Magazine August 16, 2021, Issue

Visible Ink

A tattoo artist works on a design at the La Boucherie Moderne tattoo parlor in Brussels, Belgium, March 1, 2021. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

All my early life the only tattoos I ever saw were on sailors, and the only sailors I ever saw were in cartoons, in the newspapers, or on TV. The sailors flaunted anchors or Cupid hearts; skulls and crossbones if they were pirates. Sometimes their tattoos moved for comic effect. The battleship on the bicep of one cartoon hero would fire broadsides at his rivals in amour. None of my friends in any grade of school (suburban public schools, Ivy League) spoke of tattoos or tattooing. My father, albeit a made member of the managerial class, was a brakeman’s son

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