Transfers and tattoos

When I was a kid, we had something called “transfers”. A transfer was a small, colourful picture up to maybe one and a half inches square, printed back to front on special paper. To use a transfer, you floated it on a saucer of water and when it was wet enough, put it face down on the page of your scrapbook, or wherever else you wanted it, carefully pressed it down and peeled back its paper base. If all went well, you now had the image, the right way round, transferred to its new home. Hence the name.

A transfer could of course be applied to your skin, on the hand, arm or wrist. This was considered great fun especially as you could flex the skin and thereby cause the image to expand or shrink, producing all sorts of strange contorsions. A transfer could easily be scrubbed off or left to wear off naturally. Either way they were but temporary decorations.

Something of the fun of the transfer survives in the modern vogue for tattoos. Of course, people have been tattooing themselves for centuries but our society is currently experiencing a fad for this kind of body decorations. These range from the “tramp stamp” that women apply to the small of the back just above their rear cleavage, to colourful, and often grotesque, representations covering large areas of the body.

I have to admit that I dislike tattoos on either men or women. This is not a moral issue: I simply don’t like them. Most are ugly, especially the modern variety with shading, that make the arm look grubby. All of them degrade with time; their sharp outlines soften, the colours fade and as the skin loosens with age, the picture sags and looks untidy.

It bothers me that they are permanent, though I suppose it’s none of my business. What if you have a tattoo done in a fit of enthusiasm and then regret it? Or you say goodbye to Mary and embrace Jane and are then faced with the embarrassment of advertising your old affection to your new lover every time you take your shirt off?

I once met a man who showed me some ugly scarring on his arm. He said he had been in a Nazi prison camp where they had tattooed a number on his arm. He so hated it that he had worked over a long period to obliterate it by burning the skin with lighted cigarettes. I imagine he must have had to get drunk for each session. He had no choice in getting tattooed but most people do. I cannot understand why anyone would freely disfigure his or her body permanently in this way but that is just my own opinion.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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4 Responses to Transfers and tattoos

  1. tomeemayeepa says:

    Totally agree. I worked with a guy who had a naked lady tattooed on his arm. It was noticeable in summer that nobody looked at his face when they were talking to him. What’s even worse, in my view, is body-piercing, whether the ears , nose or any other part of the body. Maybe I’m unduly squeamish but looking at these things makes me feel physically sick.

  2. SilverTiger says:

    I find body-piercing disgusting too and was thinking of doing a piece on it.

    The other day in Brighton, we were accosted by a gentleman asking for money who had more piercings per inch of face area than most people have on their entire bodies. We stared at him in horrid fascination.


  3. My goodness: We’ve found an area of disagreement at last. 🙂 I’ve never heard the term “tramp stamp,” but in any case, I got my tattoo in that location in the summer of 2005 at age 41. Then, for my 42nd birthday, I got my second tattoo, on my right ankle. I’ve always, always wanted a tattoo, but I waited until I was sure, and until I had a custom design drawn that I knew I could happily live with forever. My husband also had one, on his upper arm. We’ll probably both get more: it’s somewhat addicting.

    I love seeing other people’s body art (although I’m with you on piercings, which are often grotesque and apparently done mostly for shock value). Some tattoos are silly, some are badly done, but many are beautiful and make a statement about the individual. Although some designs are chosen and applied with little thought or care, most involve quite a bit of consideration, time, money, and pain. Especially since I’ve had my own done, I enjoy seeing how other people express themselves through this medium.

  4. SilverTiger says:

    tiffanytaylor Says:My goodness: We’ve found an area of disagreement at last. 🙂

    It’s a disagreement in the sense that we entertain different opinions on this issue. There is nothing “doctrinal” about it 🙂 I just don’t like tattoos but would never say people ought not to be allowed to have them. I knew you had a couple, by the way, as this is stated on your blog 😉

    With something permanent, you can never be sure that it won’t one day turn out to be inconvenient, so age doesn’t have much to do with it. But the permanence of tattoos is a side-issue really, and a matter for the person getting tattooed.

    We agree on the question of piercings but I think that tattoos also “are often grotesque and apparently done […] for shock value”. Tattoos can serve all manner of intentions.

    Needless to say, I don’t have any tattoos but I do currently sport black nail varnish and that is not everyone’s cup of tea, either.

    (No, I’m not an EMO 😀 )


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