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Modern Parenthood

Obama daughters tattoo: There’s a loophole in the plan, says a newly tattooed mom

Obama's family tattoo plan to deter his daughters from the needle may backfire, says a newly tattooed mom who has come to see it as art that may be more than skin deep in family meaning.

By Lisa SuhayGuest Blogger / April 25, 2013

Obama daughters tattoo plan isn't going to work, says Lisa Suhay, pictured getting a tattoo from artist Brian Stringer at Fuzion Tattoo in Norfolk, Va.

Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press


I started the clock on the first presidential "tramp stamp" when the president told the Today Show that he and first lady Michelle Obama had an immediate counterstrike to prevent his daughters, Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11, from getting tattoos. They would get identically placed and matching tattoos. This is one campaign promise requiring a term limit because lower lumbar tats are super painful — I should know, I got one two years ago.

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Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.

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In the interview, the president explained that he hoped the threat of a "family tattoo" would completely deter his daughters from inking their bodies during their teenage years. Yes, well, having a Secret Service detail on your teens is really the actual ink deterrent the Obamas have as a first line of defense.

However, as a mom who got a tattoo two years ago — a lower back/lumbar bit of ink that is often pejoratively tagged a “tramp stamp” — I am less inclined to see tattoos as the end of the world. Also, seeing things from the lawyerly perspective inherent in teenagers, I think the president left a loophole that can be artfully used to dodge the negatives currently associated with body art.

My tattoo is a “tribal” design that’s all black with no words. It’s a set of sharp-edged, interlocking strokes depicting, in a very broad sense, the elements of water and femininity I want to hold sacred as I age.

I liked the description of this style that I found on the website for Captain Brett’s Tattoo Shop in Newport, R.I., “Some Tattoos are self-motivated expressions of personal freedom and uniqueness. Most, however, have to do with traditions that mark a person as a member or nonmember of the local group, or express religious, magical, or spiritual beliefs and personal convictions. We all have a undeniable need to belong, this is the most basic Tribal need, and the reason for the Tribal Tattoos renewed power.”

Hmmmm, now if I wanted to belong to a group that shared my values, religious and social, I’d sure hope it was my family.

After all, what is a tribe but a family? By telling his daughters he and the first lady would make tattooing a family affair they were not being original and perhaps were actually making an excellent case for the girls to get inked.


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