How Geeky Can Your Tattoo Be Before It's Embarrassing? I'm Asking For A Friend

Nerdy tattoos make me think I should fly my dork flag a little higher. Do you think I have the guts for a giant backpiece of all eleven Doctors fighting the Knights Who Say Ni?

Oct 19, 2011 at 1:00pm | Leave a comment

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I will be the first to admit that I have some pretty nerdy ink. In fact, I have to be the first to admit it, because other people don’t always notice. It’s stealth nerdy. Imagine a bunch of high school dorks who just discovered goth clubs for the first time, and have dressed up almost convincingly: that’s my tattoos.

My lower back piece, for example, is a rose surrounded by thorns. Two things are tramp stampier than that: One, a tribal butterfly, and two, a stamp that says “TRAMP.” It definitely looks like I tried to come up with a lower back tattoo design, but was about as good at creative thought as Snooki’s hairdo. It definitely does not look like a reference to The Faerie Queene, book III, canto i, stanza 46. FOOLED YOU.

For both these reasons -- the nerdiness and the stealthiness -- I’m fascinated by this website I just found, descriptively named Geeky Tattoos. On the one hand, there’s some beautifully-done ink, displayed on some unabashed nerds I’d probably be happy to hoist a beer with. Look at this incredibly classy TARDIS! Or this Auryn from Neverending Story! I never read Hobbes’ Leviathan, but jesus, look at this thing! This one’s a damn Turing machine! It’s all enough to make me think I should fly my dork flag a little higher. What do you think, would an H on my forehead affect future job prospects?

On the other hand, though, this means you have people going through life festooned with nyan cats or Pokemon or knuckles that say “FREE WIFI” (no, wait, that last one’s awesome). Now, I think people should do what they like with their own bodies and be unashamed of their own interests, and if that means sporting a giant cyborg Lincoln for the rest of your days, then you cyborg Lincoln it up, my friend. I would like to buy a drink for you and Doc Brown Leg over here.

But I admit it gives me a little Stealth Nerd vertigo to see people rocking ElfQuest ink and what have you. (Just kidding, there aren’t any ElfQuest tattoos on the blog, but you know somebody has them, and that person is teenage me in an alternate timeline where I didn’t grow up fast enough.) Part of it is a vague and unjustified sense of worry -- I know most people are expressing genuine love of their particular obsession, but part of me thinks “if you’re anything like I was at the time I would have been willing to get that tattoo, you probably need a hug.” And of course there’s the knee-jerk “what if you hate Gears of War in ten years” reaction, as though it’s my job to look out for other people’s opinions about their own body mods.

Mostly, though, it’s just a sort of wistful envy. Imagine being a person so comfortable with her outsider status, so disinterested in posing or climbing or impressing the wrong people that she was willing to sport a thigh tattoo of LEGO Ghostbusters fighting a LEGO Stay Puft Man. Having bootstrapped myself out of a frankly social dysfunctional level of nerdiness, I’ve always kept a self-enforced distance from such things -- it’s okay to be a mild brainiac with two shelves of comics and Monty Python on DVD, but go too far into fandom territory and you might backslide. Sort of the junior high weirdo version of AA.

Well, sod that for a game of soldiers. No matter how long I stay in the nerd closet, it appears I am not getting to Narnia, so all I’m doing is hiding from people whose opinions I don’t respect anyway. Now, what do you think about this for a tattoo?
 
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P.S. I think the ultimate dork ink would be a real-life Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle nose. Flash-in-the-pan meme + classic cartoon = genius. Get on it, internet.