Raise your hand if you sport a tattoo.

A recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 21 percent of adult Americans now have at least one tattoo. What once was perhaps the surefire way to promote one’s rebellious spirit, is now something that’s just a red rose short of conformity.

What’s going on? There was a time when only sailors, prisoners and a few pirates felt obliged to permanently stain their skin with ink. Now, it’s just as likely that the cashier in the food court or the person pouring your latte will also have some work of art discreetly or not-so-discreetly applied to the body.

And don’t get me started on basketball players. Some of these guys, both pro and college, are tattooing their arms, shoulders and necks. Who knows about the ink in areas we can’t see? For the record, I don’t want to know!

Can’t take it back

Fads come and go. Changing your hair color is one thing, but tattoos are forever, even though laser technology allows some ability to remove them, kind of. A tattoo’s subject matter seems to have no bounds. Honoring dear old mom once was a popular choice for sailors stopping in foreign ports. Now, the focal point might just as likely be a sign of the zodiac or a can of Red Bull.

The most popular tattoos these days? Crosses and angels remain high on the list, but so do skulls and dragons. More subdued images of stars, butterflies and hearts also remain in vogue. Celebrities often influence that choice.

This is not an attempt to denigrate the tattoo artist. They earn their money and those getting tattoos now certainly come from all corners of society.

It’s a form of personal expression, but people make judgments. Depending on your social circle, one consideration might be whether or not the tat can be covered by wearing normal clothing.

It’s often called permanent makeup, with the emphasis on permanent.

Just want to belong?

Is the desire to “belong” the driving force for getting a tattoo? Or is it simply nothing more than personal expression? The answer is probably as varied as the people who sit still for the procedure.

Does getting one tattoo mean you’ll probably get another? And what prompts some people to have that design placed where it might never be seen while others cover entire arms, legs, backs and chests? Is it merely an effort to seek attention?

I, obviously, have a lot of questions and though this is such a purely personal decision, I also have a tough time getting past the “stretch” factor. The “stretch” factor is the notion of what this work of art might look like in a few years when the skin that was stained is no longer in the condition it once was.

When Grandma is approaching her 70s, will that dragon on her leg look more like a leathery lizard with jaundice? Will Uncle Bob’s tribal symbols on his upper leg eventually resemble a bowl of cottage cheese? Is there a chance the portrait of an attractive girlfriend on your belly might resemble a very wrinkled, jiggly woman in a couple decades?

In most cases, the artwork is not the issue. In time, the issue might just be the canvas on which it was created.

I’m just sayin’…