You are only young once, and that is a good thing — not only for parents and children, but for everyone else, too. Last year, one of my sons went to Boston for the summer to study creative writing. The program was designed to give him a taste of college life and living away from home before it was actually time for him to go away to school “for real.”
Before my son left for his three week program, I cautioned him (really, I gave him an emphatic instruction) not to get his ear pierced. That had been an on-going discussion in our household and I had based my instructions on (i) his high school’s prohibition of ear rings for boys, (ii) my concern that any place that would pierce a minor without parental consent would probably be less than hygienic, and (iii) my sincere belief that he should not pierce any part of his body until he reached adulthood and could consider the longer term implications of piercings, tattoos and other modern primitive adornment.
To make a long story short, he returned with a pierced ear and an infection that was attributed to the piercing. Lesson learned and, fortunately, there was no long term damage.
Pierced ears are not all that radical, I know, and piercings can be concealed. There are not many long term risks associated with them. Start piercing other parts of the body, especially visible parts of the anatomy, or start covering your body with tattoos, however, and there are long term ramifications.
Yesterday, for example, I went to lunch with another lawyer. We were dressed comfortably but professionally. Our server was dressed in what seems to be the obligatory black uniform of hair stylists and restaurant servers everywhere. She was very polite and otherwise appeared professional, but for the mere fact that almost all of her exposed skin (both legs, both arms and the exposed part of her torso at the neck line) was covered in tattoos. She could not have been more than 24 years old and her body was completely illustrated.
My friend and I both commented that we could not anticipate a day when professionals would be accepted if they were covered in tattoos. Neither of us would feel good about a doctor who had covered his or her body in tattoos and we could not think of a single lawyer or accountant we had ever met who was similarly decorated.
Perhaps we were just showing our age, but we both agreed that our young server had greatly limited her employment options by covering herself with tattoos. That is a shame, really. She seemed quite intelligent and articulate and, in reality, body art has nothing to do with ability. Unfortunately for her, however, most customers and clients want a less over the top appearance in their professional advisors. In a difficult economy, none of us has the luxury of eliminating potential jobs or customers from our respective futures, but I really do believe that tattoos, piercings and other “modern primitive” lifestyles do just that.
When I brought this up at dinner last night, my son suggested that people should be able to do what they want with their bodies — not a surprising perspective coming from a teen, and not one with which I disagree for the most part. The right to do something is entirely different from the prudence of doing it. I suspect my son is starting to recognize that, too. When I told him that he should wait until he is thirty to get a tattoo so that he will know what career he will be pursuing and whether a tattoo would harm his professional development, my son responded “But if I wait until I am thirty, I won’t want a tattoo on my body anymore.”
What do you think of piercings and tattoos? Do you believe that unusual piercings and bodies covered with art can limit professional advancement? If that is what you think, do you think that is fair? Are you a professional covered in tattoos? How has that affected your professional life?