'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
COOL NOT AS PERMANENT AS TATTOO
While going through the checkout line at a local department store recently, the cashier on duty was a bubbly young girl who appeared to be about a junior in high school. When she turned to open the cash drawer, I noticed an ugly tattoo on the back of her neck near the base of her skull. As she handed me the change and receipt, I saw a red and black serpent-like image covering most of her forearm. (At least I think it was a snake. Maybe it was a scorpion, or possibly a picture of James Carville.)
On seeing these expressions of, um, art, I thought to myself, This poor kid. No one ever explained to her the most basic, fundamental law of human existence: Cool is not permanent.
As everyone knows, being cool is important. We are social creatures, and fitting in with our peer groups is a necessary part of the socialization process. But “cool” itself is a vapor. Cool is fickle and fleeting and ever-changing. Something which is cool one minute, can in the next minute be totally Dorkville. (For example, using the term “Dorkville.”)
As my daughters were growing up, I constantly lectured them about the ephemeral nature of cool. During these lectures my wife often would interject, “Dear, they don’t know what ‘ephemeral’ means, and they can’t hear Mr. Rogers when you rant like that. Why don’t you give the ‘Tattoos are evil’ speech when the kids are a little older, say, around age seven?”
Now that our children are teenagers and their classmates are doing cool things, the kind of things if done by someone my age will get him held overnight for observation, I am very open-minded. I tell my daughters they are free to dabble in cool, as long as it is NOT permanent!
For example, they can do whatever they want with their hair—style, color, or even whether to have any or not. Hair grows back. If a kid wakes up one day and discovers that spiky green hair has become totally Dorkville, she can let it grow out, change the color back to normal, and most importantly, destroy any photographic evidence that she once thought it looked cool. (Something I forgot to do with my high school yearbook. Class of ’75: the year that fashion forgot.)
I’m even open-minded about piercings—to a point (pun intended). I don’t quite understand pierced noses, eyebrows, and multiple piercings on ears (which look as if the person got attacked by an out-of-control pneumatic staple gun), but when the hardware is removed, the holes eventually close up, so weird piercings are not permanent.
I do draw the line, however, on certain piercings. Some people like to pierce rather delicate parts of their anatomy, and this can cause a genuine health risk—namely, a concussion from being whacked in the head by their father when he finds out they actually pierced themselves…there. Also, those disks people put in their earlobes are not allowed. Once the hole is expanded to the point where a small dog can jump through it, those ears will never return to a normal size and shape when the disks are removed. These people are destined to go through life with their earlobes knotted together under their chins like bonnet ribbons.
So my kids know it’s OK to experiment with cool, as long as it’s not permanent. And they know, because I’ve told them 7 million times, that nothing is more permanent than a tattoo.
Someday in the not-too-distant future, that lizard-armed young cashier will have to attend an important meeting, for example, a big job interview. At that time she is going to wish she had never let some needle-wielding Picasso use her skin as a canvas.
Unless, of course, the job interviewer happens to have a snake tattoo on his arm, in which case they’ll both exclaim, “COOL!” and then compare tongue studs.
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