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Teen Tats: You Don’t Have to Like Them, But . . .

by Jane Wangersky | March 25th, 2016 | Behavior, Teens

tattoo teenI wasn’t the one who wrote the permission note to the tattoo artist — his father did that — but I didn’t try to stop him either. So now I have a teen with tats. Nothing big or offensive, just some Chinese characters on his forearms, standing for the good qualities his martial arts school sets as goals. (Yes, we’re sure that’s what they are — his dad had them checked out by an actual Chinese speaker, and some of his schoolmates are able to read them.)

I still think tattoos in general are stupid. But there are several reasons I’m not freaking out over my son’s decision (besides the fact he paid for it with his own money).

For one thing, tattoos have become pretty mainstream in the last few years. Though I can’t shake my childhood image that they’re for sailors, bikers, and other tough guys (and a tiny number of tough girls), I know rationally that that’s not true anymore. I see them on younger people with responsible jobs and middle class lives all the time. Also, some people who are not so young and somewhat above middle class, like the Prime Minister of Canada.

Next, and related, this mainstreaming means tattoos don’t have to hold someone back in the job market. A study by the University of Miami School of Business Administration recently found that “when the researchers controlled for a large set of factors that have been shown to affect employment and earnings, the negative impact of having a tattoo becomes small and non-significant . . . some industries, such as music and entertainment, professional sports, fashion, bars and nightclubs, styling, etc., actually welcome employees with tattoos.”

Fine, but I still don’t like tattoos, and someday my son may not like his anymore either. What then? Well, there is a procedure for getting them removed with lasers. It’s painful and can take multiple sessions (though the sessions themselves are very short). But it can be done.

Finally, tattoos may have their uses even for people who don’t want to look tattooed. Scalp micropigmentation is a process, using pigment instead of ink, that marks the head to simulate hair follicles. It’s one cosmetic solution for people with thinning hair (like parents of teens); not one I’d go for, but YMMV.

If you still can’t stand the idea, your teen will have to respect that, but you may have a struggle to go through.

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