August 24, 2006
The year was 1986 when rock stars teased their hair, wore stretch pants and gobbed on the eyeliner. Kathleen Langley and her boyfriend at the time were huge Led Zeppelin fans, but it was the girl who didnt chicken out when it came time to get the bands name tattooed on her back. That Led Zeppelin tattoo, covered up since that time when Langley was a little toughie 18 year old, turned out to be the first of many colorful pieces of artwork that now, 20 years later, cover most of her body.Its like a suit of armor, Langley, co-owner and senior body piercer at Lucky 7 Tattoo & Piercing in Kings Beach, says as she describes how her tattoos make her feel.Historically, tattoos were a rite of passage in some cultures. They were a mark of status, rank or fertility, a sign of religious or spiritual devotion or a brand on outcasts, slaves and convicts.In the 1950s the people who had tattoos were prostitutes and sailors, says Corey Boobar, Lucky 7 co-owner and tattoo artist. A stigma of criminality has surrounded those with tattoos because of the number of prisoners and gang members who use distinctive designs as calling cards for their groups and criminal behavior. All that has led to a negative stereotype.Its fun to see peoples reaction, says Rodney Pearry, as Boobar inks a prehistoric fish in shades of greens and yellows on his left arm. Pearry says he started getting tattoos several years ago when there was more offensive art back then, when mythical creatures and tribal designs were some of the most requested flash art. The popularity of The Learning Channels reality television show Miami Ink, which documents the happenings of a popular tattoo shop in Miami Beach, Fla., has brought the Kings Beach tattoo shop more business, says Boobar, who has been working as a tattoo artist for 17 years.The people who are scared (to get tattooed) watch the show, Boobar says. It kind of desensitizes them. . . theyre more comfortable getting tattooed.The tattoo shop sees customers from all walks of life who want to get inked men and women, young and old, Boobar says. Working as a piercer for 14 years, Langley says not too many things manage to shock her these days, except for when 75 year olds walk into the door asking for their first tattoos. I feel guilty, adds Boobar, hurting grandma.Tattooed movie stars, musicians and famous athletes who are constantly in the public eye have started to alter the perception of tattoos in popular culture. With MTV and Myspace, everyones trying to one-up each other, Langley says.When a recent photograph was published showing actress Lindsay Lohans new tattoo with the word Breathe written on her wrist in white ink, girls flocked into the shop asking for the same tattoo, she says. Boobar has tattooed women suffering from mid-life crisises and people going through a divorce just wanting a change. Many women in their 30s and 40s ask for butterflies, flowers and suns tattooed on their lower backs, a popular location with the dubious nickname the tramp stamp, Langley says. In todays society, Boobar says its still not as acceptable for women who have tattoos. You get a lot of dirty looks, Langley says. She recalls instances when shes been walking down the street and heard mothers make comments about her tattooed appearance to their children. Boobar says he hasnt experienced much stereotyping because of his tattoos.I think theyre scared, he says.Late Night Billy Drewitz, 34, says he decided to get tasteful piercings and tattoos because of his music-related career as a hip-hop promoter in Lake Tahoe, but still faces stereotyping because of the way he looks.One of Drewitzs most visible tattoos is a portrait of his father he had done on his left shoulder after his dad died five years ago. Ironically, his dad hated tattoos. Drewitz says he guesses his father would just cringe if he also saw the sacred heart memorial tattoo that covers his left shin. People do look down on me at first before they get to know me, he says. Maintaining a professional appearance without placing too many restrictions on what employees wear is important, says Billy McCullough, owner of Dragonfly restaurant in downtown Truckee. Restaurant patrons once complained about a waitress whose tramp stamp showed because of the revealing clothing she was wearing. We dont want to see the artwork they have, says McCullough, referring to customer complaints, however, he says hes not so caught up on the look.
Kathleen Langley says she has one tattoo she regrets ever getting. In thick black script writing permanently inked around her neck like a necklace she can never remove is the name Jason, her third husband. The owner of Lucky 7 Tattoo & Piercing in Kings Beach says her ex has her name tattooed on him as well, so at least it is a two-way mistake.Corey Boobar, Lucky 7 co-owner, says he once inked a girl with the name of her boyfriend. They ended up breaking up before it even healed, he says. After couples say their I dos at chapels in Lake Tahoe they come to him asking for matching wedding band tattoos. Boobar says he tries talking customers out of getting peoples names permanently inked on their bodies.If that bit of advice fails, along with the relationship, Esperanza Devers is there to erase the past. Devers, a registered nurse at the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery in Sacramento, has consulted with dozens of people who hope to have their mistakes just go away.They say they got [tattooed] in a different time in their life, Devers says.Moving into a more professional career becomes a catalyst for many people to get their tattoos removed, says Devers.They feel it doesnt match their professional image, she says.The tattoo removal process differs from one person to the next, dependent upon the size and color of the tattoo. On the first consultation the physician will meet with the person to determine a price per treatment. It takes multiple treatments, Devers explains. Each treatment causes fading.The laser treatment uses the opposite process in which the tattoo was permanently inked into the skin. Devers says the laser energy breaks up the tattoo ink in a very fast but painful procedure. Each laser session heals in about a week. The fading process takes months for results to be seen, so the laser treatments are scheduled two months apart. Devers says certain ink colors are more difficult to remove, with green and blue more stubborn than black, and hues of red and yellow somewhere in the middle. Professional tattoos take more treatments to remove than homemade tattoos, she says. Typically, the price people pay to get their tattoos removed costs significantly more than what they paid to get it at the tattoo shop. For a one inch-sized flower tattoo, Devers estimates it would cost about $150 per session, with expenses increasing into the $1,000 range.
The laws and regulations for body modification practices vary from state to state. Tattoo shops are regulated by local jurisdictions, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Web site, http://www.cfsan.fda.gov.California is not currently regulated by the FDA, but see when someone gets hepatitis, then theyll regulate, says Corey Boobar, co-owner of the Lucky 7 tattoo parlor in Kings Beach.He says only a business license is required to open a tattoo and body piercing shop. Co-owner of Lucky 7 Kathleen Langley says she likes when customers ask a lot of questions about tattooing and piercing procedures and want to know more about an artists experience. That inquisitiveness helps validate the people who have been running a clean shop, she says.They think its like Supercuts where all the shops are the same, Langley says. Were down to following every letter of the law.Lucky 7 uses the same standards enforced in other states for sterilization, sanitation and safety procedures for tattoos and body piercing, Boobar says. Everythings thrown out that touches the customer, he says.There is a risk of contracting HIV, forms of hepatitis, tetanus, and staph infections if tattooing equipment is not properly sanitized or if shops arent using single-use needles. Under some state jurisdictions the Red Cross provides bloodborne pathogen training for tattoo artists. In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control reported three clusters with 44 cases of staph infections traced back to unlicensed tattooists. The FDA prohibits anyone who receives a tattoo from donating blood for one year. Boobar says customers must be at least 18 years old and have identification in hand if they want to get tattooed. About eight years ago minors in California were able to get tattoos as long as they had a parent or guardians permission, he says. The rules for piercings do allow those under 18 with a parent or guardian present, Langley says.In following with other states guidelines, Boobar wont tattoo someone whos intoxicated and makes sure customers sign a consent form before proceeding any further. The tattoo ink is also not approved by the FDA due to a lack of evidence of safety concerns. There is an ongoing investigation of the pigments used in the ink, according to the FDAs Web site.
In Christian beliefs, deciding whether or not to get tattooed is a matter of conscience and it is up to the person to determine what affects having a tattoo might imply to others as a Christian, according to the Web site http://www.clarifyingchristianity.com. However, the Christian Tattoo Association provides a voice and resources for those who choose to get tattooed for religious purposes, often picking scripture verses or crosses.Jewish people often practice the belief that the body is a sacred gift from the Lord and shouldnt be disrespected, but those with tattoos may still be buried in a Jewish cemetery, according to the Web site http://www.judiasm.about.com.Having a tattoo in Islam is forbidden and only people with existing tattoos before becoming a Muslim are granted acceptance by Allah, according to the Web site http://www.livingislam.org.