Blood Is Thicker Than Ink, Hopefully

18 Sep

by Roger White   

To My Dear Lovely Daughters,

I noticed the other day as I picked you up from high school that several of your schoolmates—guys and girls—were sporting all shapes and sizes and colors of tattoos on various parts of their bodies. Now, whether these were the permanent kind or not I haven’t a clue, but something tells me that at least some of the pigmented Picassos were of the needle and pain variety.

Now, far be it from me to disparage the youth of today or grouse against freedom of expression simply because I answer roll call as a “duddy, comma, fuddy, antique variety.” Please understand that I am trying hard to keep my mind pried open with regard to using one’s epidermis as a canvas for skulls and hearts and slogans and tribal images and mysterious Asian-looking symbols and whatnot. (Note: I kinda have a notion that true Asian-speaking people could be having a bit of fun in the tattoo parlors by telling customers that certain symbols represent such qualities as strength and courage, when they really translate to “egg fried rice” or something.)

But anyway. In my day (I know, your favorite three words), but in my day, people with tattoos were chiefly hardened criminals, old sailors, and motorcycle gang types. And the tattoos were simple and simply placed. You had about three tattoos to choose from back then: a name (mostly Mom), a battleship, or a mermaid. They were one, two colors max—and they went on the guy’s bicep. Women were not allowed to have tattoos then. The women who did have them were considered of dubious virtue.

Girls, I know times have changed. I understand that tattoos now adorn the bods of everyone from athletes to bankers to moms in the grocery store. Heck, viewing any football or basketball game today is like watching a prison riot in my book (see duddy, comma, fuddy above). I read recently that no less than 21 percent of adult Americans now have a tattoo. Twenty-one percent. That’s about one in five, if I remember my trigonometry.

So I guess the reason I’m writing you, my precious offspring, is to say I understand if you are considering staining your skin—permanently—because your pals are doing it. Just a few notes to consider, however, while you’re pondering, OK? First off, do you know where I read that 21 percent figure I quoted you? On the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site, that’s where. Do you also know that licensed tattoo artists are supposed to have bloodborne pathogen training because of the risk of spreading disease, AND that the Red Cross prohibits a person who has received a tattoo from donating blood for 12 months unless the procedure was done in a state-regulated and licensed studio using sterile techniques? Hmm? Also, there are no federal regulations regarding tattoo parlors, and believe it or not, not all ink places abide by state regs.

But really, it’s fine with me. Oh, here are a few more tidbits:

Diseases and conditions that can be transmitted by the use of unsterilized tattoo equipment or contaminated ink include:

• Surface infections of the skin

• Hepatitis B

• Hepatitis C

• Tuberculosis

• Tetanus


• Allergic reactions to tattoo pigments

• Reactions triggered by exposure to sunlight

• Allergic conditions caused by certain trace-element metals in pigments

• Tattoo burns caused by MRI scans

• Dermal reactions such as granulomas, various lichenoid diseases, collagen deposits, discoid lupus erythematosus (yike), eczematous eruptions, hyperkeratosis, and keloids

• Infections due to contaminated ink or ink diluted with non-sterile water

Now, say you change your mind about that beloved ink blot later in life. It’s true, girls. You may have regrets down the road about toting Justin Bieber’s face and mop of hair on your backside for the rest of your days. I read that several physicians who specialize in tattoo removal estimate that about 50 percent of people who get inked later want one or more tattoos removed. They do have laser removal these days, a procedure that folks liken unto getting their skin splattered with hot bacon grease for several hours, but if the tattoo is extensive, sometimes removal requires sanding down the skin to remove layers, cryosurgery, or even excision, in which a surgeon goes in with a scalpel and closes the wound with stitches. Larger tattoo removal may require skin grafts. Yes, skin grafts.

Just some things to think about, girls. I’ll have body piercing info for you in my next letter.

Love ya,


(Note to all you gorgeously inked folks out there—and to the artists who ink them—no offense intended, especially if you’re as large as my friend Big Joe. Heck, I have some inked friends, relatives even. My nephew has Wile E. Coyote on his ankle. This is simply a letter to my daughters, whom I still regard in my heart as ages 7 and 5, respectively. Spouse out.)

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit


4 Responses to “Blood Is Thicker Than Ink, Hopefully”

  1. darkredrebecca September 18, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    Love it….

  2. freedlife September 18, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    Wow! Nuff said.

  3. heyinfinity September 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    Thank you for reminding me why I never want to get a tattoo. That said, if I DID ever change my mind – I’d get one of those asian symbols that read “egg fried rice” – yum.

  4. chemobrainandmore October 1, 2012 at 7:00 am #

    I am 37, and yes I was a stupid 19 yr old girl who got a tat around her entire rt ankle(no skulls,dolphins). I thought I could hide it from my father, a man that went to catholic boarding school. I will never forget the look on his face anger in his eyes when he saw it. I dont think I walked straight for a week after that, and yes I desereved. Now working in the corp world it is not attractive when I wear skirts and I try to hide it horribly with make up. Hind sight is 20/20,when your 19 your just plain old stupid, you have no business making that kind of decision at that age. And by the time your my age you just look at it with distane and regret.But what do I tell my son when hes in high school,back in my day, thats a tough one?

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