Freshmen turn to tattoos to embellish student body

Kate Parker, Contributing Reporter [email protected]

It’s the thing parents of incoming freshmen fear more than drinking, drugs and sex, likely because of its permanence: their child getting inked.

Many American teenagers eagerly await the moment they turn 18, excited to be able to get a tattoo legally — and this enthusiasm is seemingly enough of a benefit to assuage fears of newfound responsibilities, like jury duty and the prospect of being tried as an adult.

In a questionnaire of 19 students from Tulane’s Class of 2020, 11 percent of students got their tattoos before coming to campus, while 89 percent waited until they got to campus to get their skin sketched.

This questionnaire focused specifically on the freshman class, as many of them turn 18 shortly before or after reaching college and getting inked is primarily relevant to this age group. While the questionnaire didn’t account for other ages, attitudes towards the significance and meanings of tattoos are likely similar for Tulane students as a whole.

The most popular options include quotes and images that depict students’ hometowns, like a silhouette of the Appalachian Mountains, or the more New Orleans-symbolic fleur-de-lis. In the unique, never-boring spirit of Tulane, some students have made outside-the-box choices — including a marijuana leaf and a sloth donning a beret. A common sentiment among the freshmen interviewed is that existing and potential tattoos must have some significance to them before they make such a big decision.

While the range of tattoos sported by freshmen is virtually limitless, the study indicates that students agree on what they would not put on their bodies. 74 percent would never get a tattoo of someone else’s name and 33 percent say that they would not get a tattoo that’s hard to conceal, with the biggest areas of concern being ink on the hands, face, and neck.

Getting a tattoo feels distinctly grown up, a way to outwardly signify the internal excitement of reaching adulthood.

In New Orleans, Pigment is currently the parlor most frequently visited by the Class of 2020, followed by Downtown Tattoos and Piercings and Electric Ladyland Tattoo. Traditional tattoo parlors, however, are not the only route freshmen take. Freshman Skylar Rome has been practicing stick-and-poke on campus, continuing a business she started at her boarding school.

“My need for creative stimulation in my extremely dull high school environment is really what lead me to find my completely random knack for tattooing,” Rome said.

At Tulane, she has penned the world “milk” on her thigh.

“I continue to tattoo friends and strangers and have given a total of four tattoos since being at Tulane,” Rome said.

Tattoos serve many as a mark of independence, but most students can’t ignore the very real reaction their body art may elicit from their families.

“I’ll probably be pulled from Tulane if my dad finds out,” Sabrina Tucci, a freshman with an origami-style elephant on her wrist, said.

Tucci is not alone; 47 percent of freshmen with a tattoo say they worry about their parents finding out. Those who have multiple tattoos showed decreased stress about their parents’ reactions. The research doesn’t predict what parents’ response will be over Thanksgiving break, but most of these students probably aren’t anxious to find out.