I was standing outside a popular fast food joint, that is often thronged by young women in their 20s, waiting for a friend to grab some greasy fries on the run. Being a Friday, there were many young ladies in the vicinity. With the January heat that seems to have been imported from Sahara Desert, their skimpy dressing was perfectly excusable.
While waiting for my friend, my ever roaming eyes picked on two ladies close to me who were talking very fast, although they seemed relaxed. One was light skinned and the other on the darkest shade of chocolate. The light skinned had rings on her eyebrows, on the nose, on the upper and the lower lip and of course on the ears. The dark skinned one had a hard-to-decipher tattoo, owing to her complexion, but she had put all the efforts to ensure that it was visible.
I flinched at the number of rings on the light skinned lady. Then it suddenly hit me that everywhere I am looking are young women with tattoo and some oddly placed ring somewhere. It is like the new fashion statement. A few closer to me, have asked me about my honest opinion about it and I am always unequivocal: Build your personality. It is the best investment. They always tell me that I suck. May be.
Days when tattoos and body piercings were preserve of the artistic and musical types are clearly behind us. For celebrities, it always fueled their egos. They had to find a way of standing above the rest of us, mere mortals. There is no denying that for some, these hurtful practices communicate about their religious subscriptions, sexual orientation and other significant emblems in their lives, but mostly it is a show off thing.
So, what is this sudden crazy obsession with tattoos and bodily piercings for young women in Nairobi and our other towns? They say it is the in thing. It is the new ‘swag’ and our women are always loyal and quick to jump on any bandwagon, without considering whether some of these fashion statements are appropriate or even applicable locally.
Let us face it, the tattoos are supposed to signify something we love or deeply believe in. Of course, the women are wiser and no longer tattoo their boyfriends, but we need more convincing about these ostentations. I am persuaded that on average most of those with tattoos don’t necessarily believe in what they have tattooed themselves. They do it on the spur of the moment, or just because ‘Annete did it, and it was so cooool’.
There is nothing wrong with tattooing your body or piercing it as much as possible, but do these young women pay attention to what they are communicating to the world? Do they even care about the stereotypes attached to these fashionable pursuits? It is decidedly naive to do something without some future consideration, such as career or marriage.
Some are really tattooing and piercing themselves in the remotest of all body parts, sometimes with future possible ramifications that they will invariably regret. But advice like the youth is wasted on the young. It is one thing tattooing your groin area or piercing your navel, and it is one thing struggling to show it to the public using desperate efforts.
They will say it is self expression. Identity. How weak? Most of them hardly even know the philosophy behind their tattoos. Show me one lady who truly believes that the tattoo gives her more personality, identity or helps her express herself well and I will show you an honest politician. Beyond showing off, there is little else this posturing communicates. Rather, there are stereotypes ranging from how freaky these women are in certain departments to their sexual orientation.
And in the short run, most men will be hesitant to go out with women who have too many tattoos or the rings all over the face. Mostly, they will only be driven by curiosity. But there is enough evidence that women who do them outrageously are bold in a repulsive sense. It is hard to justify some of the trends but with Lady Gaga as an inspiration out here, it says a lot.
Perhaps, what these tattoos and piercings point most is that the younger women are now liberated, bold and can make their own decisions, disastrous or otherwise. They grow in a generation of anything goes. Nothing should be taken seriously. Neither should their tattoos. I can only tell men that they need to step up their game, get some balls, because women are becoming bolder and bolder.
It takes a lot of courage to have more rings all over your face and in every protrusion in the body. Take my word for it. And for women, also consider your future career before immersing your hand in that indelible ink.
One thing is for sure, in 30 years, grandmothers will be running around in tattoos and body piercings. They used to do it in the past, and they now can do it for different reasons though. As the cliché goes, culture is the most dynamic thing. But I think in a cyclic way.