“If tattoos are the marks of an era — declarations of love, of loss, of triumph, of youthful exuberance or youthful foolishness — then tattoo removals are about regret, confessions that those landmarks are in the past. They’re about the realization that whatever you believed in with such force that you wanted it eternally branded on your skin is now foreign to you,” Wax writes.
The fact that tattoos have become so common among young adults in recent decades (Pew Research Center says that more than 40 percent of Americans between 26 and 40 have at least one tattoo) has also led to an almost existential question for many young parents: To keep it or not?
It’s an especially urgent question for women when they get pregnant. Removal is a common enough decision at pregnancy and during early motherhood that deal sites targeting mothers regularly offer coupons for removals and the La Leche League has its own page devoted to questions about tattoos and tattoo removal and breast-feeding.
It’s not only a mother issue. Fathers, too, ask themselves the question, one that might touch on some deeper philosophical ideas about what it means to become a parent and how that process affects identity.
There are some obvious issues.
For women, tattoos, especially those on the abdomen or lower back, will morph as the skin stretches and may not return to their original shape. Stretch marks left after pregnancy can be particularly ruinous. Pregnancy.org quoted one mother as complaining that her four-leaf clover turned into a permanent green blob.
And then there’s this: How to explain the mark of sexy rebellion to a tween?
Of course, many parents proudly retain tattoos — some even get tattooed while pregnant (a practice the American Pregnancy Association does not recommend because of the risk of infection).
Explaining a tattoo may be something a new parent looks forward to talking with a child about, especially when it’s considered a form of self-expression, a work of art, a memorial to a life event.
The angst comes for those in between, who see their tattoo as a mark that morphs in meaning as much as it might in appearance through different stages of life. Does giving it up because you’re becoming a parent feel like the responsible thing to do? Or does it feel like a surrender? Or, does it feel like a bit of both?
Do you (or did you) have a tattoo? Has becoming a parent changed your perspective on it? Why or why not?