August 28, 2009

A Visible Mark of Manhood? A Question

When I see a pierced and tattooed young male, I somewhat understand the ancient call he hears. Beneath the bravado, I understand the desire to make a statement, to be visible at all, and to wear the proof that he can handle the pain . . . like a man. It's actually an ancient custom.

However, in our masculine history, it used to be the men of the tribe that marked the young male. That event took place after the boy had negotiated all the trials, training, and rituals that define a man. The marking was painful for both the men and the boy (see the men's faces in the photo below), but when the deed was done, it was clear to everyone the young male had crossed into new territory.


Is it possible, that however alone and unguided, today's marked young men are trying to lay a claim to Manhood?


  1. I hadn't thought of that. And of course young women tattoo too(!), at least as much as young men.

    As a former hippie, tattooing reminds me of the youthful rebellion of the 60s as in "we're initiated and you're not." My own rebellion was related to father-hunger and, as I think Bly pointed out, rock'n roll's desperation (my word) seems connected to a lack of initiation.

  2. They tell me they are expressing their individuality; which I find humorous because they all look alike.

    I don't believe they think anything about moving into manhood. I believe many of them are more interested in trying to shock people and drawing attention to themselves than thinking about the future. I believe some of them have made it something of a competition to see who can outdo the others.

    I also believe many of them have no concept of "the future" because they have no expectation of life five, ten or more years down the road. From my conversations with many teenagers, both male and female, they don't believe they will be alive in ten to twenty years. It's a sad commentary, but it's very real for many young, lost souls.

  3. Dr. Tattoff in CA, already has a booming business in tattoo removal.
    I can only imagine that business will grow as the future catches up to them.

  4. While some do it to shock, most, I think, are just trying to express their individuality. For their sakes, however, I hope they think long and hard (and sleep on) their decision to get a tattoo and the designs they choose.



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