Mini Ask a Lady: Teenage Tattoos

by A Lady

I’m about to turn 18 and want to get a tattoo of some writing on my shoulder. Should I?

[Timely!] Well, probably not, although there’s no right answer. (But: don’t do it!) I got a text-based tattoo when I was 18 (family name thing), and I don’t … regret it, exactly, but it’s not the prettiest thing in the world or the best decision I ever made. Fortunately it’s small and far enough away from my eyes that I rarely have to look at it or how pathetically blurry and disgusting it’s become, and I’m still kind of amused that I got a tattoo when I was 18 (so out of character), and have enjoyed the nonstop fun of answering variations on “what does ___ mean?” over the years. That last part is very much a joke, by the way — text-based tattoos should come with a warning, for stupid people like me, that strangers will ask you, forever, what ___ means. But. But!

If deep down in your heart of hearts* you truly believe that the time you’ll spend enjoying this tattoo will be longer or more significant than the time you’ll spend regretting or otherwise disliking this tattoo — which is difficult to know at any age but especially difficult at 18 (also, don’t do it), and because tattoos can look bad in ways you can’t even imagine right now (here’s a video on how they age) — then at least get it done at a high-end parlor, so there’s less chance that as the decades pass your almost certainly ill-advised tattoo (whatever it might be) will turn into into a cloudy blob that from far away just makes it look like your skin has dingy permanent stains, which it almost certainly will.**

But really, don’t do it. Or, wait until you’re 21. (And then keep waiting.) The tides are turning on tattoos, I think — soon all the tattooed people in my generation will be old and saggy, and the young folks will see us and think tattoos are an elderly thing. Maybe. Sometimes you have to find these things out on your own, though, in which case you should at least try to be honest with yourself about why you’re doing it. (Asterisk one* again.)

Also: as the years pass and your friends get, love, and regret various tattoos for purposes of enhancing their bodies/looking cool/commemoration, the ones who never get any tattoos sometimes slowly prove themselves to be better at longer-term thinking and self-control. And have prettier skin. (The Hunger Games of youthful body modification?) And not to be too mom-ish about it, but I think there’s something nice about that, and sometimes wish I could go back to being a clean canvas. (Although carefully planned tattoos can be absolutely gorgeous, too.)

But mostly: a stupid tattoo is forever, and almost all 18-year-olds are stupid (it’s not your fault), so the odds are against you. Don’t do it.

*Did a hot person you know recently get a tattoo? Beware hot people with tattoos met while teenaged — they mess with your head, and it’ll turn out they weren’t that hot anyway, and that their tattoos were in fact laughably bad. But there’s no real way to take anyone’s word for this. Except mine: wait! Don’t do it!

**Also I’m obviously not a tattoo artist — if any are reading, what kind of place should she go to/questions should she ask if she disregards this advice, which as a teenager she probably will/should?

Previously: Lingerers, Admirers, and Silent Girl.

A Lady is one of several rotating ladies who know everything. Do you have any questions for A Lady? (300-word max, please.)