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The New Tattoo

Most of my friends have tattoos, and that’s great, because I think tattoos are awesome. I don’t think I’ve ever dated a girl who didn’t have a tattoo, in fact. Having one — and what it depicts — says something about a person. In many cases, at least.

I don’t have any tattoos. This isn’t because I don’t like them (obviously), or because I think it will be unbearably painful or anything like that. It’s more that I don’t know what I could possibly put on my body that would remain meaningful forever. I don’t even hang things on my walls because I know I’d want something else the next day, so the idea of hanging a painting on my skin seems more than a little crazy.

Most of my friends have tattoos, and I don’t, and in a strange way, that makes me the counter-culture kid. I’m the artsy dude in the clutch of punks or hippies or other artsy folk who is zagging against the zig. I think a lot of people who get tattoos (and have throughout history) do so not to ‘stick it to the man,’ but rather to express themselves in some way. Without intention, my lack of tattoo has become an expression of something, even if it’s my lack of desire to commit to body art.

Diets are the same way. I seem to remember a time where people with dietary restrictions were the exception. But these days, I’m more than a little shocked when I meet someone else who just eats whatever (like me).

This isn’t a trend throughout the entire population of the world, of course, no more than having tattoos is a far-flung fad, but in my group of friends — those upwardly mobile young people with ambition and a laptop and a chip on their shoulder to do something — it most certainly is. I really am stunned when I sit down to eat with someone and discover they’re not a vegetarian or vegan or paleo or pescatarian or freegan or an exchewer of gluten. The zig which I once walked has become a zag. I don’t have anything against these diets — many of them are appealing to me for a variety of reasons — but none are practical for the way I live my life, and the result is that my default lack of food-habit-expression has become rich with implied meaning.

This is something I try to remind myself, both as a healing salve (“Don’t worry Colin, you’re just a rebel, you’re not uncool”), as a philosophy (“What makes perfect sense today might be contradictory tomorrow”), and as a business guideline (“Don’t depend on edge or trend to keep you relevant: such things will always be appropriated by somebody’s grandmother eventually”).

Keeping this in mind is great for perspective. Without context for the evolution of norms and abnorms, it’s very easy to stare right in the face of an outmoded style and assume it lacks value, or a newly popularized non-standard business model and assume it will be novel enough to keep the money rolling in.

And you want to keep the money rolling in. So you can pay for your next tattoo.