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New ink


As a mother, I think I am considered pretty lenient. We are not a household of rules; I am not a great rule follower, myself. Maybe I drew the line at a few sugary cereals, but searching my memory of all these years of maternal responsibility, the best I can come up with is “no Ouija boards.”

I am also not a fan of tattoos… at least most tattoos. I concede there are some beautiful and meaningful ones out there but, as a rule—there’s that word I hate—I just don’t like them. My main reason for this is that most tattoos are permanent. Permanent! Especially if you are not in the position to get expensive and painful treatments to remove that Tweety Bird on your left calf, tattoos can become regrettable decisions.

So I have always cautioned my kids against getting a tattoo. “Who knows what you will want to do when you grow up,” I’d say. I’d tell them about the girl in my nursing school class who was required to put bandages over her neck tattoos when working with patients, looking like a patient herself. Some tattoos don’t wear well either. “When you get old, sometimes they start looking like old bologna,” I liked to say.

But all this has been tossed aside since my son, Sam, came home from college this spring with a tattoo of a fern and flower combo on his right bicep. Unbeknownst to me, he’s had this matching tattoo with his friend Allie since December. This past year, she was the managing editor of The Daily Orange, the independent student newspaper of Syracuse University while Sam was editor-in-chief. It seems a friend of theirs in graphic design made the illustration for them and, in a pledge of camaraderie, they went together to get the tattoos.

All I can say is that Sam’s tattoo seems strategically placed to be easily concealed by a shirt sleeve. And, I state reluctantly, it has grown on me despite my initial shudder of comical disbelief. I am sure I don’t know about a lot of things that Sam has been up to.

Tattooing is an ancient art form practiced throughout the world. Ancient Egypt and India used tattoos as a means of religious worship and social status and even as a kind of medical treatment. Traditional Samoan tribes held tattooing ceremonies to celebrate a younger chief’s rise to a leadership role.

In the West, tattoos were once considered counter-cultural, the purview of sailors, circus performers, bikers and prisoners. But tattoos have now become a mainstream form of self-expression.

According to 2019 statistics from the website www.historyoftattoos.net, 36% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have at least one tattoo. The website says that 17% of people who have tattoos regret them most often because, “It is the name of another person.”

This leads me to my revised point. If you are thinking of getting a tattoo, think ahead. Avoid the trends of swallows and barbed wire. Opt for something unique and, in my opinion, something easily concealed.



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