March 10, 2002

As we get older the urge to chastise youth for its foolishness increases. It’s partly from a real desire to help them avoid making the mistakes we’ve made, or been witness to, but it’s largely just envy. Bastards! They’re young; I’m not.

I don’t worry too much about these feelings. It goes with territory. Young people will one day be older and annoying the generations that follow them the same way.

I bring this up because of a young man I’ve seen on the bus the last few weeks. He’s into that body-piercing, tattoo thing. And this is fine; there are some people who look damn cool with what they’ve done. But like everything else, it requires some artistic flair to do it well. It requires a sense of proportion; an absence of excess.

Well, this guy has none of this. His head looks like a prison yard bordered in chain link. His face looks like he could be a goalie for the Edmonton Oilers or New York Rangers. Or he could be a catcher in the majors, his mask welded to his face.

What was he thinking?

He’s not alone, though. There are many people like this. I recall last summer when I saw a young woman who appeared to have had an unfortunate but intimate encounter with a nail gun. Her skin might have been upholstery someone had fiercely tacked in place.

What was she thinking?

The guy I see on the bus has also splattered himself with tattoos. Bradbury’s “Illustrated Man.” His artwork included pricing code on the back of his neck (facilitating scanning procedures at the Safeway, I suppose.)

Here’s the thing: Young people have a difficult time looking ahead. This is natural. Why should they? Everything is now. I didn’t look ahead. Had I, I wouldn’t be experiencing the financial woes I now face. Nor would I have experienced the consequences of poor relationship decisions. (I mean, what was I thinking dating a female wrestler? And without sufficient health coverage?)

Older, I see ahead. I make an effort to peer into the future. I’m not always right, but I think I manage to side step the occasional fiasco.

So what is the future for the young man on the bus? Image being 70 or so with a face encased in chain-link. Imagine being 70, skin wrinkled and desiccating and covered in the verigris of aged tattoos – everywhere.

He’s a freak show.

Think of the grandkids.

“Daddy, did the Frankenstein monster look like Grandpa?”

“Well, yes. Pretty much.”

“We don’t want to visit Grandpa anymore. He scares us.”

“Grandpa scares everyone, kids. Everyone.”

I can’t think of too many things more unsightly, or frightening, than an old guy covered in tattoos and buggered up my chains and nails.

The other thing, of course, is our frivolous and changing tastes. While cool today, tomorrow tattoos and chains will be so 90’s. In fact, as you can tell by looking at a calendar, it’s already passé. I mean, think of it: the look came out of the punk surge of the late 70’s. In 2001, is this the look you want? It’s not like you can call it retro. We haven’t arrived at that point yet.

It just looks dumb.

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