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Hong Kong Ink

By Amy Ma | Dec 03, 2009

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The thing that scares me about tattoos isn’t just the fact that they’re permanent. It’s also because they’re a mass invitation for the world to judge you. People aren’t satisfied with the fact that you’ve simply chosen a pretty design for yourself; they want some deeply significant back story behind it.

Don’t get me wrong—there’s a certain rebellious, tortured-artist appeal about someone who sports the ink. But somehow, I don’t think that’s going to happen for Ryan, who was about to get a slab of bacon tattooed onto his forearm.

“Aw yeah, this is going to be awesome,” he exclaimed. He took my silence as a sign of agreement, when in fact I was just exercising the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” policy.

Ryan exhibited the same innocent eagerness symptomatic of all spanking new culinary-school grads. He had returned to Hong Kong after crossing the finish line, and before he was reduced to the bottom rung of the ladder as some apprentice or commis in a real kitchen, he wanted to once again commemorate his passion for cooking.

There’s a lot of passion-speak in the culinary world these days. “The M9 Wag beef, it’s so beautiful and marbled—I am so passionate about it.” “This fish, I hand-speared it myself, with passion.” “My morning cereal, it is not just Kellogg’s rice krispies—I eat that snap, crackle, and pop passionately.”

This sappy love affair with food can be downright nauseating at times. Especially, moments like this—when a completely rational adult decides that it’s a good idea to have a picture of a breakfast item on his skin... forever.

“Ooooh, what do you think about matching salt and pepper shakers tattooed on each side of my wrist?” Ryan added. “It’ll always remind me about my road to becoming a chef.”

I doubt Ryan truly felt the need for a personal reminder about his chef experiences. In his mind, he’s imagining the perfect scenario where the hottest girl in the room asks him the meaning behind his tattoo and then crushes on him when he casually reveals his chef status. Chances of that happening are slim.

But before I could tell him, I saw his face wince at the first vibrating stroke of the tattoo gun. There was the faint guilt of being a culprit for not talking some sense into him. And there was also solace in the fact that cosmetic laser treatments are improving.

When I was in high school, kids wanted to give themselves “edge cred” and all started going down to Lan Kwai Fong to get stuff tattooed. I wonder if anyone knows what lies beneath their corporate white-collared Thomas Pink shirts today. I know at least a few people who strategically cover up their late 90s barbwire bicep tattoos. (Anthony Bourdain has one, have you noticed?).

As for whether or not I have a tattoo... go ahead and take your best guess. But I assure you, if I do have one, it isn’t of anything you can find in a refrigerator.

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