Pissing Parents Off Cited as Top Reason for Youthful Tattoos

WELLESLEY FALLS, Mass.  Caitlin Firke is an underemployed former pottery major who makes ends meet–barely–as a barista at a coffee shop in this upscale Boston suburb, but despite pinching pennies she felt she had enough discretionary income to have her chest tattooed recently.  “It’s one of my favorite quotes,” she says of the words “Keep true to the dreams of your youth,” which her “tat” attributes to Virginia Woolf.

tattoo
“Your advertisement HERE!”

When this reporter points out that the first use of the aphorism has been definitively traced to German poet Friedrich Schiller, she shrugs her shoulders and says “Whatever,” apparently content to leave the latest of her many personal inkings as is.  “It’s not like I’m going to hand in my tits as a master’s thesis someday.”

Firke’s indifference to accuracy is typical of twenty-somethings who choose to use their bodies as canvasses for the art form that not long ago was largely confined to soldiers, sailors and carnival workers, according to Waldheim University sociologist Max Handifer, who has studied the phenomenon.  “Personal expression, fashion and individuality don’t mean much when you’re choosing an off-the-rack pattern from a guy who’s basically a failed comic book artist,” he says as he flips through a computer printout of over 10,000 responses to an anonymous survey he conducted using federal grant money and unpaid interns.  “Pissing off your parents tops all other reasons young people get tattoos.”

tattoo1
“I’m breaking my mother’s heart?  Good!”

For many families, a child’s decision to emblazon an image or text across a youthful body triggers tears, recriminations, disinheritance and dry, flaky scalp, according to psychologist Miriam Goshen of Metrowest Family Counseling.  “I tell parents not to draw lines in the sand,” she says.  “Your son or daughter will never regret what they’ve done as long as they know it irritates you.”

tattoo2
“You liked it better before?”

So Goshen has developed a special treatment protocol aimed at avoiding ruptures over small-dollar purchases that can now be removed by a variety of methods, leaving a child’s epidermis almost as good as new.  “The first thing you say when your kid shows you a tattoo,” she says with firm emphasis, “is ‘I absolutely LOVE IT!'”

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