Friday, March 14, 2008

Life changes, tattoos don't

After passing along a note about tattoos yesterday, I remembered this column I wrote in September.

Life changes, tattoos don't

The Dallas Morning News

Now that college freshmen have spent a few weeks on campus, they’re probably getting the hang of things. They might, however, have some questions about higher education.

Among them:

How do I balance studying and a social life? Why do some textbooks cost more than the desk I set them on? Is there a way to convince my roommate that a burglar broke into our dorm room and stole his entire collection of Norwegian folk music?

All are important questions, especially the last one. I once had a friend who was nuts about a “global rhythms” CD. I kind of liked it at first, but after a few weeks I was ready for any song that didn’t include bongos, a sitar or a willow flute.

Anyway, back to helping college freshmen — lovingly referred to as “Cha-ching!” by their academic institutions. Do I have any answers for the questions above?

Sadly, as was the case with many test questions I faced at the University of Arizona, no. But as a college graduate with many friends who graduated from college, or attended college, or at least considered enrolling while playing a “global rhythms” CD, I can pass along one solid piece of advice:

It’s easier to change a major than a tattoo.

No, I’m not kidding. That’s serious advice.

That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with tattoos. I truly admire people so passionate and committed to something that they decide to make it a permanent body adornment. Now that’s confidence.

But the college years are a vulnerable time. You’re impulsive, reckless and swayed by peers who are in their 10th semester and still haven’t declared a major. It’s when you’re learning about the world, learning to be independent and learning that using a karaoke machine to broadcast play-by-play of a video game in your dorm room is not welcomed by neighbors. (Your experience may vary.)

And this is the time when a lot of people get inked up. You’ve got confidence, you’ve got zeal and now you’ve got a fire-breathing dragon covering your back, a snake slithering up a bicep, and a tattoo that says “EAST WING BROTHERS FOREVER!” on your shoulder.

Wait. Who are the East Wing brothers?

Who knows. Many college experiences include at least one foggy night.

That’s why, college students, you should think before you ink. Don’t let friends talk you into it — or out of it. Getting a tattoo is an intensely personal decision, much like cosmetic surgery, your political affiliation and whether to admit you once owned M.C. Hammer’s Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ’Em album. (Hey, at least it didn’t feature any willow flute.)

If the tattoo really means something to you, go for it. My brother, for example, has about a dozen tattoos, and I think they all mean something to him. Even the “Wixon” that’s spelled out on his arm in a font size you might expect in a newspaper headline such as “Texas annexes Mexico.”

What that “Wixon” tattoo means, I don’t know, but our name does get misspelled a lot. I guess when someone writes “W-I-C-K-S-O-N,” it would be nice to just roll up a sleeve and flash a definitive spell check.

Still, it’s not worth it. Which I think a lot of college students would say 10 years after they give permanence to a fleeting moment in their lives. So before heading to a tattoo parlor, ask yourself these questions:

Does this tattoo include the name of a love interest I’ve known for less than a month? Will I proudly display this tattoo when I stop using the term “kegger?” If I have a bunch of tattoos, and they degrade over time, in 50 years will I look like a beat-up package that got accidentally mailed around the world?

I hope this will help. My only other college advice is that, although sometimes you might feel lost on a large campus, you are always more than a number to the university.

In most cases, you are a combination of numbers and letters. Such as Student No. A14529T.

It will be easy to remember if you have it tattooed on your arm.