Hey there, Grubbs,
My name is Troy, female and I am 17 and my mate will be turning 18 soon. He will be getting tattoos soon, and they all have great meanings! Anyway, that is besides the point,
My parents are kind of askew when it comes down to tattoos. As a family, we all watch tattoo shows and admire other people with tattoos, so it would seem alright for me to date someone who would have tattoos, right?
I asked my dad if it would be okay if I dated someone with tattoos and he said that it was up to me, but then later said "you're only as good as the company you keep," and "All depends on who you want to be seen with." I get that society somewhat frowns upon tattoos, but I don't see how a piece of art permanently etched into someone's flesh separates them into a different category dating wise.
I'm going to be blunt and say that I come from a fairly er..."high class" background, and I hate sounding prude, but that is the best way to describe it.
I'm just ... I'm scared that my parents won't accept my boyfriend for having ink. They are fairly conservative, but it's just kind of odd that we all watch all of these tattoo shows? I would've assumed that they would've been okay with them. I personally don't plan to get any tattoos, since I am too young and I gotta think about em! I do think my boyfriend is A TAD young to get a tattoo, but meh, his choice really and he's been thinking about them for a while and ramble ramble ramble.
SO, real question is, is how to get my parents to look past my boyfriend's discreet ink to see who he really is?
Thanks, hopefully I wrote this well enough for you to understand. I tend to rant on and on hah.
* * *
Thank you for bringing up an interesting and different subject. Tattoos, as I’m sure you’re aware, have a rather dicey history dating back to the practices of pirates, rough-and-tumble sailors, and gang members. But they also have a tribal history, with many tribes from Africa to Polynesia making use of the tattoo arts for ceremonial, identification, and coming-of-age ceremonies. More recently, they have become a preferred form of expression for wealthy athletes and rock stars.
Because of this past, a lot of people look down on those with tattoos, especially those belonging to the upper crusty class, as you say you and your family do.
We should not, of course, judge people by their exteriors. Proper, PC people don’t judge those for the color of their skin or a disability or their gender. Tattoos are not something you are born with, however; they are something you choose to put on your body. For this reason, they can be viewed as a reflection upon the tattooed-person’s character.
Papabear considered having a tattoo for many years. The first tattoo I was thinking about getting consisted of my name and my bride’s name tattooed on my arm. Now, if I had done that years ago I’d be regretting it now, years after the divorce! More recently, I was thinking about some sort of bear-related tattoo to reflect on the outside who I am on the inside. But I eventually decided against it entirely because I concluded that I don’t need an illustration on my body to make me a bear. I already AM a bear!
This is not to say that I object to other people having tattoos; it’s just not for me. I do think that many people get tattoos for the wrong reasons, the worst being to look cool, which makes about as much sense as smoking cigarettes.
In the case of your boyfriend, it sounds like he is getting tattoos with significant personal meanings for him. That’s cool. Papabear can understand that. I used to watch “Miami Ink” a lot and some of the customers getting tattoos had really touching stories, none more so than those who got tattoos of the faces of loved ones who had passed away. Others just have amazing body art that expresses who they are as they try to show themselves as individuals.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about the permanency of tattoos. Sure, you can get them lasered off, but only with a lot of pain and so-so results. So, you best be dang sure you want this marking on your body for the rest of your life. Hence, of course, your mentioning that you think he might be a little young at 18 for such a big decision. Papabear doesn’t know him personally, so he may or may not be mature enough.
The other issue is the artist you choose. Make sure that he or she runs an IMMACULATE shop (infections are a very real possibility, whether skin or blood, and that is a serious medical issue to be cautious about). Some states require licensing, some do not; if your state does, check to see if the artist is licensed. And, of course, pick a TALENTED artist. The best tattoos are works of art, not something taken off a wall or book of samples. It should be unique to you.
So, let’s get back to your parents. They have an evident fascination for tattoos, yet they have ambiguous feelings about having someone in their family, even extended family, who sports them. One of their concerns might have to do with employability. That is, people who are covered in a lot of tattoos and/or piercings, scarring, implants, and other body modifications are less likely to be hired by employers. There are a couple of reasons for this: 1) employers worry that if they have employees with tattoos that they will scare away customers; and 2) tattoos represent people who are risk takers and rebels when most employers want underlings who do as they are told and suck up to the boss. Oh, they might SAY they want risk takers and people who think outside the box, but most really don’t mean that because innovative employees represent a threat to their positions. Anyway, Papabear suspects this would be a main worry of your having a boyfriend with ink.
Since your mother and father have an interest in tattoos, that is a good sign they are at least a little open to it. You note that your boyfriend is going to have the tattoos in discreet locations, so that is a good thing, as well. Papabear suggests you talk with your parents about this, explaining that your boyfriend will be subtle about his body art. Also, all of you could get together and talk about the tattoos themselves, how this ink on his body has an important meaning to him and is something very special. He’s not trying to act like a thug or gang member; he is trying to express himself in an artistic way that is important to him.
Furthermore, it sounds like your father, in particular, needs to get to know your boyfriend as a person better, and not just as someone with tattoos. He is a person first, and always. Seeing your boyfriend as a good person will go a long way toward answering that quip about “you’re only as good as the company you keep.” A sentiment I, personally, have some disagreement with.
You can also talk to your boyfriend about your concerns that he is a little young and he might want to wait a little while to think about this important decision. Tell him you support him fully, but that he should think carefully about what exactly he will be doing, or even if he should. He might even decide, as I did, with considerably thought that he doesn’t want them after all.
After careful thought and discussion with all concerned, if your boyfriend gets those tattoos, I’m sure you will support and love him for what he is. With luck, your parents will too, but, in the end, he is your boyfriend, not theirs.
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.