I’m going to share some shocking news with you: I once got turned down for a job.
I know, it’s hard to believe. But it happened. When I was interning at Anonymous Agency, two permanent positions opened up. (I swear, I don’t know how those social workers fell down the stairs.) I interviewed for both of them. One of those was the job I have today. The other was the same position at another office.
My supervisor, who I am not ashamed to admit I was terrified of, was the one who told me I was only being offered one of these jobs. It was a blow to the ego, to be honest. I’m a weirdo and a klutz, but I’m also a perfectionist in my own way. Academic success is like a drug, and I know for a fact that I look awesome on paper.
Scary Supervisor told me that she wanted to share with me the reason I didn’t get the job, and she hoped that I would take this in “the spirit in which it was intended.” I can’t even describe to you the things that went through my mind before she said the next sentence.
“It’s because of your eyebrow ring.”
I thought that was ridiculous. But I realized that I was young and inexperienced, so maybe I was wrong. Scary Supervisor, though, who never tried to reassure me about anything, told me, “Apparently she took it as a sign of immaturity. I don’t know why you would want to work for someone like that.”
Good point. And thank goodness I ended up where I did.
That was the first and last time my eyebrow ring, or my industrial ear piercing (a really stupid name, but feel free to Google it) held me back professionally. They’ve been nothing but an asset since then. My teenagers love them, as do my young moms. Talking about piercings is such an easy way to break the ice and start engagement. A fourteen year old comes in, surly and feeling like a scapegoat, and then all of a sudden it’s, “Miss, did that hurt? Ma, that’s the piercing I want.”
I’ve had lots of piercings in my time, more than I currently have in. My parents were never thrilled about it, but they looked the other way. The parents I work with are, for the most part, pretty relaxed about their kids poking holes in various parts of their bodies. They often take them to get it done, and a lot of the parents I work with have them as well. It’s just something else that we have in common.
The same goes for tattoos. I’ve got a couple, as do almost all of my clients, it seems. I got my first tattoo when I was nineteen. The work I currently have, I love, and of course I want more. But if I had been permitted to get what I wanted when I was fifteen…I’m not saying I don’t still like Sublime, I’m just saying I’m fine with not advertising that fact on my back.
A startling portion of my under-eighteens are already tattooed. The youngest one that I’m aware of is thirteen years old, and has a rather large piece over her heart. In fairness, she did it in homage to her brother, which led to me hearing one of the strangest statements I’ve ever heard. “Who the hell gets their brother’s name written all over their titty?” A seventeen year old left my office in tears once, because I couldn’t help siding with her mother on whether or not getting cupcakes tattooed on her butt was a good idea.
I love tattoos and piercings. Mine are awesome, and some other people have all right ones as well. Tattoos are a commitment. Piercings can be temporary, and I don’t think they’re such a big deal as long as they’re taken care of.
The problem with getting these things done when you’re seriously underage is that you’re probably not going to a reputable source.
When I get a tattoo or piercing, I stop just short of hiring a private investigator to do a background check on the artist. I use the Google, I ask for references, I look at pictures of previous work. If someone is willing to tattoo a thirteen year old, there is probably some shadiness going on that you don’t want to be a part of. When you’re having ink shot into your skin with a needle, you want to avoid shadiness.
When I ask my young teens where they got their tattoos, I’m typically told, “the tattoo guy.” I’m not sure if every building has a different guy, or if he travels, but there is a dude running around with a machine tattooing children, whether their parents know or not. That sounds just great.
There is also a lot of conflicting information on the best aftercare for tattoos and piercings. You will hear something a bit different from different professionals and different people who have been through the process. Do I leave the plastic wrap on for one or four hours? Is Bacitracin really ok, but Neosporin isn’t? A&D ointment, really? Isn’t this stuff for baby’s asses? In Ireland, I was told to put Preparation H on a new tattoo (a purchase I was not hoping to have to make at such an early age) and go downstairs for a Guinness to combat my lightheadedness. (A purchase I was perfectly happy to make. Also, I was tattooed by a large stereotype.)
There are some things that are always wrong, though, and some that are always right. Some days, part of my weird job includes instructing kids in proper aftercare. Half the time this is just admonishing them to keep their dirty hands off their healing wounds. Clients tell me that their piercing is infected, so they’re going to take it out and let it close. You might be shocked to hear this, but trapping the pus and infection under your skin is not the way to heal it. We’re leaving this counseling room, buying some sea salt, and you are going to do some soaking. Don’t tell me you’re putting Vaseline on a new tattoo! Also, I know it’s the summer, but you cannot go swimming. Sorry, but pools and hot tubs are the equivalent of bathing with strangers. Next time wait until January. I see that your tongue ring fell out, but do not stick a dirty pen cap in there to keep the hole open!
I have actually had to say all of those things. Including the last one.
The fact that I have tattoos and piercings is an asset in my work. You can never have too much in your bag of social work tricks. Everything helps when you’re trying to engage a resistant client.
And it gave me the credibility I needed to come out against cupcakes.