PoP Opinion

05-26-08_1512, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

Did anyone read Richard Cohen’s Op-ed in the Post yesterday? Well, as I think is obvious from my “tattoo of the week” feature, I am a huge fan of tattoos. I personally don’t have one but damn it I appreciate them for many reasons. Cohen on the other hand is staunchly opposed. He writes:

“Tattoos are the emblems of our age. They bristle from the biceps of men in summer shirts, from the lower backs of women as they ascend stairs, from the shoulders of basketball players as they drive toward the basket, and from every inch of certain celebrities. The tattoo is the battle flag of today in its war with tomorrow. It is carried by sure losers.”

I ask, what is next Mr. Cohen? Are the kids next going to be listening to some crazy rock and roll music? I appreciate the fact that he emphasizes the permanence of tattoos. But people get tattoos for a variety of reasons. I can’t speak for them I can only speak for one who appreciates them. So why do I appreciate tattoos? Some of them are beautiful works of art. Some of them are done to capture an experience or memory whether it be in the military or just from an incredible adventure. Some of them are done as a big fuck you to society and cultural norms. Some have become cultural norms. Hell some people just get drunk and get them. Surely some folks have regrets but this is nothing new to 2008.

What I’d really like to know is why Cohen (who I normally really enjoy and respect) has taken the time to use up an entire column on one’s personal style. Isn’t the world pretty much fucked up right now? And he’s worried about tattoos? Christ, how about the legacy of the Bush presidency, the Middle East, the Rule of Law, the Economy, the cycle of street violence in DC, etc. But tattoos, really? Who gives a shit in the grand scheme of things.

Like I said I can’t speak for why people get tattoos but I surely think there are more important subjects for a respected Washington Post columnist to cover. So what do you guys think? Are tattoos the menace Cohen paints them as? Or, as the old timers say, don’t we have much bigger fish to fry at the moment? I think the only loser here is Mr. Cohen.

67 Comment

  • Well, maybe he’s concerned that those with tattoos aren’t allowed in here anymore:

    “As a general rule, people affiliated with mobsters or criminal organizations are not allowed to enter the premises. The same applies to people wearing tattoos. This rule will become effective on 1 July 2008 and applies to the entire premises of Tokyo Summerland. Any people found to be ignoring the above rule will be asked to leave.
    ※Tattoos: including body sticker and body paint. “

  • I think Cohen needs to get a life! Seriously, you don’t like tattoos, don’t get one. I have what most would consider a “lame” tattoo, a star, on my back, but I love it! I see people with tattoos and sometimes I think, “wow they really got that?” but honestly who am I to judge it’s their body. And what does it do to me? Make me think about their tattoo and how I personally don’t care for it, love it, etc for about 5 min? Oh no, I had to think about something for 5 minutes, this totally warrents wasting everyone’s time with an article about how tattoos are trashy and stupid worn by losers… THEY MADE ME THINK FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!!! AHHHHH!!!

  • True enough, folks get inked for a number of reasons, and who’s to say the reckless drunken tattoo is any less relevant than the thoughtful, planned-out ones? Your photo, for instance: that’s a version of the Hand of Fatima, a pretty effin’ potent, sacred image which pre-dates this Cohen guy and his opinions by centuries…

    Sounds like he’s got a teenage daughter that just got a Tweety tattooed on her [insert intimate anatomical reference here] and is just blowing off a little steam, at the expense of the Post and its readers…..

    Somebody take his typewriter away for a while.

  • His op-ed just made him sound like a cranky old man, you know, the kind that waves his fist at those damn kids! I don’t have a tattoo either, but I defintely admire them. Speaking of getting drunk and getting inked, a friend of mine was in Las Vegas and got a tattoo at Corey Hart’s place, which he thought was a very cool looking lizard, but it turned out to be more like the Geico gecko or a baby dinosaur. Moral of the story, don’t drink and ink!

  • Seems like Cohen took the usual DC July/August vacation and pulled this column from his “fluff for when I go on vacation” file. Probably wrote it a year ago on the toilet.

  • preach it PoP! you tell ’em

  • Thanks for writing this–people seem to forget that humans have been tattooing themselves for thousands of years. this is not a new ‘cool’ thing to do. my great grandfather had one, for pete’s sake.

  • Richard Cohen needs to be put out to pasture. He was good during his heydey, but then again so was Duran Duran.

  • sounds to me like he always wanted one but was too much of a wussbag. now he is old and like so many critics, a bitter-loser. He says in the same breath that Celebs and Sportsmen have tattoos. These people being rich and famous. And then says the badge is only carried by losers? Perhaps he is mad that he played the game of the old school and all it netted him was a Four bedroom house in the palisades. Time to curse those rich rock n rollers with their fast cars and faster women.

  • Last I checked we were still allowed to express our opinions in this country, of course the extent of that has substantially changed under the current administration. That said, I think anyone is entitled to express themselves in ink if they so choose. Mr. Cohen’s op-ed piece read more to me that Americans are less and less planning for a changing future and living more in the here and now.

  • This is all about regret. Cohen still regrets, and should till his dying day, being such a vociferous supporter of War in Iraq. Only after it became such a mismanaged clusterf**k did he realize that he was really, really wrong. He knows this and has written about it. Occassionally you’ll see that realization pop up in columns, and oddly in this case he takes to task youth for getting tattoos, arguing that all will be regretted later in life.

    While we are all fallible, Cohen, stay focused on your mea culpa!

  • Also; many reputable shops won’t ink somebody if they’re hammered. Supposedly a high alcohol content thins the blood and/or somehow makes bleeding more likely during the work. Or something like that, I heard ages ago. Plus, it can’t be fun for the artist, dealing with a roasted client.

  • 10:04- nobody is saying he can’t express his opinion. He can and has. And we can and will express our opinion that he is an old gasbag.

  • To be fair, while harsh on tattoos, Cohen’s article also had a point about the economy in there. While it was a strained connection to the ink, in my opinion, I took his more general point to be how we don’t, as a culture, appreciate permanence anymore, with the prevalence of tattoos one sign of that. And on that point, he’s probably right.

  • I think everyone who has massive visible tattoos on their bodies should print off Cohen’s op-ed and put it in a drawer, then open it and read it when they’re 50.

  • I was at a wedding recently and one of the bridesmaids was wearing a dress exposing her shoulders and there was a tatoo of of a blue pony on her shoulder. it just looked really trashy, juxtaposed against the elegance of the rest of the wedding.

  • For all those griping, Cohen has a point. A pretty good percentage of folks 18 to 30 who get inked today are getting awful, gaudy tats over large areas of their body without thinking about how shitty they’ll look in 15 years…and that’s the point. People are focused on the importance of “now” without thinking about how it will affect them ten or fifteen years from now. Plus he’s not really dumping on small, unobtrusive tattoos; he’s really focused on the large ones like the whole back tattoos, the sleeve tattoos, the large tramp stamps, the meaningless tribal designs that frat d-bags get, etc. Nobody’s going to fault you for putting something like a Marine emblem on your arm or back; they’re going to fault you for emblazing something whose meaning is fleeting across your body.

  • I don’t have a tattoo but I do have a nose ring that will most likely leave a permanent scar (damn keloids). And I don’t have the slightest regret–I had wanted a nose ring for five years and the point came where I knew, in my fifties, I would have regretted it more *not* having done it. I imagine it being much the same way for anyone who really wants a tattoo.

  • i know someone who had a beautiful tattoo put over an around a savage masectomy scar her way of accepting it

  • Wow. I agree with POP. This is a weird use of column space….
    (Though to be fair, I do wonder about the omni present flip flops from time to time)

  • I’m not a long-time reader of Richard Cohen, so I can’t put this article in any context, but I think this one scatters the point. He tries to bring together things that are a bit too disparate — tattoos, debt and shifting fashions — to support the argument that we might (and probably will) look at all these things differently in the future.

    I agree with that basic point, just not his execution of the argument. He’s too strident, judgmental and absolute for me, but I do agree that the bill always comes due, at least for most of us.

    So, go ahead — it is your body, your bank account, your future, your life. Do with it what you’d like. Enjoy. But just realize there will be consequences for each choice made. Some might be good, some bad. You take your chance, roll the dice and live with the outcome.

  • Tattoos are for undesirables. The rabid defense of tattoos in some of these columns speaks volumes about the vapid, short-sighted, “look at me!” mindset of a huge lowlife subculture. Try getting a real job or looking anything other than trashy and ill-bred with an exposed tattoo. Good luck.

  • At least their out there supporting the economy…

  • CP- The “undesirable” tag is relative. I suppose a peacenik is considered such by, say, someone who builds bombers for Boeing… But as far as getting a real job. Well, I’ve
    had a real museum job/career for 22 years-my left arm notwithstanding…

  • CP is on point. Tattoos are for undesirables, they are disgusting and offensive. They say to me immediately that that person has no class and that they are everything wrong with America. Why do we need to be tolerant of people who do things that are completely offensive and trashy, one does America try to lift these people to levels of respect? I don’t respect people who have tattoos, I look down on them and I think that a fair amount of the population with class agrees with me.

  • Peer pressure. Everybody wants to be like everybody else, and think they’re being original and hip and cool. yawn.

  • CP- not only do I have a LOT of tattoos and a very “real” job. but so do most of my friends. Granted they aren’t neck or knuckle tatts but those are the only kind that would be seen when wearing proper work attire. I am also the owner of a very nice house in DC and have a girlfriend that is frankly too good looking to be residing in this town. (no offense ladies). Not sure where the bitterness of the anti tatt crowd comes from. People with tatts certainly couldn’t care less about the non-tattoed crowd

  • CP – regardless of what your opinion of tats may be, the WashPost Sunday mag had an article on the sommelier at the Manadarin Oriental’s starship restaurant, CityZen, who has his share of tattoos, and as their photos indicate, some are easily apparent: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/15/AR2008071502120.html?sub=AR

  • Danny and CP, your thinking is no doubt the result of being raised by a long line of narrow minded thinkers. To lump all people with tattoos into a class is pathetic 3rd grade reasoning. The same kind that racists and homophobes rely on. Tattoos transcend class and cultures and are present in every one of them. you are both the worst kind of idiots. I would accuse you of residing in northern virginia but unlike you I know it’s not right to characterize an entire area or people based on the actions of a few. but seriously you do live in NOVA right? if not you would probably both be happier there.

  • I too have a visible tattoo and a “real” job – in fact a high level “real” job. If your tattoos are bigger than your brain it might be a problem, but I really don’t think what someone does to their own body that is not harmful to others is really something worth a lot of talking about.

  • 3:07- pointing out that nonconformists only end up conforming to a certain subculture is very advanced. Have you ever thought about writing a book?

  • CP & Danny – holy crap, what a shitty attitude. I hope you don’t live in glass houses.

  • danny danny please hateful disrespect is for, liars’ bigots, abusers, rapists . murders people with body art!! for shits sake ! no! a personal choice thier body thier choice it doesn,t make them a crap person worthless of being in your space our space collectively choen is a thoughtful writer/editorialist who’s piece i dissagree with…your statement scares me. its only drawing on skin .

  • danny and cp are clearly low level republican hill staffers who make 24 grand a year and have nothing better to do with their down time than start flame wars. Dont take the bait

  • Northern Virginia is just for hair geling and stripped shirted morons. And I am not a Republican Hill staffer but I do happen to work for a considerably conservatve trade group.

    But let me clarify. You are the kind of people who love grittyness and marginal neighborhoods. I don’t love those things and therefore I don’t love tattoos nor really respect people who have them. (Except as I tried to write in a post that was deleted when they are worn by members of the military).

  • Danny, hate to point this out to you. But why the HELL are you reading this blog if you dont like grittyness and marginal neighborhoods. THATS WHAT THE BLOG IS ALL ABOUT.

  • I like learning about other parts of the city that I wouldn’t dare venture into. I also like putting forth my opinion regarding things that people in these neighborhoods seem to love and I don’t.

  • saf

    Wow Danny, that’s a heck of a statement. Wouldn’t dare venture into? People in those neighborhoods?

    So, basically, you’re a troll, and happy to admit it. Fine. Now run along and leave the scary neighborhood blog to the inhabitants and friends of said scary neighborhood, ok? Bye-bye now.

  • Nope, not a NoVa resident, nor am I any kind of Hill staffer. Just someone whose sensibilities are a bit jarred by these commenters’ spelling gaffes, not to mention their shameful misplaced pride in their self-imposed deformities which, of course, not only make them look uncouth and unprofessional but also simply make them worse human beings than I.

  • I know “gaffe” is a hot term right now with McCain putting his foot in his mouth every five minuites but could we try to use the term correctly? Even if you are just trying to flame

  • I think that CP really hit the nail on the head there, it’s about the “misplaced pride” that everyone seems to place on tattoos. They are really AWFUL, and speak volumes about the wearer of them. What is cool about them? No one has explained that here today. I have told you they are not cool because they are unprofessional and offensive. Secondly, everyone has taken the Cohen is a foolish old man blah blah tact in their arguments. Really? He is probably like your boss, or your boss’ boss. And given that, does that make you nervous? Is that why you haven’t made a sustainable argument regarding why tattoos are so great? It’s just that you are all so prideful in being different and trying to constantly show your disrespect for sensibilities.
    Further, even if I was a Republican, what’s wrong with that? You’re so afraid of discourse and others that are different than you that I could hurl the same empathets at you that were thrown at me. This is the inherent problem with this city, it’s far too liberal and accepting – to the point that it’s dicesvily so. It’s only accepting of those who want to clash against the norm or are Democrats. But God forbid someone would let a Republican say or do anything, that would be what an old person or a conformist would want. Honestly, this isn’t 1968, you all have this inherent the Man is out to get me rage and it seems to come out in a show of love for things that don’t conform. For example, I will live in this gritty neighborhood, I will get tattoos, I will hate on the privately educated. It’s pretty sickening and how is that supposed to make people care about your ideas and what you stand for. It doesn’t work for me.

  • Might want to look it up in Oxford, State School.

  • CP, great work pulling out the OED. I keep a full 30 volume set in my Rolls’ trunk for instances like this. Danny and yourself are shining examples of antidisestablishmentarianism. Tally Ho, my friend.

  • I’ve run into a theory that tattoos and piercings are often unconsciously intended to be a signal that one is very attractive. The logic is, “Look, I’m so pretty that I can draw all over myself and stick metal crap everywhere and I’m still good looking.”

  • I think the word you’re looking for is “subconciously.” And you have seen the people who get piercings and tattoos right? Just checking because mostly they are not attractive people…

  • 4:41 — You’re onto something, but I think the subconscious attractiveness signal goes: “My judgment isn’t great. Want to eff?”

  • Unconscious = “…a sentient force of will influenced by human drive and yet operating well below the perceptual conscious mind.”

    Subconscious = automated, e.g. breathing


    I’ve seen some very attractive people with tattoos/piercings.

  • Danny. A flamer indeed

  • Make sure you’re right before you correct someone.

    Unconscious = “…a sentient force of will influenced by human drive and yet operating well below the perceptual conscious mind.”

    Subconscious = automated, e.g. breathing


    I’ve seen some very attractive people with tattoos/piercings.

  • @4:41 – Yes that’s another possibility. It would be good idea to make everyone to wear uniforms. That would force people to come up with ways other than dress to express their individuality. PS sorry for the double post.

  • “Subconscious” vs. “unconscious.” Danny wants to correct word usage? Rich. Why not just “hurl the same empathets” and agree that “it’s dicesvily so.” And I quote.

  • i read it and thought what a ridiculous topic and what a waste of space in the W Post op-ed column. the ombusdman whines about all the 1000s of good op-ed pieces the W Post turns away–yet it has room to print some inane piece on tattoos.

    (btw, i am pro-tattoo; but even if the column was a ‘pro’ tattoo piece — still it would be a great waste)

  • danny come over to petworth or columbia heights have a meal a beverage. meet your neighbors, we are all neighborsm collectivelly right ? just people living there lives just a neighborhood enjoy!


  • isn’t this the chiquita that thought she was getting a tattoo that meant something, but really it meant something totally different? yeah, i thought so. at least she didn’t get one that said, “i’m awsome!” note the spelling…

  • I like tattos and I am 33, not inked, but I really like them….

  • No one has explained why tattoos are “cool?” Well, the fact that they get tight-assed GOP weasels like you in such a tizzy might be a good place to start.

  • i’m a pushing-50 attorney with several tatts (which are quite beautiful, i must say). i’ve had a full time job of one sort or another since i was 15, graduated with honors from both my undergrad and law schools, traveled all over the world, and currently have a really nice job where i can both exercise my intellect and make a decent living while doing something important for my country. somehow, in the narrow mind of Richard Cohen ( and Mr. CP and his republican-idiot-cronies), my ink makes me a “loser?” sirs, it is your simple-minded ignorance that makes you the losers, and the legion of tattooed people like me who are well-paid contributing members of society who are proof positive of that fact.

  • M. – in Japan, tattoos are equated with Yakuza membership, and it is very common for bathhouses to deny entrance to those with tattoos.

  • Folks, many of you are missing an important point — a common theme in many posts and comments on this blog is that it is somehow “special” to be different, to be nonconformist. Yet the bulk of commenters seem to relish the opportunity to heap criticism on the two or three people who are “different” enough to question the idea that tattoos are terrific. Moreover, several of these people aren’t just attacking our claims — they’re making bizarre ad hominem attacks, resorting to Republican-bashing (wrong) and Northern Virginia -bashing (something I typically enjoy, but, again, wrong). And still, no one’s offered a.) any redeeming qualities for this beloved body art or b.) any logical, well-written refutations of claims that tattoos are unprofessional, tacky, and emblems of a “look at me” mentality. To claim that an attorney who is both tattooed and a “well-paid contributing member of society” somehow means that tattoos are a nice thing…gosh. Seems to be a wild logical fallacy that any 1L (or undergrad philosophy student) wouldn’t dare to make. And equating a high salary with class? It doesn’t get much more GOP than that.

  • saf

    You’re really missing the point here CP. Nobody cares if you personally don’t have ink and don’t like ink. Really. The point being made is that it’s an individual choice and says nothing about a person but that they like ink.

  • “The point being made is that it’s an individual choice and says nothing about a person but that they like ink.”

    To a limited degree it does say something (depending on the tattoo). If you get a giant neck tattoo that’s readily visible, that usually says that you’ve given up on finding a respectable office job. If you get a gang tat on you, it says that you’re in a gang and you’ve pretty much given up on living in normal society. The idea that what you have inked on your and how much you have doesn’t say anything is pure silliness.

  • Danny-what do you think about the (female )twentysomething uniform.? Big sunglasses-flip flops 24/7-and the use of what I call “simile-ese”.. ( the use of the word “like” every .3 seconds)?

  • Piercings, tattoos, and other things like scarification are just a form of adornment much like clothing that goes beyond the function of “need”. Anything that is beyond that can be arguably just as rediculous by someone who doesn’t care for that style. To call people who chose to partake in a certain type of fashion “low lives”, “losers”, etc is pretty judgemental and mean. I don’t know why all tattoos are offensive to you, but I can personally answer the reason that I like tattoos and what I think is so great about them. I like my tattoo because it is something I have always wanted, always been drawn to having. I like my tattoo because I like the way it looks on my skin. I like my tattoo because it is another way to express something about myself, much like wearing a certain hairstyle or type of fashion style. I like my tattoo because it is a reminder of a fun vacation I took to see my friends when I just needed to get away. I like my tattoo because I like how my boyfriend likes it. I like my tattoo because I think it is cute. I could go on and on. Maybe my reasons are stupid to you, but honestly I don’t really care because it is about how I feel about it and now how you feel about it. Even had I not gotten a tattoo I would still be the same person I am now.

    I don’t think all people get tattoos on their necks and arms because they have given up on getting “real” “respected” “classy” jobs, but probably because their priority is just that they want a job where they fit in and where they are accepted for who they are, how they are and not one where they have to hide parts of them to conform. I also don’t think it is fair to say all people get tattoos to “damn the man” and “act out against conformity” since a large number of people get tattoos for the exact opposite; to fit in with their peers; but this is with a lot of things.

    I do think that you are being pretty narrow minded to lump us all together and draw conclusions based on something you don’t fully understand or agree with and like someone mentioned above it is just those types of conclusions that racists use. And I don’t understand why someone who doesn’t live in the area, has no desire to step foot in the area, thinks reading a post and putting in their 2cents speaks very highly of themself considering how ugly your comments got. Putting people down for pure enjoyment, which is what this seems like is a pretty low life thing to do. So as a tattood low life…Welcome to the club!

  • Correction:
    Maybe my reasons are stupid to you, but honestly I don’t really care because it is about how I feel about it and *NOT how you feel about it.

  • 64 and counting !maybe i’ll have that tattooed on my arm..so poo poo to you you

  • CP, you have demonstrated not only a rather silly and baseless prejudice, but now, an apparent inability to reason.

    you started from an invalid presumption of “tattooed people are ugly, unprofessional, self-absorbed exhibitionist losers. prove me wrong.” well, we’ve all done that. repeating “did not, did not, did not” doesn’t qualify as rational rebuttal, but you are perhaps too simple-minded to see that. any 1L (or sixth grader) would, though.

    the point i, and others, have made is that under no definition of self-absorbed, loser or “unprofessional” (except the “because CP says so” definition) would any rational person use those terms to describe the VAST majority of the people who have tattoos.

    as for “ugly,” obviously, attraction is in the eye of the beholder, so what any individual does or doesn’t find attractive is absolutely subjective. some people think a nicely done tattoo is beautiful, others don’t. some people really love Picasso, others don’t. some folks like Joy Division, others flee from the opening chords of “Day of the Lords.” but claiming those who don’t share your tastes are just “ugly self-absorbed losers” is simply foolishness.

    (and perhaps you should learn to read for comprehension; i never wrote that i was “well-paid,” i said i had a nice job that allowed me to live comfortably. i define that as having a job that i enjoy, leaves me feeling like i’ve accomplished something good every day, is intellectually stimulating, keeps a (Petworth) roof over my head, and allows me to meet the mortgage and know where my next meal is coming from. i am by no means wealthy, but i am better off than most people, and i know how fortunate i am to be able to say that. that you read “well paid” into my posting is an interesting rorschach test about you.)

  • . . . On allowing commenters to speak for themselves:

    # CP Says:
    July 23rd, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Tattoos are for undesirables. The rabid defense of tattoos in some of these columns speaks volumes about the vapid, short-sighted, “look at me!” mindset of a huge lowlife subculture. Try getting a real job or looking anything other than trashy and ill-bred with an exposed tattoo. Good luck.

    CP Says:
    July 24th, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Folks, many of you are missing an important point — a common theme in many posts and comments on this blog is that it is somehow “special” to be different, to be nonconformist. Yet the bulk of commenters seem to relish the opportunity to heap criticism on the two or three people who are “different” enough to question the idea that tattoos are terrific. Moreover, several of these people aren’t just attacking our claims — they’re making bizarre ad hominem attacks


    # CP Says:
    July 23rd, 2008 at 1:12 pm
    undesirables rabid vapid short-sighted lowlife trashy ill-bred

    CP Says:
    July 24th, 2008 at 11:12 am
    bizarre ad hominem attacks

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