For those of you not deeply enmeshed in the world of tattoos you might not have heard about all the hoopla regarding a show on The Learning Channel called “Tattoo School”. The show was a one-off featuring a cheesy “tattoo school” which was claiming to teach some very hopeful, yet sadly deluded folks into believing they could learn to tattoo in a two-week (and probably several thousand dollar) course. Of course it was ridiculous, of course the show had the most horrible tattoos you could imagine, and of course the tattoo world lost its fucking mind at the fact that one of the worst aspects of modern tattooing was being given an audience of millions. I totally understand the uproar which mainly consisted of people being angry on Facebook and sending emails to the station and its sponsors. I was glad to see it was as poorly made and short-lived as something this silly and vapid should be, apparently it is now dead and gone and the furor has died down considerably.
At the height of all the angst and anger I noticed a few of the tattooers ranting and raving about this television show were, in fact, pretty shitty tattooers themselves. It wasnt the majority, but it was certainly there and I began to wonder how people who were putting crap work on customers could dare to be so vocal about a show featuring people putting crap work on people. The “tattoo school” show simply gave the tattoo world a tangible boogeyman to rant and rave at. It was like all the Guy Fawkes dolls of tattooing could all be finally rolled into one effigy and we could all feel superior by bashing it.
Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before I used to be quite a dick and argumentative and I have a pernicious habit I have of being the devils advocate and fucking with people who I (egotistically) believe are mistaken. So I posted a status on Facebook (knowing full well a lot of tattooers would see it) that read “Tattooing: its like a wildlife refuge for crybabies”. The fact is that I do believe that most tattooers act as though they don’t realize how lucky we are to do this job and fail to recognize how amazing tattooing has become in 20 short years preferring instead to harp on the things they don’t like over and over. There is a shitload of hypocrisy in our chosen art form/business and I always chafe at watching the pot calling the kettle black. A couple of my Facebook “friends” took exception to this comment and posted replies to that effect and several more “Liked” it. My initial post was passive aggressive and so were some of the responses, it dawned on me that I wasnt doing much good by throwing vague aspersions around and since I considered a couple of the repliers friends I deleted the whole thread. These folks took their opposition to “tattoo school” seriously enough to attack me, and while I despise the idea of that show as well I felt that giving it so much energy was a waste of time and focus, I realized that I had struck a nerve with people I hadn’t intended to offend.
I spent a couple of days after being alternately butt-hurt that my “so-called” friends would turn on me and feeling that undercurrent of guilt I always get when I know I’ve been acting like a prick. It took up more room in my head than it warranted.
Then this morning I got an email from a shop friend and customer telling me that another shop friend and customer had been in a terrible motorcycle accident. He is apparently out of the woods for the worst of it but is still in the ICU as of today. I have been praying for him and his family, he is the kind of person that I instantly clicked with on a personal level and I would not hesitate to call a friend more than merely a “customer”. It also made me realize what happens when we make tattooing (or whatever our chosen “thing” is) so important that would become angry or defensive to “protect” it. We take on “tattooer” as a part of our very being and when “tattooing” is attacked that it is the same as if our “selves” were being attacked. Well its just not the case, I am not what I do (regardless of how much I love it) and neither is anyone else.
Right now I don’t give two fucks about tattooing, I don’t care about that ridiculous television show and I don’t give a rusty fuck what my Facebook friends think of my opinion about any of the above. Right now I care about my injured friend and his family. At this moment I think about my close friend Erica who passed away last year and I think about how lucky I am to have the people in my life who are true friends and what a privilege it is to be able to enjoy my life the way I do without bringing silly drama into it.
When its time to do a tattoo I am 100% a tattooer, when it time to paint I am 100% a painter, but I am not either of those things all the time and my identity isn’t so wrapped up in what I do that I feel personally threatened when someone else who calls themselves a tattooer does something In a way I don’t approve of. I think its stupid and wasteful to expend so much energy on worrying about tattooings “current state”. I’m embarrassed to have given any of my attention to the silly drama when I could have spent that time productively. Right now I care about my friends recovery and that’s it.