This I Believe

Carter - roswell, Georgia
Entered on December 12, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

I believe that you should think long and carefully before getting anything tattooed on your body. If you don’t believe it, make your parents look at their high school yearbook pictures. Like everyone else looking at old pictures of themselves, they’ll be embarrassed. How could your father have thought he looked good in a pointy-collared shirt, tight pants with skinny legs, and Hippie beads? Your mother probably had long stringy hair, a tie-dyed dress, and a peace sign necklace. You wonder what they could have been thinking. (Although they won’t admit it, they probably wonder too). Now picture your parents in those same outfits at their current age. On back-to-school night, you can be really thankful that people’s tastes change, or your parents would be meeting your algebra teacher dressed like they just left Woodstock. It’s not just our parents who change, either. Imagine yourself at the age of six. Chances are good that you really believed that light-up shoes and a Superman T-shirt made a great outfit. If your tastes didn’t change, your first day of middle school would have been very painful.

It’s a common experience to look back at yourself and wonder how you could have suffered from such bad ideas. The point is that our tastes do change throughout our lives. They change a lot. And that’s a good thing. It’s called maturity. Maturity is what lets us move to a better understanding of what is really important. Most of all, maturity helps us make better decisions about ourselves and our lives as we get older. Fortunately for us all, it also lets us understand that the clothes we wore last year were unbelievably lame.

Until a person gains the maturity that allows him to act like a responsible adult, I believe he should make every effort not to do anything that will cause permanent changes to his body. That’s why tattoos are a bad idea. They become permanent reminders, etched into your skin and visible to the world, that you were once an impulsive kid with the taste of an average teenager. Something like a band, a slogan, or a person’s name might be the center of your current universe. Chances are excellent, though, that 311, Go Trojans, or Wanda Forever will not have the same significance to you in a few years, or even in a few weeks, that they do now. In the years to come, do you want to explain these things to your friends, your boss, your spouse, and eventually, your children? If you have such strong feelings about these things right now that you can’t resist sharing them with the world, my advice is to write them in Sharpie. It eventually washes off. And you won’t have to explain anything to anyone.

If you are still not convinced and find yourself in a tattoo parlor ready to let a person with a lot of piercings create a permanent work of art on your skin, think about one last thing. Imagine the front porch of a nursing home 60 or 70 years in the future. Picture two old men sitting in rocking chairs. Now picture them with their shirts off, their skin saggy, wrinkled, and gray. The ship is sinking, the eagle is dying, and the barbed wire is sagging to the ground. How great do those tattoos look now?