A baby boomer’s Tattoo Breakthrough

Think young, right?! We baby boomers do try. But sometimes it’s hard.  Humor blogger Perry Block of Havertown, Pennsylvania, has struggled with it himself, but explains in this piece for BoomerCafé his own Tattoo Breakthrough.

It was a moment in the history of the Western World unlike any other.

That is, in the history of the Western World in the immediate vicinity of a Starbucks Coffee Shop in Bala-Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. It was August 14, 2015, and as the young woman barista brought our coffees to my son and me on that day, my eyes were drawn to a tattoo of an apparent butterfly on ttattoo_armhe underside of her left arm. Before I could control myself, by God, the previously unimaginable was out of my mouth!

“That’s a pretty tattoo,” I said.

“Oh, thank you,” she replied.

“Dad!” exclaimed Brandon as we walked out of her earshot, “That’s a major breakthrough!”

“I guess it is,” I said modestly. “I did actually like it, but I’m not sure how or why.”

I’m a Boomer and I’ve never understood the allure of tattoos. Back in the sixties and early seventies, tattoos were generally worn by the shorter-haired folks we called greasers, sworn enemies of the freaks and pseudo freaks. The standard tattoos were a skull and crossbones, a crude rendering of Jesus, or a heart with the name of a likely now-former girlfriend emblazoned through the middle.

Some hippies had tattoos, but they were as few in number as there were un-smoked roaches in my apartment at the end of a Friday evening. Our rock heroes did not have them, the cool people we aspired to be like did not have them, and the hot chicks I never had the guts to approach that I’m still kicking myself about 40 years later certainly did not have them.


But times have changed and tattoos today proliferate like Republican presidential candidates. In fact it’s hard these days to find an athlete or movie star who believes a blank slate is an acceptable approach to one’s epidermis. My son doesn’t have one but he has friends who do, and he has told me none of them are greasers, bikers, or intoxicated sailors just waking up after a long weekend’s shore leave.

In fact Brandon has constantly admonished me to stop spreading negative vibes about tattoos, but until now I’ve virtually carried a soapbox with me to do just that. I would constantly pull it out whenever we encountered someone whose body was marked up like the first draft of a 1970s term paper.


But at that Starbucks, something had changed and without my even knowing it.

“So what brought that on, Dad?” asked Brandon, as we return now to the greatest history-making moment in a Starbucks since someone was able to readily afford a latte.

“I dunno,” I answered. “It just slipped out naturally as something to say. Like, thanks for the coffee, have a nice day, or do you have an attractive mom in my demographic?”

Perry Block

Perry Block

“What that means,” said Brandon, “is you now accept tattoos as a legitimate expression of someone’s personality, even if you would never choose that mode of expression yourself.”

He was right. I was able at last to see something that my pre-conceived notions wouldn’t allow me to see before. Now I saw the colors and the artistry that I had for so long constantly confused with the skull and crossbones from days gone by.

So it seems I’ve made a Tattoo Breakthrough. But would I actually get one myself? Have I made a Tattoo Break on through to the other side?

Nah, I’m not ready for any of that. And I still don’t like tattoos that envelop a human body like a well-used etch-a-sketch. But if you’re a Boomer and you want a simple not-too-sizable tattoo, I won’t say a discouraging word.


  1. Congrats. We all have to move on sometime. But I must agree, I’ll respect you for having them if you respect me for not. I can appreciate them, just can’t get used to seeing brides go down the aisle with them.

    1. Me too, Leslie. What I’m saying is that I don’t condemn people for having them any more and I might even find favor with a small discrete tattoo on the back, shoulder, or arm, but I reserve my right to think that some dude with a tattoo the size of a Rand McNally map of North America across his chest is kind of disgusting.

  2. I must confess as a boomer I still have problems with the idea of tattoos. That said, I have never really minded one on a service man or woman, and a small one located in a place I do not have to see, as if it is between to lovers is OK, but I do find it difficult when it appears to be the first and only thing you see when you look at someone. Oh I admit that is not their problem at all, it is mine. Do I judge? Certainly not out loud or with facial expressions, nor do I complain. Some folks like abstract or contemporary art, and others classical. I guess I just do not appreciate or understand it on the human body. Thanks for a wonderful post!

    1. I basically feel like you, Eric. I would rather folks not have them than have them, and I continue to think that tattoos are for “greasers” as in the sixties and seventies. But I have come to understand why some young people who did not live through that period may like them, and I find certain discrete tattoos even kind of nice. But those tattoos that literally envelop the body are still gross, and my son would find them gross too. So, I’m not that much of an old fogey after all.

  3. I’m starting to be more tolerant of tattoos, too, and I agree with you about size and placement being a factor in my acceptance. Still, I can’t help but wonder what those works of art will look like on sagging, wrinkled skin in 30 or 40 years. Won’t that butterfly’s wings droop? How sad is that?

    1. I think that too, especially about the people with the huge body enveloping tattoos. Adam Levine, for example, has tattoos all over a lot of his body, one of which looks like a snake climbing up his arm (it’s not; it’s a guitar) yet he is regarded as a handsome, cool dude. I bet he looks like this in 40 years though. http://media.funlol.com/pictures/6812.jpg So one should thing twice about the ginormous tattoos.

  4. A few years back I considered a tattoo. Couldn’t think of what would look good so I went to the local parlor and asked for some advice. The lady at the desk looked me over and said “how about Best If Used Before 1978”. Decided to pass

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed the humor in this article (“…tattoos today proliferate like Republican presidential candidates”), and the candid look inward while trying to evaluate your reaction. Maybe it’s because I’m a designer that tattoos have always been interesting to me, and never really produced any negative feelings. However, I too think there will be a lot of regrets for many down the road. Thanks for a fun and entertaining read!

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