When I was a little girl, I thought that the only sailors, bikers and criminals had tattoos.
Now a days, everyone appears to have tattoos! Some folks have more colorful design on their bodies than natural skin color showing. Tattoo parlors are plentiful; Tattoos are in the top ten for internet searches; and while for the timid there are small little dolphins and stars on ankles, the art of branding ones body appears to be addictive – folks keep adding to their personal tattoo menageries.
$1.65 Billion is spent annual in the US on tattoos; 45 million Americans have at least 1 tattoo!
Tattoos are a personal style statement and of course teenagers are jumping on this fashion wagon as a form of self expression. A 2010 Pew Research study found that nearly 40 percent of young people between the ages of 18 and 29 have tattoos, and of those, half have two to five tattoos. The study also found that parents increasingly support their kids’ decisions to get tattoos. Once again, I am not part of a parenting trend nor in the majority!
I have told my own kids to wait until they are living on their own and self-sufficient adults to get tattoos. I have even resorted to telling them that they will be out of the Will if they get a tattoo. Oy! I do not want my children to rush and permanently ink their skin with whatever passing teen whim is the flavor of the minute!
When my children were small, I believed, perhaps naively, that temporary tattoos (henna and airbrush) would diminish their desire for permanent body decorations later in life!
I also used to tell my teens that if they got tattoos they could not be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Oy! (While I learned that this was inaccurate, Judaism like Islam does not support tattooing because it believes that human bodies are precious gifts on loan from God and not our personal property to do with as we please.)
As part of my need for more enlightenment on the subject, I did a quick study on the history of tattoos.
Tattooing has been practiced all over the world for thousands of years: Early Egyptians used tattoos to differentiate slaves and peasants; In Greece around 2,000 B.C. tattoos were used as a mode of communication between spies; Early Persians marked slaves with tattoos on their foreheads; In Southeast Asia, tattoos were considered magical and were applied for protection and good fortune while hunting; Early indigenous Europeans used tattoos as a form of punishment to mark slaves and prisoners; The Berbers in North Africa used tattoos to treat rheumatic pain; In many cultures tattoos marked the underworld and lower class; Some used tattoos to mark their family’s crest or tribal symbols; Many others demonstrated artistic expression with beautiful animals, mythical creatures and design.
How ironic – Teenagers who celebrate doing exciting and shocking things, are merely repeating history by following what their ancestors have done for thousands of years!
After my short tattoo discovery, I have a much better appreciation for the rich and important history of tattoos and their intrigue in modern times. While I salute adults who chose to decorate their bodies with beautiful and meaningful tattoos, I still stand by my original belief that teenagers should not rush to get tattoos, they should wait to make these important permanent design decisions.
I still have some time for myself!!!