I suspect that very few Americans can truthfully say they’ve never heard the story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Along with Goodnight Moon, The Berenstain Bears, and The Giving Tree, this book stirs within me warm memories of learning to read and snuggling with my parents before they tucked me in to sleep. Unlike a young woman I interviewed recently, my fondness for the book did not propel me to tattoo the image of the iconic insect across my neck.
Working in HR, I have become well versed in the ever-increasing list of criteria upon which you cannot legally base employment decisions without fear of a discrimination lawsuit. Luckily, I don’t anticipate them ever adding “made poor life decisions” to the list. I could expound upon the very legitimate reasons for needing to hire wholesome role models for kids whose general appearance won’t greatly influence the children in their charge, but I won’t hide behind that excuse. I don’t like tattoos, and I absolutely judge those who choose to get them.
The recent resurgence of tattoos among young people has been an unfortunate movement led by the characteristically impulsive millennial generation, of which I am a qualifying member. Self-expression has been taken to a new level, as people forego the more tasteful and hidden tattoos in favor of more extreme skin murals that are created to be noticed. Although they chronicle important life events and fleeting passions, these circumferential sleeves, neck tattoos, and wrist tattoos that seemed like such a great idea in college will likely become the most visible regret of youthful abandon. Even the most virtuous tattoos indicate an insatiable need to live in the moment.
Getting a tattoo, however cool it may seem at the time, is a poor life decision. Like vanity license plates, tattoos are only fully understood and appreciated by the bearer.
And so, for my unsuccessful, neck-tattooed, hungry caterpillar-loving, camp counselor applicant, I offer the following words of wisdom:
I hate to break it to you, darling, but that caterpillar won’t be turning into a beautiful butterfly. It won’t ever be beautiful. But it will be there, boldly emblazoned on the back of your neck, FOREVER. Next time you’re feeling whimsical, buy a sweater.