a huge fire, which had engulfed a retirement house in Kelowna.

It spreading so fast as the fire brigade was on its way, leaving a number of elderly and disabled seniors trapped in their apartments, unable to get out.

And suddenly something unexpected happened.

Two young men in their late teens or early 20s appeared from nowhere, bare-chested and wearing shorts—tanned like people who do nothing the whole day but go to the beach—and with their bodies full of the tattoos I so much despise. Without saying one word, they jumped in the inferno and carried the seniors out to safety.

The last one, in a corner suite, was a 92-year old man. He was pushed out in his wheelchair, but refused to leave, insisting on going back to save his two cats.

As the black smoke was filling the corridors, the two young men crawled back on hands and knees in spite of the danger of suffocating, and soon they were out with the pets. The old man was crying and hugging the cats, while the two walked away like it was nothing special.

I have no idea who they were, and I saw nothing in the reports, but it should not matter.

Afterward, I wondered aloud if I would have done the same in my youth, with or without tattoos, endangering my life to save a number of seniors and their pets, for no other reason other than it was the right thing to do. Probably yes, but one never knows.

And now, I feel kind of awkward about my earlier generalizations about everyone looking awful in my eyes. Perhaps behind the piercings and tattoos, there is often a brave soul and a warm heart. Perhaps, there is potential great scientist, or a musician, a computer genius, even a future fireman, dealing with his or her youth challenges in a way unknown to us only a generation ago.

And perhaps I should be less opinionated, and, as the old saying goes, not "judge a book by its cover".

Jack Chivo is a retired journalist who lives in West Vancouver.



Sharon Gregson

Aug 6, 2012 at 11:29am

My mother always dismissed my tattoos saying "what will it look like when you're fifty". Well I'm 49 now and have never for one moment regretted being heavily tattooed. In fact I still think mt body suit of tattoos is beautiful and interesting. I liked being the most tattooed politician in Canada.


Aug 6, 2012 at 8:59pm

I am glad that you will not "not judge a book by its cover". Tattoos can dramatically affect a person's appearance and how they are perceived, but what I can admire most about people with tattoos is that they demonstrate courage...courage to be expressive, creative, or even "stupid". The bottom line is that they have made a commitment to believe and appreciate themselves in their own skin.Tattoos and other forms of body modifications can often serve as a good filter to weed out judgemental folks.

Oh Yeah

Aug 7, 2012 at 9:56am

Why do you need to hide behind body art to "be yourself"? Tattoos are like clothing, people use them to create the image that they want others to perceive them by.


Aug 7, 2012 at 9:58am

I have four tattoos, and each one of them represents a turning point in my life. I never thought I would have a tattoo as I used to feel the same as the author of this article, but life happens. They are reminders of how far I have come since the first one and I draw strength from them. A lot of time and care were taken deciding location (gravity can take its toll) and design as I designed the last two myself, as well as deciding what studio and artist would do them.
As a former lifeguard I have seen many tattoos - some questionable to me, others absolute works of art, but all forms of self expression.
They are not for the faint of heart, nor should be taken lightly which is why I told my daughter she is not to get one done as she is too young at this time.
In the end it is a matter of choice and being able to live with the consequences, and knowing this is something that may very well be there for grandchildren to see.


Aug 7, 2012 at 11:38am

Well, better late than never for the author to learn not to judge a book by its cover.