“But Mooomm!!!”

I get this question posed to me a lot, and since more and more young people are wanting to get pierced and tattooed, I figure this is a good time to cover this sort of issue.

There are a lot of variables to this question, and every parent is different, as well as every desiring piercee/tattooee. But here are some basic techniques you could try.

Here are some of the common things parents say.

1) “You’re not old enough.”
This one is pretty self-explanatory. In the US, the average age to get anything other than lobes pierced is 16, and you must have parental consent. It’s pretty much universal that you cannot be tattooed until you are 18, regardless of parental consent. At 18, you’re a legal adult and can do whatever you want.

Some shops will not pierce your face if you’re under 18, even with parental consent, so this restricts your piercing options to various ear piercings, and possibly the navel. You CANNOT get nipples, genitals, or any surface piercings (including microdermals) until you are 18, on average. I’ve heard of some states requiring that you are 21 for these. These rules vary shop by shop, and sometimes state by state, so do your research, call around, and know your stuff.

2) “You’re not responsible enough.”
This one falls entirely on YOU. What have you done to prove to your parents that you’re ready for this? Do you do as you’re told or asked? When your mom tells you to clean the cat box or take out the trash, do you do it right away, or do you fight tooth and nail? Start to prove to your parents that you can take on responsibility and that will always work in your favor. Get good grades, be home before curfew, be respectful to your parents and siblings, that sort of thing.

3) “They’re unsafe.”
Education is always awesome. Many baby boomer-age parents still believe that tongue piercings WILL make your face go numb or paralyzed, some believe that you’ll lose your sense of taste, some believe that certain ear piercings will make you go deaf. Some older adults even believe that chest/breast tattoos make you unable to breast feed in the future. These are all entirely false, and honestly, the tattooed breast one makes me laugh. Tattoos don’t even rest as deeply as hair follicles under the skin, so how could they possibly interfere with breast milk production? Do your research, show them reputable websites that prove it’s all untrue, talk to doctors, show them anatomy pictures that show there are no major nerves or veins in the area that could cause such side effects. These worries are all old wives tales, perpetuated by people who have no respect or understanding for this art form.

Many also only visualize tattoo and piercing parlors as dirty, drug infested, houses of horror that only bikers, felons, and crack addicts frequent. This is very much NOT true anymore. A good shop will be as clean as a doctor’s office, since they use much of the same equipment as doctors. Go in on your own someday and talk to the piercer about their sterilization practices, see if they have any brochures or pamphlets you could take home that explain how they keep things clean. If you can convince your parents to go with you, have THEM talk directly to the piercer or tattoo artist about how to keep the piercing or tattoo clean, how clean they keep the area and their tools. Have them show their autoclave spore test records, have them show any certifications or licenses they have from the state to operate, ask for them to show any health department records they may have showing that they’ve been approved or passed inspections.

4) “They’re unclean or it’ll get infected.”
Infection is 99% wearer error, NOT artist error. Make sure they know this, and that if anything goes wrong it will be because YOU screwed up taking care of it, not because of anything the piercer or tattoo artist did, and it’s not the fault of the piercing or tattoo itself. No one piercing is more prone to infection than any other, and no tattoo is inherently infectious. This also goes back to the “You’re not responsible enough” excuse. If you can prove to your parents that you can properly take care of this piercing or tattoo, that will also show them that you’ve done your research, you know what to do and can take care of it. Explain why alcohol is inappropriate to clean with, why Peroxide is inappropriate to clean with as well. Explain that many of the piercing metals used are implant grade, meaning they’re the same quality of metal used in hip replacements, broken leg plates and screws, etc. If they’re safe enough to be implanted against bone and muscles and replace joints, they’re safe enough to go through your lip.

Also, KNOW THE DIFFERENCE between infection and irritation. Many people still believe that any fluid secretion and any redness is automatically infection, and that’s very much not true. This goes back to doing your research and being responsible enough to take care of it.

Many tattoo inks are organic and even vegan, so there are no hazardous, cancer causing chemicals in them. It is true that some people can be allergic to red inks and white inks, but in that case that’s an allergic reaction, not an infection or the cause of the ink itself. It usually just means you have sensitive skin and can try using another mix or brand of ink, since not all brands and mixes are the same. Again, it’s not the fault of you, the artist or the tattoo itself, it just means you’re unlucky.

5) “You won’t be able to get a job.”
This is also pretty much untrue, and it really upsets me that people still believe this. You can take out a piercing if you want, and usually just be left with a small scar that resembles an acne scar. If that happens, a swish of makeup and it’s gone. You can also get over the counter scar treatment creams and oils to minimize scarring once it’s healed over completely. BioOil is a good one.

You can also wear clear plastic or glass retainers in facial piercings, that can sometimes make them nearly invisible to the eye. Their function is to hold your piercing open while remaining as unobtrusive as possible. It won’t hide it completely, like it was never there, but it can minimize the piercing very much and many employers will compromise that if you wear clear retainers, you can have the piercing. So long as you keep them to a minimum.

Tattoos cannot be removed, this is true, for the most part. Other than extremely expensive laser surgery that can cost several times more than the tattoo originally did, they are to be considered permanent. Tell your parents you’re not going to tattoo your face, your throat, your knuckles, or any other extremely obvious place. This goes back to responsibility. Make sure they know that the artwork you want tattooed is classy, pretty, appropriate, meaningful, etc. You’re not going to get naked zombie chicks humping flaming devil skulls tattooed on the front of your throat.

Also, many companies carry tattoo coverup makeup, Dermablend being one and even Makeup Forever (available at Sephora) carried something once that was touted as a movie-quality coverup makeup. Also, there is a company called TatJacket that makes individual sleeves you can use to cover tattoos in the workplace. http://www.tatjacket.com is their website. I have a pair of these, and they’re pretty darn awesome.

Employeers are becoming slowly more and more accepting of body mods. Many food industry jobs allow you to have a nostril stud (not ring) on the job, some allow visible tattoos so long as they’re not offensive (naked chicks and devil skulls, remember?) and if you get the tattoo in an area covered by regular clothes anyway, who’s ever going to know?

6) “You’ll regret it when you’re old/when you’re 80. It’ll sag and be ugly when you’re old.”
My favorite response to this is: “I’ll be old/I’ll be 80. I WON’T CARE what I look like at that point.” Make sure you get something you won’t regret. Get something that means something to you, even if you just want it because you like the artwork and want to be a walking canvas. Getting a tattoo just because it’s a lovely image is just as legitimate a reason as a memorial tattoo to your late grandmother. Tattoos don’t need some long drawn out elaborate meaning behind them. So long as YOU like it, and will like it for the rest of your life, it doesn’t matter.

7) For stretched ears, many will say “It’s irreversible/gross/unclean/unhealthy/etc.”
This is a little bit different. Stretching should be considered a permanent modification, because once you hit a certain size (which is different for everyone, but is usually around 2ga) it’s very unlikely that you’ll shrink back down to a “normal” size, or as if you were never pierced at all.

You CAN reverse ear stretching, in several ways. One, you don’t stretch too large. Again, the general agreement is that 2ga is the “point of no return”. Some can go back down, some can’t. There’s really no way to tell, so don’t stretch that far unless you are SURE that you don’t ever want to go back. If you do want to stretch beyond that then decide later that you don’t want large stretched lobes anymore, many body mod artists can sew your lobes back together, and make them look sometimes as if nothing ever happened. This is usually for extremely large stretched ears, we’re talking maybe an inch or more, and wouldn’t really be viable for someone at a 0ga or 7/16ths.

A common misconception is that stretched lobes smell. Your parents may or may not know this, but if they do, again, EDUCATION. They only smell if you don’t shower, bathe, clean your body and jewelry, etc. There is no reason your lobes should smell if you practice simple, basic hygiene. Wearing organic materials (horn, bone, wood, stone, etc.) can also minimize any smell that may arise. Sometimes people who wear metal or acrylic notice more of a smell, no matter how clean they keep them. They’re just one of those unlucky people, is all.

Also, wear tasteful jewelry. Show your parents how beautiful stretched lobes can be. Wear stone flowers, black horn wings, pretty white bone spirals. If all you wear are gigantic tunnels or acrylic plugs with rotting eyeballs in them, then yeah, they probably won’t like that.

8 ) Now, what if you do all this and your parents still say no?
That means you WAIT until you are 18, are out from under their roof and not dependent on them for anything, and can go get it done yourself, under your own power, with your own money. You are an adult at 18 in the eyes of the law, and your parents can’t stop you at that point. Because they say no, that DOES NOT mean you do it yourself, get your friends to do it, go to a sub-standard shop and get it done underage anyway. This is one of the WORST things you can do, because it just proves to your parents that you really WEREN’T mature/responsible enough to do it because you went behind their backs, lied to them, and did something they told you not to. You are basically owned by your parents until you are 18, according to the law, so if they say no, that means no. By doing it yourself or having a substandard shop do it, you’re proving that you don’t respect the art, you don’t respect yourself, and you don’t care enough to do it the right way. You’ll REALLY never convince them later on if you do it yourself.

In the end, education is key. Education is magical, it shows you know what you’re doing, what your motivation is, that you’re ready to do this because you understand the risks and possible dangers behind it. It shows your love for it, that you’re willing to spend time and energy researching and learning about it before you do it. It shows that you respect your body and this art form and your parents by asking their permission, providing an educated and informed counter-argument, and are willing to work for what you want.

If you’re not willing to do what it takes to get a proper piercing or tattoo, then you don’t really want it badly enough. And frankly, you don’t deserve it if you’re not willing to work for it, or wait for it.

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