Wednesday, September 27, 2006

underage or overly ignorant?

In my last post, I forgot to mention an interesting tidbit that I learned from a tattoo artist I met in Rotorua named Elton. We were hanging out in a trendy café across the street from his shop, Globus Gallery, and he happened to mention that New Zealand law states that persons of any age can acquire tattoos and piercings. A parent must accompany anyone under the age of 16, but in many cases this is no hindrance. Elton has even tattooed children as young as 5! This got us into a conversation about the appropriateness of tattooed minors, and gave me a flashback to a post I wrote for Modblog only a few months ago.
I wasn’t completely convinced that kids as young as 16 were ready for tattoos, but as a result of the highly significant Maori tattoos I had seen while in New Zealand I wondered if perhaps some kids truly were ready. I will forever (probably…) hold on to my belief that if a person is old enough to drive a car and have sex (yes parents, kids these days have sex at about the same time you were starting to eat solid foods…okay maybe that’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea…) then they are certainly old enough to get pierced by a professional piercer. Odds are that if they aren’t allowed to, they’ll do it themselves (read: INFECTION). And what’s the worst that can happen? Parents just need to watch their pierced kids to see if there’s any need to remove the piercing, in which case there will be nothing more than a tiny scar to remember it by. But I digress…
So, I was torn. Are kids as young as 16 ready for the lifelong commitment that is a tattoo? I got my answer this morning while reading The Connecticut Post. In today’s edition, there’s a student-written article entitled “Tattoos, Piercings: Controversial as Ever.” Basically, the authors went around to various high schools in the area to interview other students and get some perspective on the issue of tattoos and piercings. What they found is quite revealing, to me at least.
The teens asked their peers 5 questions regarding mild body mods: Would you get a tattoo? How would your parents feel if you got a new tattoo or piercing? Would you support a friend’s decision to get a tattoo or piercing? What kind/amount of tattoos and piercings is appropriate for a young adult? Does “freedom of expression” in the Constitution cover body “art?” and “How would you react to your own child wanting a tattoo or piercing in the future?”
The answers they received were full of misconceptions. Some kids did get it right (if there is such a thing…but at least they weren’t being ignorant), such as one young girl who was quoted in saying that she would get a tattoo in memory of her deceased uncle. Others were obviously not so thoughtful about their answers, and seemed like they were just pulling stereotypes out of a hat. One such answer was that of a boy from Seymour High School. In response to the question about tattoos and piercings among peers, he said “I’d tell them they’d regret it and [that] it’d be a bad mistake.” The same kid is quoted again later in the article, and with an even more ignorant statement than his first. In response to the Constitutional rights issue, the boy said "Sure, because people can 'express themselves' by showing how often they make bad decisions.”
Well it’s obvious that this kid is NOT ready for a tattoo right now, and probably never will be. I’m sure that he would come to love a tattoo if it had special significance to him, but his closed-minded attitude already predisposes him to never even try it. Although some of the other kids interviewed had more neutral opinions on body modification, I still get the feeling that they don’t understand it as anything more than a fad, or something that only rebels and impulsive people get.
“…a tattoo can tell you a lot about someone.” I wonder if this student is referring to tattoos in general (a generalization about tattooed people), or each individual tattoo (a comment on the story a tattoo can tell). I also see the word “regret” used a number of times in response to the various questions. If these kids think of “regret” when they contemplate tattoos and piercings, they are most definitely not ready. Sure, some of us enthusiasts get tattoos that we look back on and think “Wow, I can’t believe I wanted that on my skin,” but I don’t think that true modders understand the concept of mod regret. Mods represent a time in your life, an experience, a person…they tell the story of your life. And regretting life is just plain futile.
I've been contemplating the issue of modding minors for some time now, and this article gave me the unique opportunity to gain some inside perspective on the issue. Mods are an extremely personal choice, which makes generalizations about anything mod-related pretty much invalid. However, one can plainly see from the article that many teens are too immature to handle the concept of permanent mods like tattoos. In many other cultures, kids are taught about the significance that mods can hold, and are therefore prepared to take on the responsibility of choosing and bearing a mod that they will appreciate for the rest of their lives. Perhaps if American kids were more educated on the truly unique concept of body modification, they would make better mod decisions and parents wouldn't have to worry about their child coming home with "SLAYER" scrawled across their chest in ink.

The only time the words "tattoo" and "regret" should be used in the same sentence.


Velvet Jones said...

I think the tattooing issue depends on the individual culture and maturity of the child/person. I think the kids in the US should wait until they're at least 18 for serious tattoos and piercings, or at least get something that could be tattooed over fairly easily and/or piercings that could heal well. 16 - early 20's are pretty much babies, and these are difficult choices to make. That's a tough question.

Kim Andre said...

Im 16 and got a rather large tattoo on my leg. i love it and body modds but im not done with it yet and want too make something that mean something too me.

I do regret i didnt take anything with more value for me but it have some of the points and i love it.