Teen tattoo: yay or nay?
August 12, 2018 5:27 PM   Subscribe

Should I let my 15-year-old get a tattoo?

My 15 year old daughter is lobbying hard for a tattoo. I'm on the fence, but leaning strongly towards no. I worry that whatever design she chooses, she may come to regret in the future. She is a good kid - a mature, responsible 15 year old, but...still a 15 year old. My own tastes have changed so much since my teens.

I will grant that the tattoo she wants is a pretty classic image (a world map, because she's interested in travelling and likes geography and history). It's probably safe to say that she'll never be embarrassed of the design, but she may lose interest.

She wants it on her wrist/forearm. to which I've already said no. I may be more inclined to say yes if it's on a hidden part of her body - but could it stretch as she grows? Her alternate choice based on this condition is her ribcage.

Advice/suggestions/personal experiences welcome.
posted by orange and yellow to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (62 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No, because any tattoo artist who would work on someone underage is not an artist who should be working on anyone in any remotely professional capacity.

Look, I have a ton of tattoos with plenty more in the plans, so I super-feel your kid. That sounds like a great tattoo that will, even if she moves away from those interests in the future, mark a really special time in her life. She can wait three years to get it, though. I recommend researching artists and not doing what I did which was go someplace that made me super uncomfortable to get an okay piece of art.

(I actually have a lot of feelings about someone 18 getting a tattoo but at least at that age it's legal, so you can be sure you're going to someone safe and ethical.)
posted by kalimac at 5:35 PM on August 12, 2018 [86 favorites]

Who would be paying for it? Personally I think I'd tell her to wait until shes 18 and when shes paying for it herself.
posted by vespertinism at 5:35 PM on August 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

It may depend, but I think even with parental permission, a lot of tattoo studios will rightfully say no to this.

I am a big fan of tattoos. I have some I would not get now but I do not regret. They're a part of me and I love them.

I'm not necessarily a fan of "look at it for six months and if you still want it, then get it" because all of my tattoos, I just knew, even if I didn't get them immediately. But if she wants this now, she'll want it three years from now. It'll be there.
posted by darksong at 5:37 PM on August 12, 2018 [8 favorites]

Nope nope nope. She can wait until she’s 18, which is the minimum age a decent and ethical tattoo artist would work on her, anyway.
posted by charmedimsure at 5:37 PM on August 12, 2018 [21 favorites]

I got one, not visible (and nothing bad), about a month after i turned eighteen. While i don’t feel horrible about it, by the time i was in my mid twenties i regretted it. It mostly reminds me of how young and clueless i was at that age. I’ve felt a bit embarrassed when new girlfriends and doctors have seen it for the first time. Plus, with aging it looks worse.
posted by D.C. at 5:41 PM on August 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yikes, no. I have many tattoos, and the ones I got when I was 18 are the ones I shake my head at now. She's still growing, too, so there's the possibility it'd stretch out and look old and tired by the time she's 25. (Also, the ribcage is an intensely painful area to get one, just FYI.)

If she really wants one, she can save up to get it when she turns 18. Maybe take her to get a henna version done? Those last about three weeks if you're gentle with washing the area.

Also, if she's very headstrong and determined... well, my cousin got a 'friend' to do a crappy homemade tat in high school. It got infected and is now a big gross scar. Make sure she knows the dangers of DIY.
posted by lovecrafty at 5:42 PM on August 12, 2018 [11 favorites]

Seconding waiting until 18, at least. I knew nothing at 15, and the thought of having a permanent memory from that age makes me cringe.
posted by sucre at 5:44 PM on August 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sure. Kids’ brains are not really ready to understand the ramifications of “permanent” when they are 15 or 16, no matter how responsible they seem. There is lots of evidence that suggests adolescence really extends through the mid-20s. If she ends up regretting it when she’s 30, she may in part blame you for allowing it.

Source: I teach a lot of passionate, good, smart teenagers. I was a really smart, ahead-of-the-game teenager. I am so glad I don’t have whatever dumb tattoo I might have decided to get at that age, and would look seriously askance at any parent of one of my students who let them make a permanent choice to mark up their body when they were 15 despite my general shruggo response to tattoos on adults.
posted by charmedimsure at 5:51 PM on August 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

Nthing that a reputable tattooist will not work on an underage subject, even with parental approval. I talked about this with my tattoist once and she said the rate of post-tattoo regret/freakout was just way too high to be worth it.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:53 PM on August 12, 2018 [9 favorites]

Mmm, yeah, I would still say no to a tattoo at 16. I don't hate the first tattoo I got (I think I was 19 or 20), but it's nothing I would get now, and I don't love it. I would definitely hate anything I got when I was 15/16. I wasn't a great person in those years, and I'm glad I don't have a permanent reminder of them.

Much like darksong, I don't tend to do the 'wait six month' because when I want some art, I just know, but I feel like when you're as young as she is, that's a pretty good rule. That age is full of a lot of change and bad decisions and figuring out who you are -- which is awesome! That's something everyone needs to go through! But it does not have to get marked eternally in an intricate, expensive piece of art.

Finally -- for planning ahead purposes -- I have rib tattoos and I would not recommend them as a first tattoo. They're deeply painful, in a whole rainbow of ways. I'd actually go with wrist/arm, because that's relatively easily covered with a bracelet, watch, clothes, or makeup.
posted by kalimac at 5:53 PM on August 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'd say hard pass, but the skill comes in not making this a massively contentious issue you guys fight over for years. If you really are willing to let her get the tattoo, but hesitant on her age, can you set some sort of time delay? My personal rule is I have to sit on a tattoo idea for a year before I do anything, and then if I still like it I'll move forward. Your daughter can't even drive yet; asking her to sit on it for 12-18 months first is reasonable. (She probably also hasn't yet had dated anyone so she doesn't know that the initial rush of excitement can sometimes fade terribly and that her own judgment isn't always clear-eyed.) But if you make a deal she has to wait til 17 or a senior in HS and when the day comes she's still gung ho, you can't back out. So don't count on that to save you the decision, just to make you more comfortable with a yes. Otherwise, no til she's 18.

No matter what, she pays the full cost. She does all the legwork too. I know some teens who have worn their parents down on a tattoo or piercing and then thrown fits when their parents don't organize and schedule everything, and that's a HARD no.

I was surprised at the number of under-18 students who have tattoos these days, so I know it's becoming more common. But still, I've seen maybe only 2% of HS juniors with a tattoo, and almost no sophomores. Your daughter is on the really young side. I absolutely love history, but at that age a single bad class could've ruined my enjoyment. Who knows whether she'll still be happy with the tattoo by the time she graduates, let alone when she's 25 or 50.
posted by lilac girl at 5:53 PM on August 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

Heck no,. not until she's 18 at least. As for the location, anywhere that you might have to cover up for future jobs is something to think about as well. I have no idea on the stretching of tattoos and locations though.

That said, folks who love maps probably will still continue to love maps (disclaimer: I have just returned from hanging out with a map-loving friend) so at least it's not a bad tattoo idea that she might get sick of.

Another idea I've been told, if the tattoo isn't too complicated, is to draw it out on her arm with a pen or henna to see how she feels about it more in practice.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:53 PM on August 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

As above, no.
posted by killdevil at 5:57 PM on August 12, 2018

To clarify - she would get it at 16 (a few months from now), which is the legal age in Canada with parental consent. And yes, she'd be paying for it herself. She has already done the legwork (found a highly-rated artist who her father also used).

If your answer is no, please give me your reasons - thanks!
posted by orange and yellow at 6:01 PM on August 12, 2018 [5 favorites]

I am covered in tattoos and hell-fuckin-no.

She is a literal child. She can wait until shes an adult to permanently change her appearance. No tattooer who isn't shitty, or shady will tattoo your kid even with parental consent.
posted by so fucking future at 6:15 PM on August 12, 2018 [9 favorites]

Oh my goodness, no -- I can't even look back at a photo of my hair when I was fifteen and not cringe. If it had been permanent? Kids brains mature so much more slowly than we think they do, and some say they aren't fully rational until they are 25. Yowzers! I'm not saying wait that late, but 15 is way too young in my opinion.
posted by heavenknows at 6:19 PM on August 12, 2018 [10 favorites]

My mom made me wait til I was 18, and my first tattoo is more symbolic because it marked my adulthood.

The thing she did that I really appreciate, though, is making me think through where I got my tattoos. She is the reason my tattoos are all invisible in regular business clothes in the professional environment I now work in, and she is the reason my tattoos are well located in non-stretchy areas and all still look good, though my first is a little faded.

She did let me get extra ear piercings that are uneven and i hate and i never wear earrings in when I was 15. Even though i’d have thrown a fit, I wish she made me wait til I was older for the extra holes.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:22 PM on August 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

Hard no. Decisions that have a high level of permanence should not be made when you are 16. A tattoo is one of them.
posted by isauteikisa at 6:32 PM on August 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I say yes at age 16 but not in such a visible location yet. You could extend it a bit -- say you'd be willing to pay if she waits until she's 17. You could also say that she has to wait until she's 18 but that you'll help her explore her love for geography a different way, such as by planning a trip, or seeing if there are any body modifications she'd like that are temporary like an intense hair style or color. Regardless of what happens, I think it's good that she's asking you and you are considering the options.

Apparently, I am coming to this from a very different place than most people who have answered already, although I certainly understand where they are coming from. I teach an at urban public school in the US where visible tattoos are common and popular. Often they honor a family member and usually they're done with parental permission. Whether or not I think they look good is unimportant; whether or not these decisions match my values or sense of "class" is also unimportant. They're not my children, and it's not my body. In fact, I respect and admire the parents and children for having such a good, honest relationship. For example, some parents will use it as a bargaining piece/reward: if you get good grades and stay out of trouble, you can get a tattoo -- that they agree with -- once a year. A lot of other kids also have stick-and-poke, which is generally not done with parental knowledge or consent. Those are much higher risk and, unfortunately, look even worse than you'd expect. Yes, tastes and bodies change but what better time to have a tattoo you love than when you're young and toned. I have no tattoos and never want any; I'm so glad that I didn't get a tattoo at age 16 or 26 or now. However, I totally understand how they're a part of pop culture that's here to stay. I respect them as an art form and a form of self-expression. Ultimately, this is an individual parent-child decision: you can listen to our feedback but, in the end, you should listen to your gut.
posted by smorgasbord at 6:38 PM on August 12, 2018 [7 favorites]

I'm going to go against the grain and say, sure, why not? Your update makes it sound as if she is mature for her age, the tattoo is not outrageous or offensive, and if she really comes to regret it later in life there is such a thing as laser removal and/or covering it up with a different tattoo if she decides at 30 she's embarrassed of it or tired of it.

I say this as a mom who, in retrospect, feels like I restricted my daughter's self-expression with her appearance more than I should have when she was a teenager, which caused her a great deal of frustration I don't think she benefited from experiencing.

I will also say that when she came of age she went out and got a number of tattoos right away, one of which I really like and another of which is one of the ugliest tattoos I have ever seen (and which she currently hates) in an area of the body that is a pain in the ass to keep covered for interviews and such. I think she might have not gone that route had she had my guidance to select something more appropriate at 16, when she first really wanted one.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:42 PM on August 12, 2018 [11 favorites]

"If your answer is no, please give me your reasons." I have four tattoos, and I say NO. I mildly regret my second tattoo which I got on a whim. The others have very special meaning to me, some took years to develop. Your daughter says she wants a tattoo on her wrist, but you think that it is a bad idea. She may regret the placement of a tattoo somewhere else if you let her get it somewhere else. Let her wait until she is 18 and if she still wants it on her wrist or ribcage, she can decide. Say you let her get a tattoo now at age 16 and she regrets it, she can regret "your" decision. Wait and let it be her decision to regret, not something she regrets you for letting her do. If it is that important to her, it will still be important in 2 years.
posted by turtlefu at 6:43 PM on August 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Also something to consider that I hadn't thought of until recently: for people who have struggled with body self-acceptance, for example, who are dealing with an eating disorder or who have been victims of sexual abuse, getting a tattoo can be one way of reclaiming ownership of your body. This applies to people who are 15 or 55 -- it's one way to look at something on your body as something that is completely your choice and a reminder of your own strength. I don't know if this applies to your daughter, but it's something to keep in mind. A friend's 15-year-old daughter did this -- it's in a private location that most people can't and won't see -- and it's been completely positive for her.
posted by smorgasbord at 6:46 PM on August 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

At that age, my heart’s dearest wish was to have tattoos of clan signs from a tabletop RPG called Werewolf: the Apocalypse, a game so colossally embarrassing that it has been repealed by the company that owns the rights. What I’m trying to say is: no. A globe isn’t going to go out of style like that, but she herself is going to change in some profound ways.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:06 PM on August 12, 2018 [12 favorites]

I’m a dissenting voice. I got my first tattoo when I was 15. It was in a dingy old-style tattoo parlour, complete with a free-roaming African Grey parrot. I’m now 50, fat and saggy. It’s faded, distorted and illegible and I love it like I did the day I got it (without my guardian’s knowledge or permission). The tattoo was a memorial to a friend who had passed away months before.
This all happened in Toronto,Ont.

Ps- what about a compromise for now? Inkbox says it lasts weeks, and I understand you can upload your own design. Also the Ex is almost here, ans the airbrush ones last a couple weeks too!
posted by whowearsthepants at 7:12 PM on August 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

If it were a deeply meaningful tattoo that commemorated something (climbing a mountain, death of a grandparent) I might say yes. However this sounds more like an aesthetic choice (“it would be cool to have a tattoo...what should I get? ... I do like geography”), and aesthetics change a LOT between 15 and adulthood.

Also, in my experience tattoos are kind of like psycho-emotional portals to the person you were when you got them. And most people I know wouldn’t want a portal to age 15.

Finally, the cost of waiting (frustration) isn’t usually as high as the cost of getting a tattoo you regret.
posted by hungrytiger at 7:14 PM on August 12, 2018 [7 favorites]

I got my first tattoo at 16 with parental permission and have no regrets 15 years later. It’s stretched out a bit over the years, but that’s part of the charm. It’s her body, there’s very minimal risk, and it sounds like a well thought out and classy design. I’m really surprised by the negative responses.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 7:18 PM on August 12, 2018 [5 favorites]

No. I would be supportive of authorizing any safe, non-permanent self expression for a 16 year old (piercings okay). Someone getting a permanent marker should make that decision fully for themselves - without anyone else's consent. It is their body for the rest of their life. I say this as someone who got my only tattoo at 17. I don't regret the specific tattoo, but I do think people make better tattoo decisions (generally!) as they get older. I wouldn't try to discourage her from getting a tattoo (but would lobby that it be easily covered by clothing or be discreet like on the foot or ankle, not wrist) and tell her that you support her decision when SHE is able to make it independently as an adult. More reasons? Lots of good ones above.
posted by perrouno at 7:20 PM on August 12, 2018

Speaking as a person with multiple tattoos, my vote is NOPE. If this is a design she truly wants and is committed to, she'll still want it once she's a legal adult and able to get tattooed without your assistance/sign-off.

Also… don't start with a wrist tattoo. Responsible tattooers often refuse to do tattoos below certain points (elbow, wrist) or above certain points (collarbone, neck) on people who don't already have tattoos, for good reason. It's good to spend some time figuring out how to cover up a bicep tattoo before you try to live with a forearm or hand tattoo.
posted by Lexica at 8:01 PM on August 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Put me down for "no, no. No no no no no no. No. Also no, with a side of absolutely not. A world of no."

I do not doubt the folks in the thread that say they got tattoos at a young age and do not regret it, but there's little downside to waiting until she's an adult and letting her proceed then.

You are, of course, in a better position to judge her maturity and the likelihood that she'd regret or not regret this decision in five or 20 years than any of the Internet strangers in this thread - but the average 15-year-old, or even 16-year-old, has no business getting a tattoo. It can wait.

Maybe offer to get matching tattoos when she turns 18. :-)
posted by jzb at 8:02 PM on August 12, 2018

I got a tattoo when I was 16 and maybe it is a little silly but I have never regretted it. I AM grateful that the artist made a point of telling me how safe and clean his equipment was. Your daughter came to you with this which I think is a marker of maturity (to be frank, I spent this weekend hiding my latest tattoo from my parents and I am almost forty). I do think kids do dumb things and I think 15 is too young, but if 16 is old enough in Canada then why not? But definitely make it somewhere where work clothes can hide it. It makes things a lot easier if you end up somewhere more conservative/corporate. And maybe have her research about safe shops and what to look for in that regard so she knows there can be issues and it’s not to be done lightly.
posted by leesh at 8:09 PM on August 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

I’m in Toronto too and a 16 year old with a tattoo is very, very common. As are visible tattoos on adults in professional jobs. I noticed this was a major difference between Americans and Canadians almost twenty years ago and the divide seems to have only widened. So social norms have really shifted; I would probably allow it myself, in your shoes.
posted by saucysault at 8:10 PM on August 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

I would probably suggest a compromise: you will offer to buy her a lot of those semi-permanentish tattoos where you upload the image, and she can try them on in different body locations to see how she loves wearing it on her. I’m totally tattoo-friendly, but would not allow my mature 15 year old to do this.

But also - tattoo acceptance definitely differs according to location. What percentage of other teenagers in her school have tattoos?
posted by corb at 8:20 PM on August 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

I have a globe tattooed when I was 14. It was a shady artist (we were in school uniforms!) And not that great, but I got it on my hip so I could cover it easily. Fast forward and two of my kids have tattoos. One asked when she was 14 onwards and I made her wait until she was legal, 16 the same, and put it on her shoulder blade so she could choose to cover it. I also paid so I got to choose the much better artist who made her design quite lovely. The other did hers secretly and they're not great, but simple line art at least and she opted for areas she could cover too.

What helped was negotiating the place. The wrist is very hard to change and painful. Fleshy shoulders and shoulder blades are much easier. She needs a place of skin that won't stretch if she gets pregnant or otherwise changes as an adult. My globe is now slightly oval, thanks c- section. The colours were crisp and clear at first but as with all tattoos, have faded over time. I think of touching it up but meh. A globe requires a lot of detail, so she needs a flat span. Honestly, a shoulder blade would be a much better place. Wrists suit clear small line art, not anything intricate.

My siblings who got regrettable teen tattoos had to get larger ones to cover them, and that was expensive. I would participate and advocate for good art and smart placement, but then I still love my wonky little globe.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:24 PM on August 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

Corb's suggestion is good - quality semi permanent tattoos made a good trial run for my kids and got them to decide against tattoos on their clavicle/cleavage when they realised how tricky it was to wear clothes around a half hidden tattoo.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:27 PM on August 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Nooooooooo. All I can think about is what I would have gotten a tattoo of when I was 16, and nooooooooo. An old roommate of mine got a tattoo when she was 16. We roomed together when she was 25, and she hated it so much that she was saving every cent for laser removal. Like, ramen-is-dinner-every-day-for-a-year saving.

It wasn't a bad tattoo subject matter and the art was decently well done, but it was something that had been meaningful to her, and then Other Things happened and she soured on it. Even something as general as a map of the world can hold painful memories depending on what does or doesn't happen next.
posted by tzikeh at 8:45 PM on August 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I knew I wanted a tattoo around 15/16 but didn't get one until I was 26. I'm glad I waited for a few reasons but mostly because I would have deeply regretted the type of piece I wanted then.
posted by toomanycurls at 9:03 PM on August 12, 2018

if she requests and you bestow parental consent, that means any regrets she ever has can be fairly blamed on you. most dumb things you do at 16, including illicit tattoos, they're your own fault. your parents couldn't stop you because they didn't know, so you just shrug and reminisce about the folly of youth. but this, if she later says you shouldn't have let her do it and it was your job to know better and protect her from herself, what can you say to that? young teens have to have the absolute freedom to assert their desires and yell that they're as smart as you and they know what they want out of life, and be listened to but not believed. they're entitled to that. they need to have their desires respected and validated, without being handed the responsibility for mature decisions just because they say they can handle it. that guardrail is what they are owed as minors in parental care. it is what makes it safe for them to express intense and genuine but temporary states of mind.

but I mean, a bad tattoo she's embarrassed about in two years isn't going to ruin her life so what the hell. she'll be fine.

(besides, adulthood is supposed to be a time when the possibilities of the world open up before you, tattoos not least among them. it really isn't great to have every kind of adult pleasure before your time, it spoils the anticipation and the thrill of the status transition when it comes. if she does it when she turns 18, it might still lead to regret and it might still be a bad idea, but it'll be the marker of her first full & free decision as an adult. that way it could still be a bad tattoo, but a good memory.)
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:16 PM on August 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

Kids’ brains are not really ready to understand the ramifications of “permanent” when they are 15 or 16, no matter how responsible they seem.

At that age, I did fully understand the nature of permanent, but I didn't understand just how much my tastes and aesthetics would change with time. I thought about a bunch of mods between 17 and mid 20s and made myself wait a year before committing to anything permanent. There's nothing I didn't get as a result of this policy that I regret and a few things I thought were amazing for a few months that I'm glad are not a part of me.
posted by Candleman at 9:40 PM on August 12, 2018

Sooo uhh.. I got my first tattoo at 16. The tattoo artist said "Welcome to your new addiction" and I was like ... uhuh sure dude.

But then I got another at 17... and a ton starting at 18. I now have about 20 and am working on full sleeves (I'm 28). My dad signed for my first two and went with me.

BUT! My first one was REALLY small. Like the size of a quarter on the top of my foot. My second is a few inches on my other ankle. I would NOT let a child get a tattoo that would be as visible as a wrist. It's just NOT easy to hide. Additionally, the ribs are one of the most painful places AND definitely more susceptible to changing as bodies change. The ankle or back of the shoulder is much easier to hide and much less painful.

I totally understand your asking, and I think it's going to have to be a big conversation, put up the design somewhere she sees it everyday AND find a good artist. If you don't know where to start, ask some tattooed friends. You want a shop with good reviews, spectacular hygiene, and the artist must have really crisp linework and smooth color and shading.

That said, getting tattoo removed fucking sucks. It's expensive and it hurts and it takes about a year. I'm halfway through that process. (I don't regret the tattoo exactly but the work wasn't done well and it was bad placement.)

And ALL THAT said, I still love the two I got when I was 16/17. It was honestly no big deal, especially because they were so easy to hide.

No, because any tattoo artist who would work on someone underage is not an artist who should be working on anyone in any remotely professional capacity.
I also want to say that the statements like this, in my experience, are not completely true. The guy who did my first 2 is still the one who is tattooing my parents a decade later. A reputable artist (beyond being a GOOD artist) follows the law and if the law is 16+ then they can do that. SOME shops/artists won't do it but that doesn't mean they're any MORE reputable necessarily.

In the end, you know your kid. My dad knew me. He knew that I understood permanent and that I wanted more tattoos. I don't regret mine. But it also isn't the end of the world to wait 2 years.
posted by Crystalinne at 10:01 PM on August 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

I have a fifteen year old and I am tattooed. I vote you tell her if she still wants the same tattoo in one year, and she is paying for it, you'll give permission.
posted by latkes at 10:16 PM on August 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

1) Tattoos aren't forever anymore. Dermatologists everywhere offer safe, effective, affordable laser removal services. If your daughter ever decides she hates "the world," Armaggedon will be a phone call away

2) The vast majority of replies to the OP have come to the same bullshit conclusion: 16 is too young, but 18 isn't

Saying 18 but not 16 is tantamount to saying chronological age = maturity, which is bullshit. Donald Trump is an infant. Malala Yousafzai is Yoda.

How mature is the OP's daughter, not how old...
posted by BadgerDoctor at 12:54 AM on August 13, 2018 [6 favorites]

I have tattoos, and a child the age of your child, and I think this sounds fine, though, as others have noted, wrist and ribcage are difficult locations. She's done the legwork and made a responsible choice on the artist, the tattoo she's interested in isn't something that's likely to be embarrassing in a decade, she's paying for it herself, and it's legal. I would say that it's worth suggesting a waiting period--if you want the same tattoo for 6+ months, for example--but it sounds like that's already taken care of, since she's wanted this long enough to have done the research and saved the money, and now has to wait several more months before she can actually get the tattoo done. It's not like she's wandering into the tattoo shop and picking some flash, then committing for life--it sounds like she's thought about this for a while, and will have to continue to think about it for several months yet.

I also feel like allowing it is a good way to reinforce that you trust her to make decisions about her own body, and that she can trust you to support those decisions. Lots of people, even adults, get tattoos and hide them from their parents. It feels like as it goes, an inoffensive tattoo in an easily concealed location is a pretty low-stakes way to affirm her increasing maturity and your willingness to support her in the choices she's making, as well as to build trust between you so that when she wants to do something that you need to push back on, she's more likely to take your concerns seriously.
posted by mishafletch at 1:02 AM on August 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think you should let her get it at 16.
posted by ethical_caligula at 4:42 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

No, because any tattoo artist who would work on someone underage is not an artist who should be working on anyone in any remotely professional capacity.
I also want to say that the statements like this, in my experience, are not completely true. The guy who did my first 2 is still the one who is tattooing my parents a decade later. A reputable artist (beyond being a GOOD artist) follows the law and if the law is 16+ then they can do that. SOME shops/artists won't do it but that doesn't mean they're any MORE reputable necessarily.

I'm Crystalinne's Dad (above). First, I want to agree with her sentiment here, especially. And yes, the same artist who did her initial tat at 16 has since done two of my three, and several for my wife, the most recent only a month ago.

Now, the parental perspective of allowing my daughter to get a tattoo at 16:
I had no tattoos at that time, and really had no interest. Like most parents, my default answer to anything unusual was "no!" But I've also always believed, and taught her, that she could always disagree with me and "argue her case" for things as long as it was done respectfully. So, she kept on it for a while.

The main reason I agreed to sign for her to get a tattoo is that she was handling some traumatic and dramatic life changes* with incredible maturity and wisdom. I told her that if she was mature enough to handle the situation as she did, then she's certainly mature enough to get a small tattoo in a non-obvious place.

But everyone's story is different. Tattoos are not uncommon anymore, and don't carry the negative stigma they used to. I can't tell you what to do with your family, I can only share my thoughts and decisions. I don't regret it one bit, and the experience ended up a good memory for me during a difficult time as well.

*(We had moved into an apartment pending my divorce from her mother, having to leave a sadly untenable situation. I married my current wife several years after that, and she and I are who she refers to as "parents.")
posted by The Deej at 5:39 AM on August 13, 2018 [7 favorites]

I got my first tattoo at 16. I don't regret it exactly, it's fine, but I was too young. It's in a hidden but embarrassing location and its original meaning is, frankly, now lost on me. It's kind of embarrassing and while I wouldn't pay to get it removed I wish I'd waited to do it. I wouldn't have done it had I waited.

I got my second tattoo when I turned 30. I knew I wanted it when I was 20 but I asked myself to wait ten years. I did. Waiting for something that I was sure about and knew would be permanent was a good thing for me, and I'm very happy with my second tattoo.

My third tattoo is planned but I've gotta wait until I'm 40 for it, because the ten year rule works really well for me. Ten years seems like forever, especially when you're 16, but if I were a parent I'd encourage my kid to wait a few years to be sure -- whether my kid was 16 or 18 or 20 or even 35.
posted by sockermom at 6:00 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I got a tattoo around that age in a very visible place.

I regret it constantly. I was not old enough to make a good decision about something that permanent and I should not have been allowed to do it. I hate my tattoo, I hate being asked about it and I hate that my parents allowed it, although I understand why they did. It's a constant reminder of a very difficult period in my life and a lot of progressively bad decisions. It also paved the way for me to be more easily accepted by the group of kids who were a very bad influence and many of whom had very irresponsible parents.

Look at it this way; would you let your 15 year old take out a car loan, purchase a house, or get married? The first two aren't even lifetime commitments, but they are still too young to make that commitment. How about plastic surgery, would you allow that? A tattoo is pretty much the same as that.

Let them get a peircing or do something to their hair. No tattoo.
posted by windykites at 6:22 AM on August 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

I have several tattoos and I say no but I wouldn't, like, burn the relationship with my kid down over it. The reasons:

1. It's not legal in most places
2. Waiting until you're 18 is a time-honored rite of passage. When you're 15, every day feels like 10 years, but learning that you will not actually die if you don't do the thing RIGHT NOW and instead have to wait until you're 18/out of the house just like your fore-mothers and fathers did has value beyond just the immediate tattoo situation. I used to teach high school and I'd tell the kids this all the time: it seems like you've been alive forever and ever right now, but you are only 1/6 of the way through your life. A sixth! That's nothing! In 15 more years you'll still be considered a youngish adult, and that's as long as you've been alive right now. So: learn to wait because you've got 5/6 of your life yet to do stupid shit to your heart's content.
3. I don't regret any of my tattoos but they all represented phases of my life (yes even the one I got when I was 35) that did eventually end. Which is fine. None of them are super visible and I am pretty zen about permanent marks on my body (one of my tattoos is literally zen, so). But yeah, none of my tattoos are something that I want everyone to see all the time because they represent who I am right this moment. Zero of them are. Knowing whether or not you're going to be cool with that is something that comes with a bit more age and experience (and meeting lots of people with lots of different tattoos and seeing some of the Bad Choices that people have made)
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:26 AM on August 13, 2018

Kids are not entitled to adult experiences. That includes drinking, Vespa-ownership, and tattoos.
When she's 18 she can do as she pleases.
posted by BostonTerrier at 7:57 AM on August 13, 2018

To Soren_lorensens points:

1. It is legal in Ontario at 16

2. The line of when one becomes an "adult" is blurry; again this seems to be a divide in values between Americans and Canada/Europe where Americans delay legal adulthood rights like drinking to an extreme. Generally, at 16 you can drive a car, refuse CAS involvement in your life, get welfare, pay full price for most things and get tried as an Adult in court if your crime is serious enough. At 17 you graduate high school and leave home for University or College, or start working FT. You can join the Forces at 16 as a Junior applicant, 17 as a regular. You can use marijuana recreationally at 18 (and younger when under a doctor's prescription). At 18 in Quebec and Manitoba you can drink, 19 in Ontario and I wouldn't be surprised if it was lowered under the current government. 18 is when you can vote but there is serious push to lower that to 16. Conversely, living at home until you are in your mid-twenties is the norm in the GTA, so the change in parent-child relationship will be an evolving one, rather than a quick severing at 18. It is more of a spectrum and the arbitrary age of 18 is not really any more logical than 16, nor is the idea of 18 being an "adult" has only been "time-honoured" for a couple of generations.

3. That is an argument for never making any changes whatsoever in your life. Lots of things change the trajectory of your life - relationships, jobs, haircuts all have unforeseen consequences. NOT letting her make choices about there body and her life in this period of transition is also going to affect her and the OP's relationship.
posted by saucysault at 8:00 AM on August 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have one tattoo, want more, and I'd vote for waiting. Not because she'll automatically be more mature at 18 than at 16 (though I suspect there will be some change because brain development), but because I'm more of a "wait and think it through for a bit" person when it comes to tattoos. It sounds like she's mature for her age and she has a good artist in mind, but whatever space she puts it in is going to be space she won't have available later down the line if she comes up with something she'd like there even more (yes, I'm aware there is the other side of her body on that space but still there are probably a finite number of spaces where she can get a discrete tattoo, if that ends up being important to her). One or two years is a fairly big-ish portion of her life so far; waiting for that period will give her plenty of time to either grow more committed to the design she wants or to decide on something else.

I'm definitely big on anticipation, so YMMV - but on the other hand, besides not getting to do a thing she wants to do immediately, what are the drawbacks to waiting?
posted by DingoMutt at 8:02 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm covered in tattoos and always a fan of waiting mostly because, while I don't precisely regret the tattoo I got at 19, in design and theme it screams "this is a tattoo I got at 19."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:14 AM on August 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

Moreover, specifically with this image and her chosen placement, I'd worry that she's going way too small for the level of detail a good worldmap tattoo would require, which is a classic first tattoo mistake. Indeed, I insisted that my second, generally large chestpiece tattoo be scaled down when I got it done at 20, because I was nervous about doing something so frankly large; later, I got it expanded and done correctly for the placement and design and it looks much better and I feel better about it. Something like a worldmap really needs a large area. I'd wonder why she's not thinking sleeve or backpiece for the design. If it's because she wants something small and easily covered by, say, a watch, then she should get an image that is correspondingly simple. A good tattoo artist would likely tell her the same thing. If not, if it's just about getting a tattoo rather than getting this tattoo done right, then she should definitely wait.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:24 AM on August 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

I would just like to throw this out there, for perspective.

I got my first tattoo when I was I think 43 or 44. since then I have had 8 more in rapid succession, over a span a few years.

My first tattoo is bullshit, it is a crappy job and something that is almost embarrassing to the today me. The last two are my favorites, but who knows what 60 year old me will think?

So that issue is not special to a kid, I think it is special to getting your first tattoo, whenever.

If my boy wanted a tattoo at that age, here is what I would do. I would explain my own regret, well not regret but aesthetic disagreement that I have with past me. I would get him to journal a bit about why this tat was important to him, maybe (just because I am a cruel prick) I would take some video - he could explain to future self how cool his tat was going to be, and I would also apologize to his future self for allowing his past self to get this shitty tat, but that I respect his autonomy.

Then I would make him wait, maybe 2 months.

Then I would buy him his tattoo.

Then, when he hated it a week later, i would laugh and play him the videos. And then let him know that hey, man, it is really no biggie, there will be larger and more painful mistakes to come!

Good luck!
posted by Meatbomb at 8:58 AM on August 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

One element I haven’t seen addressed here yet is that visible tattoos on people, but particularly on female-presenting people, open you up to a whole new level of being harassed by strangers. Is your 16 year old daughter ready for strangers to literally grab her on the street to get a closer look at her tattoo? Because that almost certainly will happen at some point. At 29, I hate it but I can deal with it. At 16 I would not have been assertive enough to protect myself.
posted by coppermoss at 10:33 AM on August 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

You know your kid and her situation better than anyone here. It sounds like she's chosen a cool design and been mature about it. Before getting my first tattoo (at 27) I'd heard that you Had to keep the design in a visible place in my room for 2 years before putting it on my body as a tattoo. So I did that to be sure I got a tattoo that I wouldn't hate later.

Many years later the design doesn't speak to me like it did then. I am still completely happy with my decades-old decisions. So my vote is just "not in a highly visible location".
posted by ldthomps at 11:37 AM on August 13, 2018

my only concern would be that if she is REALLY REALLY PUSHING for it, and you say no, she might go to a scratcher and get an unsafe and unsightly tattoo. perhaps the compromise of wait XXX amount of time and you'll help pay for it at a quality studio?
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:46 AM on August 13, 2018

Also, laser tattoo removal is very expensive and not always effective; it can cause permanent scarring, including keloids. "It can just get removed" is not a great backup plan.
posted by windykites at 12:00 PM on August 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

I have both my arms and one thigh covered in tattoos. I got my first the month I turned 18. The most recent I just finished two weeks ago, at 42, and there's no question I will continue to get more. I consider the first one a mistake in some ways; in fact, my second-ever tattoo was a cover-up of the first.

Despite that experience, I'm not here to say No. I don't regret that I got a tattoo at age 18, or even the placement. I just eventually no longer appreciated the aesthetics of that particular one. And I ended up with the tattoo I did in part because I was hiding it from my parents, reliant on a friend who could drive me (I didn't have a car), and ended up going to a pretty shady place. The design was very of its time aesthetically, and more about my intense desire to have a tattoo - any tattoo - rather than something that was a bit more eternal in style and subject matter. I drew the design myself, despite not being particularly artistic, and went to the first shop I could find that would take walk-ins and ink the design I had drawn.

My philosophy about tattoos (for myself) now is pretty laissez faire: tattoos don't have to be meaningful or big or small or long-contemplated. What I've learned is that they do have to be well done, which means by a good artist, and that the best are the result of a collaboration between artist and client. I have very beautiful tattoos and very silly ones. They're all great. If anything, not forcing meaning onto a tattoo frees it from situations where that meaning could change or be tainted and later cause regret. A beautiful tattoo is just that - beautiful - and as long as the placement is appropriate and the work is good, there's less to regret over time (IMO).

On placement: I have essentially full tattoo sleeves and work in a professional environment. Although it's not hard to keep my tattoos covered, there are occasions when keeping them covered is a pain, like when it's especially hot in the office or I'm just arriving and it was warm outside. I've forged ahead with the tattoos on my arms because as a 30- and 40- something professional I was secure enough in my career and options available to me that I was willing to take the risk. I roll up my sleeves when I'm warm in the office and it's not been a big deal. But for a 16-year-old, I'd wait on anything past the elbows or knees until your daughter is more assured in her career path.

So I'd say go ahead, but with a lot of guidance and thought exercises about placement, design, size, etc. The comment about the size suiting the design and the level of detail is especially important. Even the most skilled artist using the finest needles have to work with the skin as a canvas and how it takes ink and heals and (eventually) spreads and fades. Make sure the design takes that into account.
posted by misskaz at 12:18 PM on August 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

For the record, I got my first tattoo at age 26. I waited five years to get the next one. Now I have 8. Guess what? The one I got at 26 is the dumbest one. I don't hate that it's on my body, but I also didn't really think it through.

Those are my feelings as a grown ass adult with tattoos. I'm cringing to imagine what idiocy I would have wanted on my body ten years prior.

So, no, don't let this happen. And also, to reiterate a point made above several times, no reputable, ethical, professional tattoo artist would tattoo someone underage anyway.
posted by thereemix at 5:40 PM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Why not see if you can make a consultation appointment with the artist at the shop and ask them? They will have the realtalk on the design, a good place on the body to get the wanted level of detail, and if they think its a do it now, or go home and think on it a few months. Good artists aren't shy to reject bad ideas or tell the client they should take time to think about A, B, and C before booking the tattoo.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:30 PM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think it's a decent idea to wait a bit after a tattoo idea to get it solid and be sure of it, but I don't think there's a magical age to get it at. It sounds like she's already done some waiting and will be doing at least a few months more.

When I was thinking about a tattoo, at age twenty, I asked my mom and on her advice ended up waiting (longer than either of us intended due to circumstances) and making way more irrevocable choices in the meantime (getting married and having a kid). I don't regret asking my mom, but I do wish I'd gotten the tattoo after only six months to a year of waiting. I get that it's permanent, but it's not dire.

Figure out, with your daughter, what a good amount of time is to mull this over and then give her permission after she's taken that time. She's too old to not be part of this conversation with you, to not have agency over herself. Help model this decision making so that she continues to make good decisions over the years, whether she asks your advice for them or not.
posted by Margalo Epps at 11:24 AM on August 15, 2018

She wants a tattoo of a world map, because she thinks she'll love to travel, but she hasn't considered getting it on her foot? The appendage that will do said traveling?

I agree she hasn't done enough deep thinking about this.

You can order custom rub on tattoos, and there are higher quality rub-on and draw on materials for temporary tattoos. I'd be more willing to let a child tattoo something permanent on their body if they could be bothered to upkeep a temporary one for a year. I mean, if she redrew it every week with a sharpie there's a good chance she's serious about it.

I considered doing that as an adult and couldn't even be bothered to order the fake tattoos, so that pretty much decided it for me.
posted by Dynex at 7:14 PM on August 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

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