By Nina Knight
Over the last few years, I have been planning to get a couple different tattoos, but any mention of ink and a needle sends my family into an argument. My older sister has attempted to warn my parents that I will get a tattoo, and they should prepare themselves. She’s right. It’s something I have wanted for a long time, well before I left home and tasted real freedom. This summer I settled for getting my nose pierced instead of getting a tattoo because at least a nose ring is removable. I figured I could ease them into the idea of having a rebellious teenage daughter. At least, that’s what they think of when they hear “nose piercing” and “tattoo.”
This probably happens because my parents and I exist in different generations, and it’s hard for them to recognize that tattoos are not as taboo as they were in 1970. I try to see their side, but it can be difficult for my Gen Z brain to comprehend why they would have such adverse reactions. Maybe it is from worry that I won’t get a job because the interviewer notices the ink on my forearm. Or that I’ll regret the flower on my rib on my wedding day a decade from now because it’s visible in all the photos. Or I’ll get a tattoo on my forehead that reads “idiot.”
Do I head home in December with fresh ink? Do I test the extent to which my parents will follow through with punishment? Is getting a tattoo really worth all the disapproving remarks? Is the reward greater than the physical pain of getting it and then emotional pain of going home inked? I face this dilemma every weekend as I debate taking a shuttle to a nearby tattoo parlor to finally take the plunge. I question whether getting one is going too far against my parents and their wishes. As the middle child, I strive to avoid conflict, and coming home upon doing one of the few things they told me to avoid doing wouldn’t go over well. But then I think, why not?
It’s 2018. I have bodily autonomy, and now more than ever I feel it necessary to express myself with my body in the ways I see fit. Every other aspect of my body comes from someone else via genetics, so getting a tattoo is to unequivocally call my body only my own. It may be a dramatic interpretation of tattoos, but it’s important to point out that old ideas, however backed by well-intentioned parents they are, restrict us from self-expression. If an interviewer does not want to hire me because of a mountain range on my bicep, chances are I would not want to work there anyway. If I can see a flower on my ribs in all my wedding photos, then so be it; I chose to have it there. The truth is the only ones mad about it would be my parents.
Maybe I’ll have to wear long-sleeves for a while whenever I’m home. Maybe that’s the price I pray for my rebellious behavior. I think I can live with that.
Contact Nina Knight at ngknight ‘at’ stanford.edu.