My husband and I and some friends went to the Hawthorne Street fair today. To those of you unfamiliar with Portland, this is an area on the east side where hippies went to raise their children, and now the children are sporting tats, piercings, and pink pony tails.

The thing we noticed the most were the tattoos, and I still don’t get it. Today I saw people whose skin was nearly covered – both arms, legs, necks – everywhere that was showing and Lord only knows what was underneath.

As I was looking at the parade of tattooed youth, I thought, “Doesn’t that hurt?” When I got home, I asked Google to find out how it’s done: “Artists create tattoos by injecting ink into a person’s skin. To do this, they use an electrically powered tattoo machine that resembles (and sounds like) a dental drill. The machine moves a solid needle up and down to puncture the skin between 50 and 3,000 times per minute. The needle penetrates the skin by about a millimeter and deposits a drop of insoluble ink into the skin with each puncture.” (

That sounds more painful than I imagined. Just the thought of a drill sounding like a dentist’s made me flinch, much else the pulsating needle.

I can understand the traditional “drunken sailor” doing this. Alcohol kills the pain, and they only got one or two tattoos. I imagine it sobered them up pretty quick. I can also understand gangsters, thugs, and gang members. They have something to prove to their peers.

What I can’t understand is people using tattoes as a fashion statement – girls especially.

My friend said, “I must be getting old because I have absolutely no desire to get a tat.”

“You’re not old if you call them “tats,” I said.

“I feel pretty old. I remember when we first invented tie-dye, and look – it’s everywhere again.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” I said. “You know you’re getting older when the stuff you used to wear comes back in style.”

Of course this generation looks nothing like we looked in our tie-dye shirts. We were thin, with long, straight, shiny, healthy, natural-colored hair. Today I saw tie-dyed hair that looked like someone had taken a dull knife to it and then dried it with a blast furnace. There were whole chunks shaved (or yanked) off of people’s heads, surrounded by ragged, lifeless, crisp hair.

We were tanned, healthy, and acne-free because we were into nature, hiking, eating healthy fruits and vegetables, treating our bodies like they were our best friends. Many of the people I saw today looked like they only came out at night, and their bodies were their mortal enemies. Pierce it! Stab it with needles! Yank the hair out! Douse it with harsh chemicals! Remove the color and replace it with pinks, purples, black! Whack at it with dull razors! Put a big round orb in your earlobe and stretch it three inches! Cover everything with fat! Pierce your tongue, your breasts, even your…

Well, I guess I’ve made my point. These guys may be young, but I’m not so sure about bright – except their hair and skin, that is. I’d pick being a hippie over a hipster any day.