Tattoos and peer pressure


Chris is 16.. and tells me with nervous laughter that today is the day he gets a tattoo.

I’m not a fan of tattoos personally. I’d never have one. Though if I had to, it would say ‘if lost, please return to… ‘ etc.

Apparently the letters RHCP running down the inside of your arm at 4cms high will set you back £70.

Chris tells me that he thinks he owes it to the band for what they have done to him. He plays bass and idolises Flea. Hes nervous because he’s been trying to ‘build himself up’ to go get it done, and today is the day. But today is also the day he spoke to me about it.

During the course of our convo, he let on that ‘he just does’ and ‘his grandad has one’ and ‘I know I know, but’ etc. I told him that I believe we get given this really cool body, then we try and f*ck it up as much as possible, how music tastes change and skin stretches and inks fade to blue, whats cool now changes. I explained that ‘cool’ is an image recieved by people that wish their life was better, and how even after having a tattoo done, they’re still gunna be ‘Chris’ the next day who feels like shit, who no-one understands and gets in stroppy moods for really small reasons. Tattoos are cool. But ‘cool’ is a short term fad for a while before the next short term fad comes along and replaces it.

Chris gives me more “I know”‘s, I’m not letting up. What makes a person cool?, that guy on the tv doing and being where you wanna be?… but the tattoo doesn’t get him there, its a marking on the body of a peer. Wearing a tattoo doesn’t make people look upto you. You look up to people that have a good job, have skills, maybe plays in a band, talks well, dresses good, drives a nice car and has a wife and/or kids. That’s the person you really want to be like Chris. But thats the long hard slow route which people will respect you for. Pay £70 for a tattoo, and you’ll just be a 16yr old with a tattoo that nobody looks up to except those that are trying to summon the courage to do the same.

Chris gives me more “I know’s”, also tells me how the drummer in his band thinks they’re a bad idea too.

I’m told of the ‘mates’, who think hes scared of the pain…. and that they have had them done. He’s the only one who hasn’t. His mum doesn’t want him to do it, but can’t stop him, his dad doesn’t get involved in matters of ‘giving a shit’ and rides his motorbike lots. Chris, doesn’t want it I can tell. But hes in a position where he has to have it. There’s no other option.

I learn of a bass that he wants. a Spectre @ £300 (12 interest free monthly payments), A £70 deposit would be a good start on it. Chris, knows. He tells me that the bass is more important than a stoopid tattoo, he knows people will envy the cool bass.

He’s decided today won’t be the day. I’m secretly stoked. He’s stoked that he now doesn’t have to go through with it.

My perspective?

Having a tattoo is cool by me if you’re an adult. But getting one outta peer pressure when you’re 15, 16, 17 is outta order. and I’ll do everything I can to get the message across to young people I know that they’re a dick if they do it.

People don’t get it, that the illusion of ‘cool’ is just that, an illusion. it feels great to buy anything new, clothing, furniture, music, magazines… but that newness goes. And as soon as it does we want it back again. Some people don’t realise this and get a another tattoo, to get back that ‘cool’ attention seeking vibe that came with the first.

The fear of the pain, makes me think too. People don’t consider pain enough imo. particularly young people. I explained pain to Chris, that same pain that he was gunna put himself through.

The organic ‘self repairing’ things that we are, are incredible I think… we’re the original ‘terminator 2′. get shot, we heal, get cut, we heal… but the pain of dragging a needle across your skin makes the nerves scream out electrically into your head for a good reason. It’s the bodies way of saying, ‘please stop, I don’t want this’ etc. Our self protection mechanism if you will. Once cut, the body will try and heal itself, but as quickly as it is created, we inject fresh ink into the wound, screwing with the healing process and blah blah blah.

Peer pressure is the real bitch. Damn i’m so glad I’m not 16 again. Though I was a wise head on young shoulders etc… at 13 I was cursing my old man for smoking. Peer pressure passed me by, whatever the opinion of the masses, I ended up going the other direction, even if that direction was ultimately worse for me. I just couldn’t follow. now subconsciously I think I may ‘lead’.

I knew Chris looked up to me… I’ve known him for a long time and we’ve talked a lot… I skate, he skates, I make music, he makes music, he goes to the skatepark and gets beat up, I go to skateparks and confront the ‘beaters’. More importantly i’ve always treated him like an adult. Which is more than his parents clearly do. I’m told that he doesn’t have anything in common with his mum (big deal, I think, what 16yr old does?)

anyways… I left him with with the message. Even if he ends up getting a tattoo, to let me know, and I promised no lectures, besides once it’s done there’s no point lecturing anyway….. and I’ll wanna see a photo of it. Or …. if he decides to get the guitar instead then to photo that as well for me to look.

Chris’s still adamant that he not getting a ‘tat’ now. “If you get one,” I say, “get one to celebrate what you’ve achieved, not to celebrate what someone you look up to has achieved.”

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