Do you Tattoo?

What a question, you are probably asking yourself… But then look around and you will be surprised; they are everywhere! For a long time I was totally convinced I needed a subtle tattoo in a place only I (and those I wished to impress) would know about. However, as I spend many days a year at the beach, this represented quite a challenge. But then suddenly the magic of my plan was shattered. Why? How?

I became aware of a trend with sports stars that has rendered the “subtle tattoo” obsolete. Body art has become all the rage. Gone is the small dolphin on a girl’s ankle or the simple “Love you Mom” on a male bicep. We are now talking full body tattoos with a Noah’s Ark of animal options, interlocking patterns, winding serpents and soaring angels. Many of Chile’s best known soccer players have their arms (and maybe more) covered with a mosaic of tattoos; others apparently, have none!

Of course tattoos are nothing new, they go back to our ancestors and were often part of the ritual passage into manhood or womanhood. However, the modern “mega tattooists” are athletes of extraordinary ability in every sport you can name – well, chess isn‘t really a sport!

What I find alarming is that these young men and women will grow into maturity, marry and probably have children. How do you live with the “body art” of your youth when you are 40, 50 or 60? It is extremely difficult to erase…

You may recall an actor named Billy Bob Thornton who was in love (Hollywood style) with Angelina Jolie. To endorse this commitment Angelina had “Billy Bob” tattooed on her arm. When she moved on to be with Brad Pitt she supposedly said “I’ll never be stupid enough to have a man’s name tattooed on me again”, but it required a messy laser job to remove the memory!

This very summer, at a beach in central Chile, I saw a smartly attired couple (not Chilean) wearing matching dark grey outfits with a dash of red and blue here and there. On getting closer I realized they were all but naked (just the essentials covered) and the outfits were actually head-to-toe tattoos. Aside from the soles of their feet and the palms of their hands there was no “natural” skin to be seen. I was aghast! The investment in time, money, agreeing on appropriate (or inappropriate) themes, and then the explaining to friends and family: “well this represents Venus at dawn and over here is Poseidon; oh, and here is the deer Frankie shot with a crossbow – yes, you can see the blood…”

As a soldier in a former life I well remember the standard tattoos (Blondes lie best, two four-letter words spelt over eight knuckles…) but also the pranks played on friends when they had imbibed too much rum. A common prank was to wheel said “friend” into a tattoo parlor and have a girl’s name needled onto his arm, usually inside a heart. The next day a furious soldier would ask despairingly why he had “Betty” tattooed on his right arm when his wife’s name is Candice… The horrors of war!!

My favorite was a quite stunning and, I was told, very costly work of art. The guy must have been truly plastered. It was a full English fox hunting scene where the huntsmen were galloping up his chest; the hounds were bounding down his back and the fox was “going to ground” (as it is called) with only his bushy tail evident to anyone making a close enough inspection. Fascinating – but it is for life!!

So, what should I do? Tattoo or not tattoo? I am considering a few short, meaningful phrases and your opinion would be very valuable:

  • Piñera – four more years
  • Camila for Deputy – in Cuba
  • Obama – President for life
  • I’m OK; it’s the rest who stink
  • Love you Sandra / Betty / Candice / Camila 4 Ever

In the end I have decided to delay my tattoo because I cannot for the life of me decide on what “statement” I wish to make. Perhaps you can help me.

Look around and I will bet you all of 5,000 pesos your best friend has a tattoo – and you never knew!!

Happy tattooing,

Santiago Eneldo

(Suggested tattoos welcome at