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Marks from tattoos are no more than skin deep
Ex-salon worker saw many hidden designs as student

Dear Abby: I am a mature, 21-year-old college student who has a tattoo. (Gasp!) I read your column religiously and was infuriated with "Worried Parents in Washington." Getting a tattoo does not make you a bad person, a criminal or more likely to commit a crime. I have never even been pulled over for speeding. My friends with tattoos have never been in trouble with the law either, nor have they any experience with drugs. Tattooing is a form of expression, and becoming more and more commonplace with young people. The art has been around for thousands of years.

I found the comment, "People with tattoos are usually individuals who have been or still are in prison, and tattoos are not reflective of our cultural background," particularly offensive. "Worried Parents" should allow their daughter to make her own decision to keep or remove her tattoo. It does not change the person she is or will be. They should back off and allow her to make her own choices and live with the aftermath. -- Jennifer L. Lewis, Maryville, Ill.Dear Jennifer: I wish you hadn't taken offense so quickly and had reread the sentence that bothered you. It read: "We discussed it with her and explained that in OUR country, people with tattoos are usually individuals who have been or still are in prison and that tattoos are not reflective of OUR cultural background." In other words, they were raised in another culture where tattoos are less common and less accepted than they have become in this country. I agree that the tattoo will not change the daughter as a person.

The letter from "Worried Parents" needled more than a few readers. Read on:

Dear Abby: I was shocked at the attitude of "Worried Parents in Washington." All my sister's friends at an all-girl Catholic school have tattoos, and they come from very high-class backgrounds.

Abby, those people can't control their daughter's entire life. Maybe if they had let her have a little more freedom when she was younger, this wouldn't have happened. -- Julie in California

Dear Julie: We don't know whether the girl and her parents are in the U.S.A. permanently, or whether they plan to return to their country of origin in the next few years. In some countries, parents CAN control their daughters' entire lives.

Dear Abby: When I was 13, I worked in a beauty supply store. All of the wonderful women who worked there had tattoos. None had been in prison. During college, I worked in a Beverly Hills skin-care salon. I saw lots of naked bodies -- rich, famous and otherwise. You wouldn't believe how many had little hidden tattoos. Not just rock stars and actors. Some were producers, writers, accountants, civil engineers, etc.

My favorite "tattooism": The difference between people with tattoos and people without is people who have them don't care if you don't have one. -- Three Tattoos So Far

Dear Three Tattoos: I am aware that people in many professions sport tattoos, including doctors, nurses, lawyers and college professors. For many, their tattoos have a deeply personal meaning. A reader from Berkeley informed me that in some cultures, the meaning can be spiritual or religious as well.

However, I would caution those who are contemplating permanent body art to think twice about it -- because tattoos are harder to get rid of than they are to get.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.) (C) Universal Press Syndicate