Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: I’m with the person who dislikes tattoos, wishes they had never been invented and struggles not to be judgmental toward people who have them. I am trying to think about your statement that they may be “an expression of self.”
For years I have tried to disengage from my overly emotional, judgmental reaction to my niece’s ever-growing “tattoo collection,” as she calls it. But how can it be “self-expression” when she is covering herself in eagles, skulls and Hello Kitty images invented by others, and usually for mass-marketing purposes? In no way is her “tattoo art” original.
She has several new tattoos since getting married and giving birth. I dread inviting her to the pool this summer. (Sigh.)
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Trying Not to Judge
Do you design and sew all your clothes, with textiles you also designed? Did you engineer, build and paint your own car? Did you design and build all your own furniture, weave your rugs, create all the art on your walls, formulate the paint colors?
Virtually everything you wear and use is at the end of a production line created for a commercial purpose.
You’re choosing where to draw these lines. So, you can choose to draw them in a way that places your niece on your side.
One thing that tends to help in this process is to recognize you’re getting something out of your distaste — typically in these cases, it’s a sense of superiority.
Re: Tattoos: My friend has a tattoo related to a particular TV show. Technically, I suppose it’s a commercial tattoo, but in reality, when she was having a really tough time, she used the show to help herself through it. So you might see a commercial symbol, but your niece sees something she cares enough about that she’s inked it permanently on her skin. The meaning you give it is not the meaning she gives it.
Such a clear way of putting it, thank you.
Dear Carolyn: Big news and juicy gossip are pretty easy to distinguish, but what about all of the in-between information? If Friend A shares something about his life that’s neither intimate nor secret, am I allowed to say to Friend B, “Did you hear that Friend A is going to X/working on Y/tried restaurant Z?” I ask because my significant other complains that my best friend and I gossip too much. (For the record, we stick to neutral topics when SO is around). We like to keep each other updated on our mutual friends’ lives, but not to pass judgment or rumors. SO feels that this is childish of friend and me, and suggested we focus our energy on introspection rather than inspection.
Gossip or Not?
Um. Shouldn’t SO focus on introspection rather than inspection of other people’s phone conversations? The pot’s being a nitpicky doink to the kettle.
If you and your SO are so far apart on what constitutes friendly conversation that you censor yourself to accommodate, then maybe you’re not a good match.
And please stop censoring your topics just on principle. Being yourself is not something to hide from a mate.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.