Restricting Honor and Memory

Column By J1 Reporter Kathryn Stec

Age puts restrictions on a lot of aspects in life. You can’t drive until you’re 16, you can’t vote until you’re 18, and you can’t drink until you’re 21. Most age restrictions are based on maturity and the knowledge you obtain as you get older, but the age restriction that prevents minors from getting tattoos and piercings without parental consent can be restrictive to expressing yourself. 

Yes, in some situations, it makes sense to require parental consent for minors to get tattoos and piercings, but in my case, similar to many others, it was a barrier that kept me from honoring my dad and expressing myself. My Dad passed away in a house fire in late October of 2019, and through grieving I wanted something to remember him that would always be with me. People could argue that a necklace or piece of jewelry would have sufficed, but I needed something that couldn’t be taken away from me like he was. Getting my tattoo was my way of keeping him with me for the rest of my life. 

This idea was inspired by my brother, who was 17 at the time, when he asked my mom to get one. She was hesitant at first but eventually signed the papers to allow him to get it. When he showed it to me, my mind was made up that it was the perfect way for me to honor my dad. It was going to be a special thing for my dad that would always be a part of me.

My excitement was quickly extinguished when I asked my mom about it and she immediately said no and that nothing would change her mind. It was upsetting to me because it was this amazing idea that was personal to me where I could always carry my dad close to my heart and she shot me down. My brother had just gotten one and he was only 17; I’m 16 so what’s the big difference? She still would not budge.        

Fast forward about seven months to July, when my dad’s birthday was coming up, I begged and begged my mom once again to let me get this tattoo. Explaining to her that I had a letter with the words “Love you! -Dad” written at the bottom in his handwriting and that’s what I wanted my tattoo to be, it was my last hope to convince her to say yes. She had finally broken down and was going to let me get it; honestly I think she was just tired of me asking. I was so happy that I was finally able to get what I had been wanting for about eight months. 

Once again, my excitement was stomped on when the tattoo parlor that my brother went to and recommended, told me they don’t do rib tattoos on minors. I didn’t understand why because I knew it was going to hurt but, I was prepared to handle it and after all, this was my choice. Continuing my search and finding another place, my first question was if they would do rib tattoos on minors. They said yes but warned me multiple times that it wasn’t going to be a fun process and it would be wise to switch the location for my first tattoo. I stuck with my decision and on Aug. 18, 2020, I had finally gone through 20 minutes of pain to have my dad close to me for a lifetime. 

During the process, I was annoyed at all the hoops I had to jump through just to get a small piece of writing drawn on me. It was frustrating to be told “no” so many times, when I felt that I was old enough and mature enough to make this decision. Tattoos can be a way to honor loved ones or connect yourself closer to friends and family. It is a piece of art drawn on your body that can be a reminder of people, items, or actions that have shaped you into the person you are today. 

There should still be an age restriction on tattoos, mainly because of the pain, but it should be around 16. By the time most people have turned 16, they have gained more responsibility and maturity and already are given the power to make impactful choices for themselves. Tattoos should be one of those choices. 

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