“Hey mom, can I ask you a hypothetical question?”
This is Jack’s way of introducing a subject he thinks might provoke a strong response.
He’s also driving. I’m his passenger. The smart thing to do would be to say no. No questions.
But this isn’t the blog you come to for exceptional parenting advice from someone who thinks things through before speaking. If you’ve been here any length of time, you probably know where this is going.
“Hmmm?” I say.
“What would you say about my getting a tattoo?”
Okay, phew. This question is so much better than ones about drinking or smoking or what I think about pot, or what kind of car he should buy when makes his gazillions. The answer to this kind of question won’t have me looking like a hypocrite, coping to anything that may or may not have been legal at the time, or revealing the sad truth about how little I care about cars.
The tattoo thing is kind of like a cakewalk, relatively speaking. Still, it’s a query with it’s own level of complication.
My generation is sandwiched between the group whose tattoo choices were confined to tall ships, pinup girls, or branches of military service, and that of the millennials, in which I would probably stand out, unadorned with any sort of permanent body art as I am.
Jack’s 15, and Idaho law says anyone between the ages of 14 and 18 can get tattooed legally, with consent of a parent or legal guardian. I haven’t the teensiest idea how strident our local tattoo industry is in making sure a prospective human canvas is of legal age, nor what effort they make to confirm the person accompanying said tattoo-ee is a legal guardian.
I am quite familiar, however, with how accomplished certain young people around here are in making others believe something that isn’t true. Which means that if a CERTAIN person wanted someone to believe he was of a CERTAIN age, he could probably just do his teenage Jedi mind trick.
And them BLAMO, we have a tattoo artist saying “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for, move along,” over and over while he’s inking up my son.
But, if the past is any indicator, responding to Jack’s question with an answer about legal age and laws and what your grandmothers may think is not going carry the gravity I think we need in this situation.
And it’s not like I have a problem with tattoos, either. In theory. I’ve seen some great work on some of my friends.
Of course, the problem is that Jack is not of an age where good decision-making is a hallmark, nor attention to detailed long-term plans. That’s fine when the most important choice you have to make is what to have for lunch. Deciding what image to forever imprint upon your corpus, identifying something that not only represents you well now, but with which you’ll always be happy is another matter.
When I was Jack’s age, my image of choice might have been a unicorn. I was into unicorns. I drew pictures of them. I read books about them. I had a boyfriend who constantly brought me stuff with unicorns on it.
A year later, unicorns were blasé, and I was into spaceships. I was in love with Spock (*sigh*) and drew floor plans for space stations in the margins of my notebook when I was supposed to be paying attention in history.
Today I’d be hard pressed to decide on a single image that defines me, and I’m edging toward the age where I’ll be receiving unsolicited Geriatrics Anonymous support group information in the mail.
Today, defining my favorite anything is a challenge, be it book, musical group, vacation destination, or time of year. My favorite thing can change on a dime depending upon my mood or the weather. I’m not going to let a car-obsessed 15 year-old, whose next most recent favorite thing was Legos (and before that Star Wars, then Pokemon), convince me that a treble clef on his rib cage is absolutely the right thing for him now and will still be right when he’s eighty years old.
That’s right. A treble clef. On his rib cage. Because, you know, music is so important to him. Never mind the fact I can’t convince him to practice his violin without yelling so loud I about burst a blood vessel in my eyeball.
It’s not about the image he wants tattooed, though, or the permanency, necessarily. It’s that such a decision to tattoo or not tattoo is currently in the hands of someone (me), who has yet to even figure out what she wants to be when she grows up.
So, for now the answer I have for him is not yes or no or even maybe.
It’s “go ask your dad.”
Alright, hit me. I’m sure you have an opinion one way or another on letting your kid get a tattoo at 15.
Whatever it is, you don’t need parental permission to vote. Thank you.
Photo by: Abraham Williams