Let me at the outset declare that I have nothing against tattoos. Nor against the tattooed. Some of my best friends and closest relatives have tattoos on them.

No, I have no quarrels with the tattoo. I don’t mind it at all, so long as it stays on someone else’s body, not mine. I have no violent objections against it. It’s just that I am a scaredy-cat – I am terrified of the pain that I know will be inflicted on me any time I ask for a tattoo to be engraved on any part of my anatomy.

I am aware that people have different motivations for their “body art.” I know that many have forgotten their original motivations, and wonder what they could have been thinking of at the time they first ordered the tattoos. I even understand that people have preferences for different designs, spreads and sizes.

What I don’t get are what I call the “peek-a-tattoos”, those tattoos that the tattooed person seem committed to hide, yet appear hell-bent to want to show.

Another name for them might be the “hide and tease” tattoos.

So my burning questions about the tattoos do not include the following:

  • Why do people have tattoos?
  • Do tattoos say anything about the individuals having them?
  • If God wishes people to have their bodies festooned with tattoos, why aren’t we born with them?

Not even :

  • Why do some people incur a lot of time and money and subject themselves to a fair amount of pain and suffering to get a tattoo which is tucked away in some concealed, most of the time, private places?

No, the thing which baffles me most is:

  • Why, having elected to embed the tattoo in a part of the anatomy which decorum requires it to be kept from the public eye, does the tattooed then proceed to subject it to a game of peek-a-boo?

You know what I mean. These are the it-is-my-private-tattoo-and I-can-hide-it-wherever-I-wish-but-I-also-want-you-to-know-that-I-have-it-and-where-I-have-it kind of tattoos.

Where they are located, these tattoos seem to be destined for private viewing only. But in the manners of attire and body postures, it seems clear that these represent not-so-subtle invitations to not-so-private viewings

These tattoos are in hidden, usually unexposable parts of the anatomy, but what there seems to be is the urge to show them off. So the T-shirts with low backs or cut-in shoulders. And the low hipped jeans that, when squatting, the trousers slide down real low, so that it leaves no imagination as to what lies below – a tattoo at the convergence of the cheeks of the butt. Or in the case of a low-cut blouse, hanging loud and low to reveal some marking on a spot between the cleavage, or on a boob, or two.

So back to my question.

No, not why have a tattoo there? But why, having taken the trouble to hide it there, then go through the machinations to show it off.

I think I may need a psychologist to help me unravel this mystery. Is there such a thing though – a “tattoo-psychologist” ?

Or maybe I should turn to my friend, the writer, John Irving, for help. Well he’s not exactly my friend, but I feel as though he is one, since he and I have a long relationship going back to “The World According To Garp” and I have read practically all his other books since.

It seems strange to connect a writer with “tattooism”, but actually it’s not so strange in Irving’s case. It is a well documented fact that John Irving has a special connection and fascination with tattoos. He has two tattoos himself : a maple leaf on his left shoulder (in honour of his wife, who is Canadian), and a symbol on his right forearm signifying the starting circle of a wrestling match (because he is a wrestler.)

For his eleventh book, “Until I Find You”, a story about the protagonist’s search for his prodigal father, who abandoned his tattoo-artist mother, and who himself was an “ink addict” and “a collector of tattoos”, and might be traceable by the tattoos world that he haunted, Irving did considerable research into the world of tattoos, predominantly in the tattoo parlours of New York and Amsterdam. I feel sure that during his research, he must have unlocked the mystery of the motivations of the peek-a-tattooed. If anybody knows the answer, I figure he would.

Then again, I have another question for John Irving – about wrestling. But that’s another subject for another post.