What you think about tattoos depends a great deal on your age.
For people living in the first half of life, tattoos are fashion statements.
For people living in the second half of life, tattoos are for drunken sailors.
I am trying to imagine this young woman explaining to her grandchildren in 2049 that the age-smudged image on her bare arm is actually a portrait of “Michael Jackson,” the world famous entertainer now dead these 40 years.
That’s the thing about tattoos — they hang around.
As a geriatrician, I’ve been able to inspect a large number of tattoos which were obtained by their owners in the 1940’s and 1950’s and, let’s just say, time changes everything.
So what we have here is a lesson in “diachronic vision.”
Diachronic Vision is the ability to imagine and then care for your future self or a future version of your family or community.
This ability turns out to be pretty important to the survival of our species, and it turns out that elders, as a group, have better diachronic vision than young people, as a group.
Think of it this way — every time we use a credit card our present self comes into competition with our future self. Our present self gets the goodies; our future self gets the bill. Long-term happiness depends on the ability of the present self to consider the needs of the future self.
I’ll leave off with the story of a young woman who, in her early 20’s, purchased a tattoo of a half moon and a star for her left hip. In her early 30’s she delivered her third child. The woman’s mother came to see her daughter after the delivery and remarked…
“Hmmm. It looks like that half moon is a full moon now.”