I take an art class once a week at the local community college, and I get there on the bus. I didn’t think it was necessary to buy a semester parking pass for a class that meets once a week, plus the fact that a bus pass costs $2 and a parking pass is up to $60 these days. (Local city bus, half the time the fare boxes are broken, so the 10-ride $2 pass often lasts me for most of a semester.)
When I get on the bus at about 7am, it’s smashed full of high school kids. I am not a morning person, so most of the time I don’t notice much about my surroundings. I’m too busy trying to hang on as the lead-footed driver lurches from stop to stop (no chance of any kid actually getting up and letting the old lady sit down, believe me). But last week I noticed something.
High school kids with really bad tattoos. I mean REALLY bad. Wavering lines, ugly pictures, gang style calligraphy that looked like it was done by someone who had lost their eyeglasses and was staggering drunk. Girls with illegible writing on their necks that had already spread out and changed from black to blue.
I wonder how many of them will think that ink reflects who they are in five years. Five years is not much when you get to be my age, but the difference between 18 and 23, yeah, that’s significant.
In five years, those kids are going to be paying for the tattoo removal clinic’s new offices. They are going to be sitting there day after day getting that glop zapped off them. No matter how cool they think that stuff looks now, when they’re out there trying to find a job, they’re not going to dazzle anyone with that kind of personal adornment unless they want work in a biker bar. They probably won’t be hanging around with the same bunch of friends who thought that ink was such hot stuff. There goes one major incentive to keep it.
I remember how sure I was at that age that what I wanted inked was what I should have, forever. A cute little flower in green ink behind my left ankle on the inside. I used to draw it on my skin with a green pen. Now that I’m old enough to have a tattooed daughter who’s herself old enough to have children, I look back at my green flower and smile. It wouldn’t have been a disaster to get that permanently inked (had there been such a thing as a tattoo parlor within 200 miles) but it sure wouldn’t have been something I’d show off with pride. If I’d gotten some of the ugly junk I saw on the bus I’d be looking for someplace to buy a burka.
There’s a reason why people younger than 18 can’t legally get tattooed. A very good reason. But the problem is, as with so many other things in life, making people wait till they’re a certain age means that the minute they pass that birthday, off they go. And these kids definitely went.
Have I turned into someone who ought to be yelling at kids to get off my lawn and get away from the tattoo parlors? Do people not spend time planning what they want any more? Is this the resurgence of the “if it feels good, do it” generation?