Why I Took My 7-Year-Old to a Tattoo Parlor

Last month, following a long period of girlish cajoling, my daughter finally got her ears pierced in celebration of her 7th birthday. The setting was not the traditional mall kiosk staffed by some bored and minimally trained 16-year-old. Instead I took my daughter to a tattoo parlor.

Surprised they even allow 7-year-olds in those kinds of places? Think again. A growing number of parents are apparently turning to tattoo parlors to bejewel their children’s little lobes. I didn’t come up with this crazy idea out of the blue; I’m a reporter, after all: I researched where to take Shira and weighed the pros and cons. I found that tattoo parlors — despite the blaring heavy metal music — were mom-approved by a local parenting email list. When even a nurse cast her vote in favor of the tattoo parlor, I deliberated no longer.

“There is a stigma attached to tattoo parlors that they’re dirty and will be bombarded by foul-mouthed people,” says Sarah LaRoe, a mom with multiple facial piercings and tattoos creeping up her neck, who pierced my little girl’s ears so tenderly that she left her not in tears but with a big, happy smile on her face.

Contrary to what you might think, tattoo parlors — at least the one I went to — are actually bastions of cleanliness. Some states regulate them, and reputable ones use disposable needles and sterilize all their equipment in an autoclave. In contrast, mall piercers and many jewelry stores use piercing guns that have been associated with complications and can’t be completely sterilized. Armed with that knowledge, which would you choose?

While some parents might be freaked out by the idea of taking their kid to a tattoo parlor, I looked upon the outing as an adventure, joking with my daughter about getting a Hello Kitty tattoo for mom. What I didn’t expect was that the experience would evolve into a lesson in tolerance. In that unnerving way little kids have of speaking their mind, Shira took an initial look at LaRoe and stage-whispered: “I think she looks ugly like that.”

I immediately flashed her my scary mom eyes to signal her to clam up. But later, after we’d left the store, her comment served as an opportunity to point out that just because someone looks different, it doesn’t mean she’s not a good person. LaRoe, regardless of her unconventional piercings, was super-professional and extremely kind.

For professional piercers like LaRoe, who stick needles through noses, eyebrows, tongues and nether regions, ears are the most mundane of piercing locations. But that doesn’t mean they don’t take it seriously. LaRoe spent nearly an hour with us, versus the quick in-and-out that I remember from getting my ears pierced at the mall as a girl. Before leading us into the piercing room — which looked just like a doctor’s office — LaRoe handed the birthday girl a bag with a lollipop, which expertly distracted Shira from being overly nervous about what was going on.

The bag also contained non-iodized sea salt and instructions for mom on how to mix a saline solution to clean newly pierced ears. Unlike the alcohol that mall kiosks recommend for cleaning, salty water doesn’t burn.

Now for the gory details: at tattoo parlors, piercers use hypodermic needles to core out a sliver of skin, making room for an earring — a relatively painless procedure. In contrast, at the mall, the piercer uses a gun that painfully jams a blunt-tipped earring stud into the ear lobe; the process does not remove skin, but effectively pushes it aside.

LaRoe is so convinced of the superiority of needles over piercing guns that she’s signed petitions to ban the guns; one such petition makes the case that “only cowboys use guns.” In her quest to reform the ear-piercing industry, LaRoe leaves her business card at schools and pediatricians’ offices. When she takes her own son to the doctor, she’ll frequently get questions about her multiple piercings; sometimes she gets customers that way too.

Ultimately, though, change starts parent by parent, through word of mouth. “It kind of acts like a trendsetter,” says LaRoe. “All it takes is one little girl who goes to school and says it didn’t hurt.”

It didn’t hurt? Well, maybe a little. But so little that Shira didn’t even blink when LaRoe pierced her first ear. During the procedure, LaRoe had her do some deep, yoga-like breathing, which Shira is familiar with from her weekly yoga class. In and out, in — pierce! Of course, the lollipop helped too.

via time


housewreckerA house. That’s what I live in now. I used to have a home. A beautiful two story home with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a patio that I made myself. My wife and I loved entertaining on the patio, and the parties we had were nothing short of spectacular. Friends, family, neighbors, rib-eyes on the the grill, and a cooler full of beer could turn any bad day into a good one. Laughing and talking until the sun went down was what we lived for.

God how I miss my family. The deep black billows of smoke still haunt my dreams every time I try to sleep, and the sleep I used to enjoy so much is now a necessary evil. I feel that I will never will get the visions of my house burning down out of my head, knowing that I had just laid my family to rest in it. I guess I brought it upon myself though. I couldn’t stop watching. I just stood there watching the flames dance all about. And when I got tired of standing, I sat there until the last ember had flickered out.

I need to sleep tonight. I have to sleep tonight. I found a few allergy pills the last time we went out salvaging, and they are the kind that could make an insomniac snore. I was going to save them for trading to another man in this house who seems to have stashed every pack of cigarettes in this county, but I can’t. I need to take them tonight. I have to take them tonight.

The men in this house and I have a very important job to do. We’re looking for a different place to stay and hope to find one that is well stocked with supplies to sustain us for a few more weeks. We are running out of salvage locations in the close proximity, so we plan on moving on out about 25 miles closer to the city. The suburbs. That’s where we want to go . Plenty of houses there, and houses mean food, I hope. What I wouldn’t do for one of those grilled rib-eyes.

There will be more madmen there, and we have to avoid them at all costs. We can hear gunfire in the distance every day and night, but the amount is waning, so hopefully, hopefully, they have moved on in search of more people to slaughter, or they have been continually killing each other. Either way, the less of them there are, the better our chances of survival will be.

I’m glad I found this composition book the last time we were out. It’s one of the black and white ones with the words “Composition Book”, and a place to write your name, on the front. I haven’t wrote my name on it yet. I should do that in case I don’t make it. Maybe someday someone will find it and want to know who it was that lived this way. Who wrote these words? Who was this person? What was his name? Without a name, they are just words on pages….but with a name, reading these words will give you a little more insight to who I was.

I wont be writing in here anymore until after we make it to the suburbs (if we make it to the suburbs) and settle in for a few days. It’s too risky to get lost in what I am writing and lose focus of the task at hand, and the task at hand right now is to sleep. We are leaving at dawn.

My name is Desmond. Desmond Stolt.

The Madness – That’s All That’s Left

The madness. That’s what scares me the most. I don’t want it to catch up with me, and even though I don’t know much about these men that are here with me, I feel certain they don’t want it either. So I sit here, as alone as I can make myself, waiting. But what am I waiting for? The next run, out to fetch a few basic things from the quagmire that surrounds us? A man can only wait so long in this desolate place before the madness catches up with him. There’s nothing left here anymore. Well, I guess there is. It’s the madness – that’s all that’s left.

I miss my wife and children the most. I feel selfish for wishing that they were here with me, and yet I feel solace in knowing that they don’t have to tremble in fear everyday like I do. I still get sick when I think of how they left this place though. No one should be put through the agonizing pain that they had to experience in their last few hours. No one should have to go through that, not even the madmen, regardless of how evil they have became.

It all seems to have happened so quickly, yet to them, it probably seemed like it took forever. It started with the fever, it always started with the fever. Then the aching, pounding headache and pressure that caused the eyes to bulge. As the eyes swelled to nearly double their size, bursting was inevitable. Immediately, the blood (Oh GOD! The BLOOD! So Much BLOOD!) began to pour, streaming down their face like rushing waters in a flash flood. It pushed its way through the milky white darkness in the space their beautiful green and blue eyes once occupied. The blood poured from their ears and nostrils (The Screaming! The Screaming is too much! My God where is all this blood coming from?!) at such an alarming rate I struggled to keep my composure while trying to keep them calm and assure them that I was right there with them.

And just like that, they were gone.

Damn. How many days has it been? It feels like at least 3 months have passed. 


I burnt that house down the next day. I couldn’t just leave them there, all alone….like I am now.

The Madness - That's All That's Left