Tattoos and Piercings: Artisitc or Disgusting?

For many teens these days, it isnt common to have a tattoo or a piercing. Almost as common as having a cell phone or those new hip shoes, and most often, its just as expensive! Now, we all know there are many arguements about tattoos and piercings, both for and against them.

Tattoo and piercings have most definitly become more and more popular as the years progress, as more youth and young adults are trying to find themselves. They tend to give teens a sense of individuality and often symbolize something important in their lives. It also expresses their artistic sides, just like their music and stlye of clothes.

Now as everyone knows, they are some people who are not so crazy about the whole idea of piercings or tattoos. These people are of course, our parents. Parents are being told to watch out for their children and what the do to their bodies. They seem to think that a piercing or a tattoo will invoke rambunctioness and rebelling and that their children are involved in "risky behaviour." Or in other words, just because your son or daughter has a tattoo or piercing, it means they do drugs or drink alcohol and vandleize property.

According to Dr. Timothy Roberts, a professer at the University of Rochester in New York, there are clear links between body piercings and this "risky behaviour" in teens. But the study is quite flawed in that the infromation is gathered from teens aged 12-19 but not placed in specific age groups, and nowhere noted that 16 is the legal age to get pierced and 18 to get tattooed with parental consent. "It's just like hairstyles, cosmetics, jewelry - these are the things an adolescent uses to project an image of him or herself to the world." Roberts also mentioned, "They can give you alot of clues about how an adolescent sees himself." (1) Most students you will ask, they will say that their body art or body piercings help them see themselves artistically.

Parents' concerns about tattoos and piercings is a bit understandable. If you do not take care of your body art, there is a definite result of serious infection. Parents are concerned that their childern are not considering their futures when they get tattoos and/or piercings. While piercings can be removed and take time to heal over, tattoos are permament. The only way to remove a tattoo is to get laser surgery, which can be very painful and very expensive. The best thing to do, is to look at the body art facilities together to find one that is very clean and it also helps to talk about it.

Parent educator Sue Bourque thinks that the decision for teens to express themselves in all forms should be celebrated. "There is a very small window of opportunity between the ages of 13 and 19 where its ok to have blue hair, holey jeans and nose rings." said Bourque.(1)

According to Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia collection, Tattooing is a methed of decorating the skin by inserting colored substances under the surface. The skin is punctured with a sharp instrument, which is now usually an electric needle.(2)

The first discovered case of tattooing was recorded in Ancient Egypt.(2) From Egypt, the trend spread to Southeast Asia and China. In Burma, tattooing was mainly used for religious purposes and in Japan it was for ornamental purposes. As tattooing spread thoughout the Pacific Islands and to Australia, it began to be used for religious beliefs to denote tribal communities and to show a man or womans rank and marriage status. The Romans however, used tattoos to denote slaves and criminals. Tattoos were banned for christians by Pope Hadrian I in 787 A.D. Up until the 1066, tattoos survived in Britain, when the Normans took over England. Tattoos were still around but only began to fleurish again when Captain Cook began to bring men from the South Pacific to display in England. (3)

In America, the first tatoo parlor was opened in 1846 by a German immigrant. But tattoos only became really popular in America during the Civil War and World War 1 & 2. Soliders usually wanted tattoos that gave a rememberance to a lost friend or conrad like, hearts, snakes, roses, dragons, eagles and ships. (3)

During the 1960's and 1970's people wanted more original and unique designs for their tattoos so they began to get Oriental, Tribal, Hawaiian and Celtic designs. Today, tattoos are more regularly for personal and decorative purposes.(3)

Now, piercings can be placed, well, just about anywhere you possibly imagine! Piercings are becoming more of an artistic definer then the tattoos. Mostly because the number of tattoos a person can have is well, amazing. You can get as many tattos as your skin will hold! Some of the more popular places to get piercings are ear lobes, nostril, eyebrow, tongue, and the navel. Although there are other popular places, this is a school essay. Let's just say, they happen below the belt.

Getting your ears pierced is the most common and accepted of all piercings in America. Sailors uised to pierce their ears because it was believed that it improved the eyesight, and by using a gold ring, it ensured that they had enough money to pay for a funeral if they happened to die at sea. Romans used this type of piercing to show a person's wealth and in South Africa and South America, tribes stretch their ear lopes to show their social standings. The bigger the hole, the higher the standing. There is no exact location or time period found for when this trend first started. Healing time for an ear lope piercing is between 4-6 weeks.(4)

Nostril piercing is very common in many cultures. It was first practiced about 4000 years ago in the Middle East where it spread to India in the 1700's. Nose piercing came to America around the 1960's and 1970's when hippies travelled to India and brang the idea over to the West. The healing time for a nose piercing is about 2 months. (4)

Rapidly gaining popularity and also becoming on of the most requested piercings, eyebrow piercings can be placed anywhere along the lenght of hte eyebrow. You've got to think carefully about where you get your eyebrow pierced as it can effect what kind of jewelry you wear in it. The healing time for an eye brow piercing is about 3 months.(4)

Unknown until recently, tongue piercing hs been on the more popular piercings ask for. It started in Mayan and Aztec temples as a ritual to commmuniticate with the gods. Today, it's popular for very different reasons, both sexes find it sexually arousing, some people find it empowering, and its a piercing that everyone seems to gawk at, always asking questions and such. In order to have a safe piercing is to make sure that its in the middle of the tongue, between the two main blood vessels to make sure that you dont have any nerve or blood vessel damage. It's normally pierced about an inch from the tip on the center line of the tongue. Its suggested that you should change your barbell 3 weeks later to a smaller one. (4)

During Ancient Egypt, royality regularly had their navels pierced, but often enough, a peasant girl who were found to ahve the "perfect navel" were allowed to have it pierced as well. It is the most popular of all the piercings today. Navel piercings are very slow to heal, taking at least 3 months to heal sufficiently to change the jewelry but preferably 6 months to a year to heal completly.(4)

No matter how perfect the piercing, or how sterile the parlor may be, there can always be healing problems. There are four very common healing problems. 1. Oral contact or handling your piercing with dirty hands. 2. Using a cleaning solution that does not work with your body, ex. allergic reactions. 3. Not cleaning the piercing properly or 4. Wearing jewelry that your body may also be allergic to as well, ex. niobium or titanium.(4)

So there you have it. Information about tattoos and some about piercings. Now, if teens and their parents sat down and had a mature convercation about how they'd like to express themselves and they both agree on one thing or another then parents wouldnt have alot to worry about. Also teens who get the body art done, are required to take after themselves. If they are grown up enough to get the tattoo or the piercing, they should be grown up enough to take the proper actions to make sure it heals properly. But no matter how you look at it, tattoos and body piercings have been around for thousands of years and we can only imagine that they wont be going anywhere anytime soon.

Work Site

(1) Times and Transcript. Section G. Whatever, News for the Young Generation. Jan.17/04

(2) Funk and Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. Volume 25. Pages150-151.