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EDITORIAL: What kids and young adults should know about tattoos

By: The Gazette editorial
January 31, 2014 Updated: January 31, 2014 at 12:42 pm
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In a cool-hipster part of Seattle lurks acclaimed young tattoo artist Electric Alivia. Even her name is cool. An Electric Alivia skin stain could be the Dolce Gabbana of tattoos.

So listen up, tattoo consumers. Alivia actually cares about the people who pay her.

Alivia has joined a growing cadre of tattoo professionals who refuse to work on hands, necks, fingers and faces. Parents, guardians and mentors should share her explanation with children, teens and young adults. One reason involves tattoo science:

  • "Tattoo ink remains a liquid underneath your skin ... the ideal placement for this pigment is right between the epidermis and dermis, seems simple right? It's really not," Alivia wrote on Tumblr. "The tissue on your face/hands/feet is so thin it takes skill and practice to 'float' the pigment in the perfect spot. Too shallow and pigment will fall out when your skin naturally regenerates, too deep and your tattoo will appear blurred, blobby, or permanently bruised ... even an experienced artist can misjudge depth."

The more compelling rationale behind Alivia's policy involves a realistic view of society:

  • Employment: "Does not only your current job but your desired lifetime career allow visible tattoos? This does not mean 'I work at Taco Bell and they don't care.' Unless your life plan includes working at Taco Bell for the long haul, THINK TOWARD THE FUTURE. TATTOOS ARE FOR (expletive) EVER ... How do you think hand/neck tattoos affect you applying for a business loan from a bank?"
  • Law Enforcement: "You have your neck tattooed? Congratulations you are now an object of interest for every cop you walk past. Police will stare down your tattoos checking for gang/criminal imagery and excuses to (expletive) with you... You may notice routine traffic stops are no longer so routine as well. I sure did."

Additionally, most lawyers know visible tattoos disadvantage clients in court.

  • Culture: "There are still plenty of folk happy to assume you are a prostitute, drug dealer, or gang banger because you like to wear your art, and you're more likely to draw these negative assumptions with hand/head/neck/face tattoos. I live in the most liberal neighborhood in Seattle and still overhear "nice neck tattoo, have fun making minimum wage the rest of your life." Sometimes you just wanted to buy some milk without being judged as a human being. The just-as-horrible flipside is having a permanently visible tattoo means every (expletive) that ever got/wanted a tattoo will feel the need to approach you in public and tell you about tattoos they want, invade your personal space by touching your tattoos, or remove their clothes to show you theirs (when you didn't ask)... Like I said, sometimes you just want to buy some milk and get out of the grocery store without seeing Johnny Whitetrash's (butt) when he lifts his shirt over his head to show you his hatchet man tattoo he got in Craig's kitchen. But this will happen to you. A lot."

Concealable tattoos can be harmless in private or at the beach. Permanently visible images probably won't derail the financial prospects of a tiny percentage of people who can make fortunes as entrepreneurs or rock stars. For most everyone else, tattoos that can't hide under short-sleeved shirts and slacks become lifelong liabilities.

Tattoo artists in the Pikes Peak region, abundant with young military personnel and college students, should consider Electric Alivia's policy.

"I'm not gonna put some stupid (expletive) on your neck for the rest of your life so I can make $50 bucks," Alivia wrote.

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