Back in the 80s a great bar to hit in Austin was The Back Room. A gigantic place divided into two halves. One side a game room with pool tables, video games, air hockey, etc.; the other a music venue. The bands that played ranged from headbangers to blues. I saw all sorts of groups from The Genitorturers, Anthrax and The Cramps, to Al Stewart, The ThunderBirds and Tragically Hip. For the most part though, I'd say the flavor was hard rock. The Back Room was popular with bikers after all.
I mainly hung out on the music side, but between sets or if I didn't want to pay the cover I'd hang in the game room. Although it could be loud in there too, it was the place I often tried to pick up women because I could hear them.
One night I stood along the wall, slowly drinking a beer while scouting out the night's targets. At The Back Room women often dressed much more provocatively than at some of the other haunts of mine, such as Liberty Lunch or Steamboat. This night I spotted a really hot female with painted on latex pants and a backless blouse. Her Pat Benatar-esque eyes and shapely body drew a lot of attention, including me.
However, she turned to look at someone playing pool and I noticed that she had a gigantic tattoo on her back. I casually moved a little closer and discovered that it was a panther. It's head on her right shoulder and its tail snaking off somewhere below her waist underneath those latex pants.
Although she had seemed intriguing, that gigantic tattoo turned me off. Back in those days most women didn't have much in the way of ink. Well, unless they were biker chicks.
I also had a double-hit mindset against it because I had grown up as a youth in the middle-American Midwest. Us God-fearing whitebread kids were taught by our elders that men who had tattoos were either old sailors (which was deemed acceptable but you could still smirk) or else criminals or carny folk (not acceptable). Obviously, to these people, it was impossible to think that a female would sport a tattoo. Tsk, tsk was the phrase used when you passed a person such as this (people back then were PC—not prone to being jerks—before that became a way of behaving).
However, besides my youthful brainwashing, I had another reason I didn't like the idea of tattoos. Way back then a horrible man named Richard Speck butchered eight young nurse trainees in a dormitory. I distinctly remember the police saying we'd be able to identify him if we saw him because of a “Born to raise Hell” tattoo on his shoulder. Oh, it wasn't the tattoo that caught my attention, it was that a tattoo was a way for you to be found.
Now before you say that I obviously had been thinking about a life of crime and so didn't want to give myself away, it really was because I was slowly getting radical ideas. I also realized that ideas often scared people, and so radical ideas could get you into trouble no matter that we lived in the "land of the Free." Yeah, the Vietnam years. My ideas weren't really anti-war thoughts though, but that's for a later discussion.
This anti-tattoo concept also followed me into the army. There was tremendous pressure to get a tattoo or two if you were in the military. I had a friend who went nuts about them, even had a contest of sorts with another of his friends to see who could get the most. This was before the day when you could get full arm tats. They were all individual things. So I got a lot of pressure from him as well as my other army buds. On several drunken nights I almost succumbed to the most common (in my unit) "82nd Airborne" insignia tattoo. But I resisted.
In the army I really had become a big radical threat to the establishment because I dared to advocate for enlisted people's rights. I figured that any day some general would decide I must be incarcerated on some trumped up charge, so no way would they ID me by a tattoo.
So I escaped the military tattoo-less and carried those same concepts well into the 80s, 90s and 00s. A gigantic Panther tattoo could only mean trouble and just didn't spur my sexual desires enough to give me the courage to throw a line her way.
Nowadays tattoos are the rage with today's hipsters. It's a common sight to see men AND women sporting complete arm/leg/body ink. Where in the old days even a peek of ink under the shirtsleeve could result in the job applicant getting shown the door, now it's accepted—or at least tolerated.
Even I have slowly come around to accepting some tattoos on women. I often get involved in rousing discussions over beer with male friends about what is acceptable. They usually have absolutely no qualms about any ink on a prospective date (okay, a lot of my friends are younger and avoided that middle-American brainwashing), while I argue for discretion.
I still would prefer to just see a small butterfly above a breast (an homage to "Papillon"), and even find it a little seductive to see a small sun barely peeking above the back of the belt. Ironically, this latter one is called a “Tramp Stamp” which got its name through similar brainwashing/stereotyping as what I experienced but in later decades.
However, it will take some major adjustment to ever get me excited about a prospective date who has tattooed her entire life's history on her back; or have a dragon shooting fire on one arm toward a knight on the other; or a gigantic cobra slithering up one leg and a mongoose on the other. Yes, a little too much ink for me.
Some brainwashing just can’t be undone.
(okay, you young readers may not have gathered that the title of this blog is a play-on-words referring to INXS. Yes, another 80s band; yes, I know I'm in a rut. No, they have nothing to do with tattoos although I'm sure they had one or two).