This whole tattoo craze is hard for me to embrace. I once read that tattoos are “permanent evidence of temporary insanity.”

Yet they are wildly popular and the trend doesn’t seem to be cresting. Tattoos have crossed all socio-economic groups. Well-coiffed clerks at Nordstrom’s are spotted with little tattoos on the back of their necks or delicately placed tattoos on their ankles.

But I just don’t get the sleeve tattoo.

Today, I was checking out at the grocery store during a quiet stretch when the lines were empty. The clerk had a sleeve tattoo and seemed like a not-too-easy-to-offend kind of guy. And I’m nosy. This was my chance!

I asked him if it hurt during the tattoo process. He said, “Yea. A little. The outlining hurts, but then the area goes numb. It’s like getting scratches on your skin.”

A lot of scratches. Like, you might have lost a fight with an angry tom cat.

And yes, it did bleed. He said it took about two weeks to heal. Then he surprised me by saying his sleeve tattoo required 20 hours, done in 3 hour sessions. It took a couple of months to get the entire arm tattoed.

Any regrets? I asked.

“Nope. None. I had a lot to express and this is how I was able to make a statement. It gets kind of addictive, this tattooing.”

Fascinating! I had no idea that creating a story of self-expression was the purpose of a sleeve tattoo. Kind of like…body graffiti.

Still, I can’t help but think that when he is a very old, old man and his tattoo has shriveled up like a popped balloon, he may be a little sorry.

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