If you must know, it says “peace of mind”—in Sanskrit, because it would look absolutely ridiculous in English. It hardly looks less ridiculous in Sanskrit, an ancient language that I can’t read, but never mind.
I didn’t foresee explaining its significance to you and everyone else for the rest of my days, perhaps because I got it when I was 21, fantastically stupid, and thought I could achieve “peace of mind” some day, most likely while chanting om shanti gobbledygook in yoga class.
In retrospect, I could have prevented my tattoo from being an all-too-frequent conversation piece had I gotten a tramp stamp instead, as Ben Affleck appears to have done.
That way it would only come up on the beach or in the bedroom; an unsightly accessory or a hideous distraction, but infrequent either way.
Affleck’s tramp stamp will surely get ample viewing time (the actor lives in Malibu, after all). Already spotted by the Daily Mail’s telescopic lenses, the tat appears to be some sort of foliage design (either that or a pair of scorpions.)
But the new ink could also be a permanent symbol of upheaval in his life: falling leaves signaling change and ushering in a new era of singledom; a revolving door of women and a reckless return to the poker table.
Or it could be none of the above, and just a carefree wheeze.
We generally associate the so-called tramp stamp with lower-back tattoos on women, many of whom are offended by the derogatory euphemism. Perhaps they’d prefer “ass antlers,” an evocative substitute term for the above-the-bum tattoo, its feathered wings cresting a muffin top.
The tramp stamp is perceived to be either sexy or vulgar, depending on who’s looking at it.
I happen to think it’s indisputably foul on both men and women, but might have thought otherwise had I been exposed to early-’90s rave culture, when anyone who considered themselves the slightest bit alternative traveled to Asia after college and returned with tribal art on their love handles to remember the experience.
Things haven’t changed too much. The tramp stamp is the equivalent of today’s popular finger and wrist tattoos: an artful inscription of identity, often indicative of a specific phase or period in one’s life.
Years later, when we don’t like the look of it as much as we used to, we justify our tattoos as impulsive decisions but insist we don’t regret them.
It’s part of us, or something, and a big old ugly scar isn’t worth the painful, expensive process of removing it.
Affleck and his tramp stamp are in good company among male celebrities.
David Beckham, running out of surface area to doodle on and looking increasingly like one of his younger children’s coloring books, has his son’s name, “Brooklyn,” scrawled across his lower back in Gothic letters.
Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro is similarly branded with his mother’s name, “Constance,” who was murdered when he was 15. And Ray J, the R&B singer, music producer, and auteur of the Kim Kardashian sex tape, has a timeless tribal tramp stamp. Jake Gyllenhaal once sported a temporary Pittsburgh Steelers bull’s-eye tattoo at the base of his spine.
Plenty of people find this strategically placed tattoos appealing.
Websites like TrampStampNation.net encourage members (mostly women) to proudly post photos and videos of their tramp stamps. There’s also a National Tramp Stamp Appreciation Fan Page on Facebook, which features a voluptuous woman’s inked, ample derrière pointing skyward and a quote about tattoos being “the mark of the soul.”
I’m more aligned with those who see a scourge of tramp stamps at the beach as a blight on the summer season. Pity the beach babes in Malibu whose dreams of being the next Mrs. Affleck will be dashed when they see the indecipherable, messy stain on Batman’s backside.