Grin and “Bare” It


Summer is here and the skin is out.

When my sons approached their teen years, they started to become curious about tattoos. I will admit I was never a fan, so I told them, “That’s my skin. I made it and I’m only letting you wear it.” That did the trick for a couple of years, but when it came up again, I got more serious and said, “Look, when you are 18 and want to get tattoos, I can’t stop you. But if you do that, you will never get another dime from me again – ever!” It worked.

It wasn’t because I don’t like tattoos; on the contrary. I know many people of all ages whose skin art is quite beautiful. As a mom, my concerns had to do with their health.

For example, can someone with tattoos spot the telltale bullseye rash after being bitten by a tick? Let’s face it, we live in Michigan. Tick bites happen and Lyme Disease is no laughing matter.

Another potential problem is the sudden appearance of a new mole, which can be a sign of skin cancer. Will a new mole be visible under a tattoo? What about bruises?

What happens to skin art if the inked person gains a lot of weight? My niece had a tattoo of a little fish next to her belly button. When she became pregnant, I couldn’t help but think that in nine months, that little fish would stretch into a whale! Do tattoos fade in the sun, or change colors with a sunburn or tan?

Since then, because I worry too much, I’ve done some studying on the matter and it doesn’t appear to be as dire as I once thought. Not only do I believe that people with tattoos are more responsible with their own bodies than most, skin artists in Michigan are highly trained professionals who are regulated by the state.

I’ve also learned that each tattoo tells a story. Those who have them get inked to commemorate a major achievement. They also get tattoos to cheer themselves up when they are really down, or when they have proudly overcome a life challenge. Some use tattoos to memorialize a deceased loved one or beloved pet. Others pay homage to their favorite bands, and still others choose more whimsical designs of every description.

The bottom line is that admiring tattoos is often better than going to an art gallery. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends to tell you the stories behind their ink. They love talking about it and will gladly tell you.

As for me, I’ve been thinking of getting a small tattoo of an edelweiss blossom on my upper left arm, at the site of my recent vaccination. This little white Alpine flower symbolizes strength and toughness. It could happen – just don’t tell my kids.



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