They’re ugly, tacky and common as muck, says Gina Davidson, and will only lead to a life of regret

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IS there any one thing that sums up our society’s buy now, pay later attitude than the rise in popularity of tattoos?

Once the preserve of sailors or circus performers, these days you’re no-one if you’ve not had the tattooist’s needle permanently disfigure your flesh with ink – be it with the name of your child/mother/wife/lover/football team or the cast from the Where’s Wally? books.

Yes, that’s right. Twenty-two-year-old music producer John Mosley sat for 24 hours at the weekend while 150 colourful characters were etched on to his back, begging the question not where, but who is the wally?

Then there are those who think they’re being “a bit different” with a Celtic band tattooed around their bicep, or perhaps a Maori design inked on their neck, maybe even a Chinese or Arabic word on their ankle or inner arm – which they no doubt believe says something spiritual, but is more likely to translate as a dish from the local takeaway menu.

Well they’re all wrong. The fact is that most tattoos are ugly, tacky, and, as my mother would no doubt have dismissed them, as “common as muck”.

Yet youngsters are desperate to follow the tattooing trend set by celebrities – some not even waiting until they are legally entitled to go under the needle. That is why backstreet operators are on the rise in the Lothians, with three unlicensed tattooists recently charged with tattooing people under the age of 18 and making a right mess of it.

This desire to cover skin in the kind of images and words that would normally have remained etched on school desks, hacked into wood by the end of a compass, is something I find quite baffling. It’s painful for a start – and it’s permanent.

That’s the one aspect I believe most don’t register in the youthful rush to get a “tat” for a laugh. There’s no thought about the impact it will have on them for the rest of their lives; that when they’re old and wrinkly, the pretty love heart on their bottom will end up looking more like an aged scrotum.

One tattoo fan who will undoubtedly pay for his inky mistake is the X Factor contestant Frankie Cocozza. Last week he claimed he had the names of seven girls he’d slept with on holiday tattooed on his backside. Then it transpired that he had in fact had the tattoos done as a drunken dare by the girls – four of them Edinburgh students.

But how will he explain these names to any woman he may meet in future? Tattoo in haste, repent at leisure.

At least his defaced derriere is hidden. For while there was a time when having a tattoo that couldn’t be covered by clothing would mean you wouldn’t be employed by a reputable company, these days it seems the more tattooed flesh on show, the better.

Tattoos are seemingly accepted as part of a person’s right to express themselves – even if it expresses that they’ve little artistic taste, an unoriginal mind, and a penchant for Disney characters, which they should have outgrown a long time ago.

While it’s the right of any adult to do what they like with their own body, and I don’t deny the art of the skilled tattooist, let’s face it, there are many, many bad tattoos on display every time the sun shines.

Perhaps, and I never thought I’d say this, young girls in particular should listen to Peaches Geldof. She’s just declared her regret at having 20-odd tattoos cover her body and would, if she could, graft herself a new skin.

Her skin’s not so peachy now. In fact you could say she looks pretty tatty.

gina.davidson@edinburghnews.com