The Luv Doc: Tattoos Are Pretty Cool
We don’t always have to admit our mistakes, but we eventually have to explain our tattoos
My 18-year-old son wants to get a tattoo. I am against it because I think he is too young. He says he is old enough to do it without my permission, but I have told him that I will stop supporting him financially (school, car insurance, etc.) if he does. I don’t want to drive him away, and I know that ultimately it’s not that big of a deal, but I am worried he will regret it. Am I being unreasonable?
That’s a tough one, Susan. Tattoos are pretty cool – well, except for Manson’s forehead swastika … or anyone’s swastika tattoo for that matter. (Yeah, I’m talking to you, Ed Norton’s character in American History X.) I’m just going to come out and say it: Swastikas are uncool. Let me climb further out on that dangerous limb and say that just about any tattoo inspired by xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, ignorance or hatred is uncool. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of those in the world, so it’s entirely understandable that you might have reservations about tattoos in general. You might also be concerned that 18-year-old boys aren’t the best decision makers. True there as well, but here’s the deal: A bad tattoo is a good character builder.
First of all, a bad tattoo teaches you how to overcome stereotyping. For instance, if your fiancé’s father asks you about your YOLO neck tattoo, you can throw him a curveball by saying it stands for “Young, Opportunistic Loan Officer.” Hopefully you won’t have to explain your Train tramp stamp until after the wedding. He may not understand that “Drops of Jupiter” was a Grammy winner, and not a reference to your cellmate’s money shot.
Some tattoos are so undeniably bad, you can’t explain them away. That’s where tattoos can teach humility. We don’t always have to admit our mistakes, but we eventually have to explain our tattoos. Sure, you’d probably prefer to not have to admit to certain people that you had a weeklong drunken dalliance with a crossdresser named Mizz-tee in the early Nineties that ended badly, but doing so ultimately reveals your humanity – and those hearts and roses are still artfully rendered.
The good news is that tattoos fade just about the same time your memory does. What was once crisp and well defined becomes blurry and indistinct. Your vision tanks about that time as well … and you become blissfully indifferent to what other people think about your physicality. Ashes to ashes, eh?
So are you being unreasonable? Not in the least. As long as junior is still sucking on your money tit, you still get to call the shots. You’re the boss. However, you might want to talk to him about what kind of tattoo he wants and why he wants it. Either way, he may surprise you.