At one time, tattoos were associated with the military, gangs and prison. Tattooing showed someone belonged to a specific group. Times have changed. Like so many other cultural changes, our attitudes towards tattooing have been influenced by actors, sports figures and others in the media spotlight, not necessarily known their decision-making skills. The vast majority of people get tattoos as a means of expressing their individuality, sense of style and fashion. However, if everyone gets a tattoo, is tattooing really a sign of individuality?
Keep in mind tattooing is permanent. We tend to believe that modern medicine or science can fix or erase almost anything even spur of the moment decisions like tattooing your soon-to-be-ex’s name on your arm. While it is true that some tattoos can be removed, or more accurately the skin with the tattoo can be removed, the process is by no means guaranteed. It is expensive, and the results are often imperfect. It can also be exceptionally painful (even more than the break-up itself!).
As the saying goes, a tattoo can be a permanent reminder of temporary insanity, or heartbreak, stupidity or intoxication. Life is a learning process and mistakes or poor choices are natural. We just don’t want to carry permanent reminders of our mistakes for the world to see.
If you’re thinking about a permanent tattoo, especially as a fashion statement, remember that fashions and tastes change. Think how funny it is to see your parents’ goofy haircuts and weird clothes in pictures from when they were your age. Now imagine those same clothes and haircuts today, never being able to get rid of them.
The tattoo itself may change, but not in the way you’d like. Your body will not always be the way it is now. Pregnancy can make that cute little dolphin near your belly button an imposing whale. That impressive line of thorns on your arm won’t be quite as impressive when it sags down to your elbow.
If you decide a tattoo is right for you, discuss it with your parent or guardian. Most reputable tattoo artists will not work with minors without a parent or guardian’s consent. Next consider the very significant issue of safety. A permanent tattoo involves injecting the skin with ink, and that involves a needle. Your skin is designed to be your first line of defence against infection, and that goes out the window when you stick something into it.
Go to a studio that uses sterile packaged needles, and sterile equipment and supplies. At the least, a dirty needle can cause skin infections that can leave you in pain and even permanently scarred. That is nothing compared to the other risks. Serious viral infections such as hepatitis viruses that affect the liver, and HIV, the virus known to cause AIDS, are spread through dirty needles. These diseases can be fatal and have no cure. You wouldn’t go to a doctor or dentist who used dirty needles in their office. Any tattoo artist should take the same precautions in their studio. They should use gloves and the environment must be clean and the instruments should be properly sterilized. Make sure that the studio has a business license.
Stay away from so called amateur or home-made tattoos. These are especially common among adolescents, since many kids cannot afford the services of professional tattoo artists. Home-made tattoos present a huge risk of infection. Even when amateurs attempt to clean their needles, practices like soaking them in alcohol, boiling them or heating them in an open flame do not guarantee a clean needle. The risk of infection is just too high. There is no personal sense of style, identity or fashion that is worth it.
Another type of body art which is becoming as mainstream as tattooing is piercing. Ears have been pierced for decades and other areas of the body are becoming common places to pierce. Piercing is more accessible to adolescents, as often even professional piercers will work with an adolescent without a parent or guardian’s permission.
Though piercing does not have the permanence of a tattoo, it carries similar risks. Without going into the gory details, some body parts do not lend themselves to being pierced. As a result, these sites can become infected, painful or permanently scarred. More important, the greatest risk lies in the potential for infection with a virus. These infections are the same as those passed by dirty tattoo needles. They cannot be taken lightly.
Body art, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad, just like the individuals who chose it. It takes careful thought by you and an adult you trust to decide if tattooing or piercing is right for you. Being young gives you many opportunities. However making choices also brings responsibilities. Small decisions can come to have a huge significance. Don’t make a bad or unsafe decision now that will be exaggerated over time.
So, before you go out and tattoo your boyfriend’s name on your forehead or a giant snake on your neck, pull out that box of pictures of your parents when they were your age. Have a good laugh and think about it.