DEAR ABBY: I read the letter from "Future Skin Artist, Port Huron, Mich." (Aug. 7), the 18-year-old male who wants to be a tattoo and piercing artist and who sports 20 piercings and a tattoo. He was complaining about the stares and cruel remarks he got from people.
I am a devoted 33-year-old mom of an 8-year-old son. I have a degree in computer forensics, a successful career, 34 piercings and 20 tattoos.
I started by getting my tongue and eyebrow pierced when I was 18. I have had to deal with all the same issues, and it used to frustrate me. Over the years, I have learned a few things about dealing with people.
Most people are not trying to be rude or offensive — they're just curious. It is essential to not be rude to them, but to smile and answer, "Of course it hurt, but it's not so bad."
I worked with a lady who was shocked when she saw me with my jewelry in. She said she could not believe that a nice person like me could have "those ugly things that criminals wear." After a discussion, she told me that she realized her stereotypes were wrong and would never judge a person that way again. It was one of the proudest days of my life.
— GINGER IN MARYLAND
DEAR GINGER: Thank you for your input. I was impressed by the upbeat nature of the responses to that young man's letter. Read on for a sample:
DEAR ABBY: To the 18-year-old aspiring piercer/tattoo artist in Port Huron: If this is your future career, don't you realize that YOU are the best advertising you can get for your future business? You can't pay for the type of promotion you can give yourself.
If you really are as "nice" and "respectable" a human being as you say you are, answer people's questions with a smile and hand them your business card. Start a Web site and explain why you want to be a body modification artist. Keep people updated on how far along you are on your project.
You are in charge of how you will be perceived. Leave folks with a good impression and become the best tattoo artist in the Thumb! (That's a part of Michigan, for you outsiders.)
— MICHIGAN RICK IN FLORIDA
DEAR ABBY: Advising "Future Skin Artist" to move to Los Angeles was highly impractical. There is an overabundance of piercing/tattoo artists in California, particularly in L.A. He would be far better off to find a well-known, respected person in the field and approach that individual about an apprenticeship to learn the craft.
— PROUD PAINTED LADY IN OHIO
DEAR ABBY: Tell that guy to move to Pittsburgh. In my neighborhood, piercings, body art and fluorescent hair are as common as business people in suits. He wouldn't get a second glance here. Plus, Pittsburgh's a heck of a lot closer to his hometown than L.A.
— TATTOOED BANKER
DEAR ABBY: When people gawk or ask questions, he should respond, "We must all suffer for our art."
— MOM WHO UNDERSTANDS
DEAR ABBY: Congratulations to "Future Skin Artist." You have a passion and know what you want to do in life. Some 40-year-olds still have no clue what they want to be when they grow up.
You'll hear comments about your appearance all your life. When someone asks about a piercing or tat, offer them your business card. You are a walking billboard. I wish you the best of luck!
— MIDWEST MARY
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.