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Tattoo Stories: The Ultimate Self-Expression

Ben faces the permanence of tattoos, and subverts the notion that they should be deeply meaningful by getting one that is explicitly not.

Tattoo Stories: The Ultimate Self-Expression
Photos by Simone Schiess

Active climber at Brooklyn Boulders Somerville, Ben has a tattoo of his own face on his chest. His reasoning?

“The short answer is that I wanted a funny tattoo that wouldn’t be permanently visible. The long answer is that my first tattoo was serious, and not too long after I got it, [the tattoo] lost its meaning. My second tattoo was a ridiculous joke and maintained its amusement for years.”

While many ink enthusiasts maintain that tats should be deep and allusive due to their permanence, Ben subverts this notion. He believes that meaningful tattoos can lose their relevance, while humor lasts forever.

“Once I realized that I wanted something on my chest, I knew I wanted something funny, because my serious tattoo was no longer relevant.”

Ben chose to adorn his chest with his own face.

“Ultimately I realized that my own face would be pretty funny. If I got sick of seeing my own face, the tattoo would be the least of my problems.”

tattoo stories the ultimate self expression ben

“One thing that I really appreciate in tattoos is that they take advantage of the body part they’re on. I spent a few months thinking about what to add so that the tattoo would cover my entire chest. Eventually I stumbled upon the idea of using antlers.”

While his tattoo garners a lot of attention — his mother would routinely stop dinner and ask him to take off his shirt to show their friends and family; people stop and stare at the beach — Ben maintains that he didn’t get it for other people. He really got it for himself.

“Ridiculous joke tattoos” are not for everyone, Ben advises. “If you’re unsure about it, don’t do it” he says. 

Ben has gotten two more tattoos since his skin selfie: portraits of his grandparents. While he is confident these two will never lose their relevance, he’s already planned his next joke tat.

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