Not only are there two reality shows about ink shops, there’s now one dedicated to people who have had horrible work done and are a) living with it, b) getting it lasered off, or c) getting it covered with another (usually much bigger and sometimes worse) tattoo. What looks cool when you’re twenty almost never looks cool to you when you’re thirty. And I can’t tell you how many forty and fifty year olds I’ve seen with faded, blurry messes left of their former glory. It’s with you forever but it doesn’t look fresh or cool forever. My advice? Design it yourself or have a favorite artist design it and hold on to the design for an entire year before getting it done. If you wake up and go to sleep every single day of that year with intense anticipation of getting that tattoo, go ahead. If there is even a single moment during that year when your desire wavers in the slightest, put it aside. If you can’t maintain that intensity for a year, you won’t really want it on your body forever.
Piercing is an intensely painful process that can lead to disfigurement if it doesn’t heal properly. I saw a girl with super-weird looking three-inch long keloid-type scar tissue hanging from both her earlobes. People often tell me they get “addicted” to piercing. How does one get addicted to punching holes in one’s body? This smacks of self-loathing to me. Piercing is really a form of socially-acceptable mutilation and anyone who gets addicted to self-harm needs to stand back and look at that for a moment. Same thing with the tattoo advice: wait at least a year and wear a clip-on or some sort of temporary jewelry there if possible to get a feel for it. When I was younger, I didn’t go by this rule. Now I’m left with three piercing holes I’m happy with and two I’m not.
Extreme hair colors and styles:
I love purple and blue hair. I used to have it. I helped many friends to create all sorts of rainbow effects on their heads. I envied my friend’s cheetah-print foot-tall mohawk. Unfortunately, very few people will take you seriously at first glance with extreme hair. It’ll be very hard to get a lucrative job unless you work in a more creative, artistic or unconventional field where these things are appreciated or at least accepted. But seriously, when I see 5 year olds with mohawks and green highlights, there is clearly nothing outsider about it anymore. It’s more like a costume now, and costumes are for parties and Halloween.
While I completely understand the desire to assert individuality in our society and (if you are a child) to emotionally separate somewhat from your parents/caregivers as you move toward adulthood, there are, in my mind, better ways of achieving this. More often than not, I find that some people like to create extreme and elaborate looks to gain acceptance into a social sub-group or community other than the one they are born into.
I’ve got a different approach. Work on yourself. Expand your field of interests and knowledge base. Make decisions not out of spite against parents or societal norms, but out of a desire to grow as a human being and be better than what you see the average is. Move out of your comfort zone and associate with people different from yourself; people who are involved in things which are new and that seem exciting to you. Befriend people from different social strata and age groups, both older and younger. Set life goals and push yourself to meet them and then accomplish more. Acquire new skill sets. This kind of change is what will give fulfillment and makes you truly an individual. Surface changes are just that–surface.