Born Too Loose

In considering a tattoo, ask yourself: what, where & especially, why?

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: August 12, 2002

Born Too Loose

There was a guy in High School who was surreptitiously proud -- yet had violently mixed emotions -- after summer vacation because he had a new tattoo. The tattoo was supposed to say ?Born to Lose? but it read ?Born Too Loose.? Now , this seems like an old joke but I saw the tat with my own eyes. I don?t know if the guy was hammered when he had the work done or if the error was a result of a language problem, but from that point on he demonstrated a proclivity for long-sleeved shirts.

My brother had a friend who, let's say, was on hiatus from society for a while and came back with a jailhouse tattoo on his forearm. This one was supposed to be of a girl, but the tattooist (I cannot say artist) messed up the lips, and the chick looked like Little Richard.

I don?t have anything against body art. Members of my family have a certain affinity. What an adult wants to do in caricaturing their body is their own business. If, however, they place something on their body for public view, then as a comedic journalist I am compelled to comment.

On several occasions -- fortuitously, when I was chronically broke -- I considered getting a tat, but then remembered a speech from a Brown Beret commander who advised the soldiers not to get any tattoos because that is the best way for police to identify a person. He didn?t stop to consider that they had all of our pictures on file and that probably several undercover cops were passing the chicharones while listening to the speech.

In deciding to get a tattoo, three things need to be taken into consideration: 1) What to get; 2) Where to put it; and 3) Why you are getting it in the first place. I understand that many tattoos are a spur-of-the-moment liqoured-up decision. They, like Las Vegas marriages to cocktail servers, tend to prove to be a big bad mistake rather than a big badge of honor.

Many OGs --Pachuco and Pachucas alike -- still wear a faded green cross between the thumb and the forefinger. This should be a vivid reminder to youngsters not to try to car jack someone like that. You may find yourself in special education.

What to get can go all the way from a name, a flower, to a scene from the Lord of Rings on someone?s back. There are tribal symbols. Sanskrit-writing, pictures of heroes, loved ones, and I may have seen a NBA player with a full-face portrait of Aunt Jemima on his shoulder.

I know a Homie who had his girlfriend?s name placed on his chest only to have it purposely and painfully obscured after an argument by having a picture of a two-headed Chola drawn over it. A word of caution: Tattoo artists do not need a college degree.

Where to put it goes from the ridiculous to the sublime. Some scraps have the names of their cliques scrolled up to six inches high on the back of their baldheads. Scary looking guys with green cobweb fanning out from the sides of their eyes. To the sublime, a rose on the top of a babe's ear, or Michael Jackson-styled permanent eyeliner.

I always thought it would be funny to get a picture of your own face placed on your arm, or a sign that reads ?This space for rent? on your neck. Tattoo-lovers consider the skin a canvas, to color and to decorate, a militant and subjective statement to society that you are permanently committed to looking different, not necessarily multi-cultural as much as multi-colorful, the rest of your life.

Some generation Xers look to me like meat comic books.

In the biker tradition, many sport the Harley Davidson logo and colors, This type of brand loyalty is unparalleled in history. Talk about a walking advertisement! You never see anybody with a Honda or Yamaha tattoo, and if you did, you would not be able to scream "Dork!" loud enough.

I have to confess, when I was 19 that I actually planned to have a tattoo. It was going to be of an AK-47 assault rifle, and underneath, the word "Venceramos."

I am glad I didn?t because we didn?t win: A generation born too loose, indeed.

About Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos Hernandez is a contributing columnist and a screenwriter.

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