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#902: “My Grandma made a huge fuss when I got a tattoo.”

Dear Captain,

I’m 25 years old and when I was 21 I got my first tattoo. It was a memorial tattoo for an uncle and I’d been thinking about it for a few years, so finally I decided to do it. My mom took me to her tattoo guy and after it was done I posted a picture on facebook.

Now, my grandmother hates tattoos, and I didn’t tell her about it beforehand, so she found out on facebook. Two days after getting the tattoo and posting about it, she called me to tell me how disrespectful I was for not telling her about the tattoo, how hurt she was to have found out about it on facebook, how my mother and I are so disrespectful toward her and what’s next? Is she going to find out I’m engaged on facebook, too? Why didn’t I tell her I was planning this? I didn’t know what to say, but after the phone call ended I cried and felt like an awful, terrible person. It had been 100% intentional to not tell her beforehand, because I know my grandma and she would’ve seen me telling her I was getting a tattoo as a discussion about whether or not I should get a tattoo. I knew she didn’t like them and I didn’t feel like being lectured. Moreover, I didn’t want to pretend to ask for her permission because, at 21, I didn’t need anyone’s permission to get a tattoo in memory of my dead uncle. (I should note that this uncle was not her son, but her ex husband’s brother, and a good friend of hers.) My mom got super upset with my grandma about the phone call, saying that she was trying to make me feel guilty, and they talked and nothing was resolved but we sort of came to a peace about the issue. My tattoo isn’t visible, so she never has to see it, and I never mention it around her.

Almost two years ago I got a second tattoo, this one on my wrist. It’s visible. My mom once again took me to her tattoo guy. It was a week before Christmas. We decided that for the sake of peace I’d wear long sleeves to Christmas dinner.

But I still haven’t told or shown my grandma that tattoo. I’m afraid of another incident, and I know the longer I put it off the worse it’ll be, but it feels like it shouldn’t matter? I’m an adult. I barely told anyone about the first tattoo beforehand, and I didn’t broadcast the second one; people have found out about it as they’ve seen it. Maybe I should’ve told my grandma that I was getting the second tattoo before I got it, but that felt too much like asking for her permission – which, again, I don’t need. But I don’t want her to get upset again and act like I’m a terrible granddaughter over this. I want to get another tattoo, and I want to be able to be around my grandmother without choreographing my movements so that she doesn’t see my inner wrist. Should I sit down and have a conversation with her? Should I just say fuck it and let her notice when she notices? Am I a terrible granddaughter for hiding a tattoo from her for almost two years?

(I feel like adding that my mother has two tattoos, and three of my grandmother’s second husband’s grandkids – her grandkids, basically – also have tattoos. Two of them are younger than I am. Was there any reaction to their tattoos? Of course not. Just mine.)

Sincerely,
Potentially Terrible Granddaughter

Dear Not Actually Terrible Granddaughter:

I vote “fuck it!” Wear what you want. Let her notice when she notices.

When she gets upset (she will get upset, anyone who monitors your body to that degree will get upset) and asks why didn’t you tell her right away, say, “Well, you had such an emotional reaction to my other tattoo, I figured I’d just keep this one my business for a while.

Or, you could rip the bandaid off and say, “Grandma, I got another tattoo. I didn’t want you finding out on Facebook again, so, here’s a picture.”

See also:

  • “Grandma, what’s this really about?”
  • “Grandma, you seem really upset about something that’s on my body.” 
  • “Grandma, are you saying you want to be part of the tattoo Selection Committee next time?” 
  • “This conversation is really uncomfortable and weird, Grandma.” 

See also:

  • Keep letting your mom run interference for you, sounds like she’s awesome and really gets you.
  • Remind yourself that your body belongs to you, and not to your Grandma’s projections of who she thinks you are.
  • Facebook is a totally normal way of finding things out about other people.
  • It’s okay for your Grandma to not be 100% happy with your decisions. People still love each other all the time despite not agreeing about everything.
  • Your Grandma’s feelings about tattoos are not yours to manage.
  • You are not terrible.

 

 

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221 comments
  1. Catherine from Canada said:

    Can I just say that as a mom (of adult children, some of whom have tattoos) I think, ” My mom took me to her tattoo guy” is the coolest.

    And your gramma sounds like my kid’s gramma (my mother) except she’s not on Facebook because I play “sorry Mom, too busy” every time she asks about it.

    • ashbet said:

      If my (early-20’s) daughter eventually decides to get the tattoo she’s been contemplating for some years, I will TOTALLY take her to my tattoo guy ^__^

      Signed,

      — Mom with a full backpiece (which I “hid” from my nosy, opinionated mother IN MY THIRTIES for several years, simply because I was not in the mood to hear her thoughts. She did eventually see it, predictably said I looked like a circus freak, I smiled and said “That’s nice,” and it never got mentioned again.)

      • espritdecorps said:

        I got one tattoo in my early 20s, it’s meaningful and quite lovely. It’s in a public spot and can be seen in all but the coldest weather. I’ve never gotten any comments about it beyond “nice tattoo!”, and none of my jobs have asked me to cover it.

        My mother’s response when she saw it: “Only whores and soldiers have tattoos. Did you enlist?”

        • “No, Ma, I joined a prison gang!” *huge cheerful grin*

        • paperkingdoms said:

          “No, this is my way of telling you I’ve started having sex for money.”

  2. Annalee said:

    Congrats on the new tattoo! I’m sorry your grandma is harshing your excitement about this cool thing you have done.

    I can see the argument in favor of emailing her to the tune of “hey you said you didn’t want to find this kind of thing out on facebook so here’s me telling you not on facebook.” Would it make sense for your mom to send that email, though? Since she’s apparently okay running interference, and then it’s still a personal message not-from-facebook, which will peel away the veneer of this being about manners when it’s actually about your grandma not supporting your bodily autonomy.

    You are definitely not a bad person for doing what you want with your own body. If your grandma wants to be included in your life choices, she can earn it by respecting your status as an adult human and not pulling out the emotional manipulation and guilt trips to make you feel bad for not doing things the way she wants.

    • msnovtue said:

      I would also keep in mind the following response to the question, “Why didn’t you tell me?” in regards to the second tattoo:

      “Because I remember how you reacted to the first one and didn’t want to deal with your reaction again.”

      • If someone wants drama, they’ll find it/create it no matter how you try to deal with the situation.

        I tried to use this response once in a setting of: had issue with specific things one person in group had done — tried to address it privately — the person got pissy and posted the whole thing on FB and tried to make it into evidence that I hated the entire group — next time I just politely said what was bothering me directly on FB so as to cut out the game playing — he got really angry, threw me out of the FB group, posted some REALLY ugly things when I could no longer see them — and I got accused of ‘provoking him’ by not dealing with it privately, and ‘drawing the whole group into it’. But he was a malignant narcissist who was pretty much running a personal cult and didn’t want to be called on it, and no-one’s gonna win in that situation.

        Hopefully grandma is not quite that bad, in which case, use the usual broken record techniques until she decides to keep quiet

      • Ange said:

        Yeah, I told my parents about my first tattoo just after I got it. My dad’s reaction was “why would you do that?” and then he pretty much dropped the subject. My stepmother’s reaction ranged from “you’ll regret it when you have children” (uh, why?) to muttering angrily if the topic of tattoos came up to sending (via my dad) a research paper on the health risks of tattooing and piercing (because clearly I just got my tattoo on a whim without doing any research). The muttering carried on for at least two years! She did admit, much later, that her “real” objection was that my younger sister would copy me and also get a tattoo. Because my sister always did what I did – except that hadn’t been the case since my sister was about 9 (when I got the tattoo my sister was about 13 and very much her own person).

        This is why I only tell my parents stuff if they actually need to know. I don’t even complain about work because they always take the other side. I’ve given up on expecting them to ever take my side.

        Anyway, my point is that unreasonable people are always going to be unreasonable. There is probably no good way to handle this as far as your grandmother is concerned, because she’s chosen to be offended by something that is not her business.

        I say get as many tattoos as you want or can afford and your grandmother will have to deal with it. I got several more tattoos and I just never specifically mentioned them to my parents. They’ve probably seen them all by now but I don’t draw attention to them and they don’t say anything.

        • Eva said:

          I’ve got three tattoos.I told my parents about the first one. My dad was okay with it, my mom wasn’t. She doesn’t like tattoos, too permanent, you’ll regret it, etc. She saw the second one I got, same response as too the first one. I haven’t told her (or anyone else in my family) about the third one. I’ve got that one for almost two years now. I figured they see it when they see it.

          So I agree on the only telling my parents stuff they need to know. My mom is very cool about a lot of other stuff, just not tattoos. I stand by my decision and I don’t need her opinion on it, because I already know what it is anyway.

          Also my grandparents don’t know about any of my tattoos I think. They don’t like them either, so I figured I wouldn’t bother them with the information. Ignorance is bliss and whatnot.

          • Brianne Nurse said:

            I’m so lucky to have reasonable parents. They both dislike tattoos as a concept, but aside from a bit of tut-tutting when I first started getting mine, they’ve mostly stuck to “You know how I feel about tattoos, but yours are pretty nice actually.” So that’s a win. My maternal grandmother, on the other side… she just doesn’t get to know anything because she’s always got something nasty to say about it. Ignorance is bliss, indeed.

        • theluggage said:

          Ange, I’m so sorry your parents never take your side. That is not fair to you. I hope you have some supportive people in your life.

          • Ange said:

            Thanks. I do have some supportive people, but it would be nice if that included my parents. I just have to deal with that. And being a regular reader here, I do at least realise that they could be much much worse.

    • Chessie said:

      Or the LW could also send the initial e-mail herself, but then ask her mom to read grandma’s response instead of her, when it comes, and to delete it if it’s mean.

  3. Sheelzebub said:

    Does your Grandma also expect you to call and inform her when you get a new haircut/color? New outfit? This is so inappropriate of her. Since she didn’t give other people in the family grief about their tattoos, it’s not an innate dislike of tattoos (unless the other people are boys/men, in which case, it’s a weird gendered thing). It’s something else. What it might be is not your problem.

    I am all for the “fuck it” option. Let her notice it when she notices it. If she gives you grief again (or makes passive aggressive comments, you can ask her “What is this really about? No one else told you about theirs beforehand and you didn’t give them the grief you’re giving me.” But then you’ll get sucked into whatever game she’s playing. So I’d go with “Grandma, I don’t check with you before getting my hair cut or colored. I didn’t check with you before getting my ears pierced. And I’m not going to check with you before getting a tattoo.”

    (I am a fan of just shutting it the fuck down. YMMV.)

    • Solestria said:

      Seconded. I’d use a “Because I am an adult” type script on broken record. LW, your grandma is being seriously inappropriate in thinking she gets to monitor your body in any way; I’d state that boundary and enforce it calmly intil she quits.

    • Serafina said:

      Amen on shutting it the fuck down. She’s out of line. You can shut it gently down if you want, “well, because you’re not entitled to know everytime I make a style change, Granny! Well, I’m sorry you feel that way, Granny, but I’m not going to inform you about every tattoo I get or every car I trade in or every job I change – that’s what Facebook is for, after all, a convenient way to let everyone in the family know about life! Well, again, Granny, I’m sorry you feel that way, but this is how it is with me. I’m sure you’ll get over it eventually.” (And whether you do or not isn’t my problem, but I’m not gonna say that out loud, just inside my head as I smile sweetly and pass the tea cookies.)

  4. Megan M. said:

    LW, you’re 100% right. It’s your body. You’re an adult. You don’t have to pretend to ask for your grandmother’s approval and subject yourself to a lecture about a decision you know she won’t agree with.

    You also have a lot of anxiety about this, which is completely understandable. You love your grandmother and it feels terrible to be read the riot act by someone that you love. I say get this inevitable confrontation over with. Show her the tattoo. Let her say whatever she wants about it, and use the Captain’s excellent scripts to deflect and let her know that you are in charge of your own body and it doesn’t matter what she thinks about it. Then all this “will she notice?” anxiety will be gone and you can get on with your life! 🙂 You could even tell her something along the lines of, “I like tattoos and I plan to get more, whenever I decide to, and I’m not going to ask for anyone’s permission first. I know your opinion about tattoos, but I don’t share it, and I would like this to be the last time we have this discussion.” That way you can absolve yourself of any future anxiety over any future tattoos – you warned her! If she chooses to make a fuss anyway, well, that’s her problem.

    Personal anecdote – I got a tattoo as soon as I turned 18 and didn’t tell my parents first because I knew they wouldn’t approve. (I had been interested in tattoos and talking about how I wanted one since I was 12, so they shouldn’t have been TOO shocked.) My older sister saw it about a week later and immediately ratted me out. My mom was mad for about 5 seconds, then asked if she could take a picture of it to show my grandma. They never tried to oppose me getting more tattoos.

    • I love your personal anecdote- and need to jump in with what happened to my very best friend: She immediately got a tattoo at 18 (her cat’s pawprint, somewhere on her posterior) – and hid it from her family until an ill-fated vacation to their lakeside cabin, where her mother noted, “You’ve got some sharpie on your butt.” Her mother was not pleased- but after some discussion (and perhaps an adult beverage or 3) decided that if/when my friend ever gets married- she and her mother will get coordinating tattoos, her mother of a teapot- and her with a tea cup. Family bonding! My friend has gone on to expand her ink collection- and though she is still single-and-mingling she fully intends to hold her mother to that mother/daughter pre-wedding bonding if/when that day comes. 🙂

      • Megan M. said:

        I love that! If any of my children decide they’d like a tattoo I hope they invite me to go with them. My 17-year-old stepdaughter recently got a tattoo that we all approved (my husband, her mother, and me, although my input wasn’t necessarily important LOL) because of its significance – a semicolon, as in Project Semicolon. We all agreed if it had been something less meaningful she could have waited until she was eighteen, but since that was what she wanted we thought she should go ahead and get it.

        • Turquoise Dragon said:

          My parents didn’t have much of an opinion one way or the other about my tattoo – until they saw it was a peace sign. At which point my peacenik hippy parents decided this was excellent and were happy for me.

        • I saw one of the most beautiful semicolon tattoos a few weeks back on a customer at work- and the part of me that knows and recognizes the *meaning* beind the tattoo wanted to squee and hug and high five- the mildly professional side of me was able to comment something like, “Oh that’s a really beautiful semicolon you have there.” (I work at a vet’s office, I get away with a lot of squeals and cooing professionally.)

  5. Jeannine said:

    Block Grandma from your Facebook. If she doesn’t accept your body as your own, she doesn’t deserve to be friends with you. Sure it may cause an issue short term but it’s for your long term sanity.

    • B. said:

      +1
      If it’s too complicated to block her on facebook, put her on your restricted list, that way she can only see the posts you’ve made public.

      • The Awe Ritual said:

        Personal experience from several years back: be careful, sometimes restricted lists “leak.” They may have fixed that bug, but it’s one of the many reasons I am no longer on the Facebooks.

    • Anxiety Rage Cat said:

      This is risky (re: Grandma may get pissed), but I would seriously think about it. If she finds out and demands an explanation, you can say “Grandma, you’ve been upset by some of my posts in the past, and I didn’t want Facebook to negatively impact our relationship.” See also “I’m not Facebook friends with everybody I love because it doesn’t work for every relationship, and I’d rather connect with you in-person/over the phone”.

    • Anon, Goodnight said:

      The “Friends but not Acquaintances” security setting is wonderful for this. You don’t block them. You just add them to you “Acquaintances” group, and they don’t see anything posted under that security level. It’s one of the built-in settings on FB, so you don’t have to remember to set up a Custom group every time. I used that for years with relatives I wasn’t ready to block but didn’t care to see in my comments on the bulk of my posts.

    • Amen to that. I have my grandma on “restricted,” so she won’t see my posts in her news feed…but she’s still technically my FB friend. I’ve had a few family members be jerks to me on FB, and I find adding them to the restricted list is a wonderful solution. 🙂

  6. Ros said:

    OMFG. You’re an adult. She’s your GRANDMA. Does she also expect to be asked permission prior to you taking medication, buying new clothes, taking a new job, etc? Part of being an adult is the joy of making decisions regarding one’s life and one’s body without actually needing to ask permission from a responsible adult, because, oh, hey, YOU ARE ONE AND YOUR BODY AND LIFE BELONGS TO YOU. *would scream that from the rooftops*

    I 100% endorse the Captain’s scripts, and might be tempted to add something like “you seem really invested about what I do to my body. This is not up for discussion. Ever. Can we change the subject?” and walking out if that doesn’t work. Or, in response to a ‘why didn’T you tell me’: “because I knew you wouldn’t approve and that wasn’t actually relevant in the decision-making process” (what I told my mother after my tattoo, incidentally).

    When I got a tattoo, my grandmother was horrified. I was like ‘yep, I got it done, it’s not up for discussion’. And y’know what? She didn’t discuss it again. I’m guessing your grandmother has more severe boundary issues and isn’t likely to respect them as well, but dude, it’s a 100% reasonable boundary to have.

    Also maybe blocking her from Facebook wouldn’t be a bad idea. Who needs this shit.

  7. I want to get another tattoo, and I want to be able to be around my grandmother without choreographing my movements so that she doesn’t see my inner wrist.

    These are absolutely reasonable desires! You are not asking for anything hurtful, or harmful, or rude. You are asking to be the boss of your body, and that is YOUR RIGHT.

    I think it’s also completely reasonable to expect that you be able to do these things without being berated, criticized, or guilted by your grandmother, but, unfortunately, it may not be possible. I think that you should think about how it would be easiest for YOU to handle her reaction. Maybe if your mom is OK handling the interference for you, she can announce it before you see Grandma in person? Maybe it would be easier to handle it in person with your mom being supportive there? Maybe it would feel better for you to say “fuck it” and make it up to her to make an issue out of it if she wants to?

  8. lisakoby said:

    Am I the only one who thinks that this is really about some kind of issue between the mother and the grandmother, not the grandmother and the granddaughter? Can’t tell what it is but I have this feeling there’s some stuff there.

    LW: It doesn’t change my seconding the Captain’s advice, but it may help you emotionally if you frame this as you being some kind of proxy battleground for another relationship, therefore you don’t need to be so emotionally invested.

    Not about you, probably about your mother and grandmother, so you don’t have to waste so much emotional space on something that isn’t yours. Your mother seems to have her relationship with her mom managed, which is maybe why you’re getting some push from your grandmother.

    • peeta8 said:

      Yeah, I thought that too. She wasn’t able to keep her own daughter from getting inked, and so now she is way overreaching & trying to control bodies unto the next generation. NO.

    • neverjaunty said:

      You absolutely aren’t the only one who wondered about that – especially given that Grandma is apparently not bothered by her second husband’s grandkids having tattoos.

      Grandma still needs to shut it, either way.

  9. Dee said:

    Seriously? Walking on eggshells around grandma? Grandmas opinion is just that, her opinion. Your body, your life, your choice, you are an adult.

    • Anxiety Rage Cat said:

      This. I love that the Captain often talks about other people’s reactions/feelings being their own problem to manage. Grandma getting freaked out isn’t your problem, LW. You’ve done her the courtesy of letting her badger you over the phone, and you don’t owe her anything else (I actually don’t think you owed her the initial phone freakout, but what’s done is done). “Grandma, this is not your problem.” “Grandma, I love you, but I’m tired of hearing about this.” Let her emotions slide off of you like water off a duck’s back.

      I also think this is a scenario that warrants the Captain’s 3 Strikes rule. When Grandma’s badgering you, try to change the subject twice, then call it quits. “Grandma, I’m not going to discuss this with you, so I’m going to leave/talk to Mom/[something else that gets you out of her badgering range].”

    • Chessie said:

      Yeah, I think one good thing you could say when she brings it up would be “I didn’t ask your opinion because I didn’t want to hear your opinion, and I still don’t want to.” + “But hey, how about that sportsball, eh?”

  10. Imperator said:

    Oh LW, I feel you. I got a large tattoo while still living at home, and I spent months hiding it from my mom and a lot longer hiding it from my Grandma. Neither were happy that I had it.

    I think you ultimately need to cultivate a “fuck it” attitude. It’s none of her business. Work on communicating to her that her feelings on this issue are not relevant. You are not going to stop getting tattoos to appease her. It is really none of her business.

    There might be awkwardness and nasty comments at first, but ride it out. If you act like you did something shameful or have something worth hiding, that will only fuel the fire.

    • Anxiety Rage Cat said:

      +1.

      Also, I love this: “Work on communicating to her that her feelings on this issue are not relevant.” TRUTH. Stick to your guns, LW. You get to do what you want, no matter if Mom/Grandma/Dad/Cousin/Boyfriend/etc has an issue with it.

  11. Kate H said:

    A few Christmases ago, I mentioned to my family that I wanted to get a tattoo someday. My uncle actually told me that if I did, he’d cut it off. He didn’t look at all like he was joking.

    It’s ridiculous that she treated you this way about something that’s none of her business. How is a tattoo on the same level as an engagement? I’m another vote for the “Fuck it.” Just wait until she notices it or, if understandably that’s too much stress, just say “Hey, Grandma, look at my new tattoo.” She’s not seeing it on Facebook, you’re showing it to her now. If she gets upset, you’re being a fine granddaughter; she’s just not being a very good grandmother.

    • winter said:

      I really don’t know what to say about your uncle. That is so way over the line, the line is a dot. Threatening. Creepy.

    • Anxiety Rage Cat said:

      *shuddering so hard I can’t even type*

      I’m pretty sure your Uncle telling you that was his way of showing that he’s not a safe person to be around if you do something he disagrees with. If/when you get a tattoo, I’d certainly avoid being alone with that guy… if he tries to laugh it off (“Oh, I was just kidding around, don’t be so sensitive”), be firm: that wasn’t funny, it was scary, and you don’t appreciate being threatened in a “joking” way.

      • Chessie said:

        Same here. That sounds really terrifying actually, and if I were you I’d avoid that uncle for the rest of time.

      • johann7 said:

        Echoing the sentiment that Uncle has revealed himself to not be a safe person to be around. Even if not intended to be serious, these kinds of “jokes” (I guess it’s funny because men totally do assault their female family members all the time? Ha?) function to normalize misogyny, especially patriarchal control of women’s bodies and violence against women who violate patriarchal norms.

        I’m so sorry that you had to endure that.

    • That kind of stuff makes me so rage blind. Like, oh, getting a tattoo is SO terrible that you’re allowed to THREATEN TO MUTILATE ANOTHER HUMAN BEING over it? I really don’t think I’d ever speak to someone who said that to me.

      I also really, really do not like parents who use money as a weapon – I have heard SO many “well if my kid gets a tattoo I’m not paying for college!” O rly? Could someone explain to me how the fuck those are related?

      Jesus Christ, just an open note to any parents who are reading this, if you treat your kids this way, don’t be surprised if they don’t really like you that much.

    • The first couple of times I read this, I read it as “he’d cut me off,” as in, not leave Kate H. any money when he died. Which: OK. That is really mean, and controlling, and shitty, but what he does with his estate once he dies is his choice 100%. So I was already making a stink-eye at uncle for that, but not really understanding why everyone’s hair burst into flame below this comment..

      Then I re-read the sub-comments, and re-read Kate’s post, and OMG. WOW. I think my brain was trying to protect me from that.

      I totally agree that Uncle Flayer is not someone you want to be completely open and honest in front of, and it is his loss.

      • TheLazyB said:

        I did the same. Holy shit.

  12. disconnect said:

    My grandmother cut me out of her life for about a year because I had the audacity to ignore the default narrative of “immediately go to college”, and instead get a full time job, stop going to church, and move out of my parents’ house into my own apartment. During that time, I met my first real grown-up girlfriend, went through a layoff, found a better job, made significant strides in my career, and generally recovered from all the bullshit stress I had gone through during my last year of high school with the horribly mismatched relationship and crippling depression and the mixed performance and the hey hey hey. And she missed out on all of that. If anything, I feel kind of bad for her, because I see how interesting my own kids are turning out to be, and I can’t imagine being so hateful and angry that you walk away from something that great. But that was her choice.

    I think sometimes we have to start to be stronger for our family members. They did so much work through the years, and it’s gotta be tough to see this person do something that they see as anathema to everything they worked so hard for. But like it or not, kids turn into adults, and it’s disrespectful to ignore that. Standing up for yourself is then a kindness to those people, like maybe saying, “No, I got this, you did your job great.”

    I wish I’d been clearer with my grandmother and told her, “When you judge me like that, it makes me want to not be around you. I’m an adult with autonomy in my life, and I’ll do things that I feel are right for me. I love you and I value your advice, but your behavior is unacceptable to me. I won’t accept what I feel is abuse. I know you can do better.” But my emotional energy was spent helping myself recover, and I couldn’t deal with bridging the gap. And initially I felt like a failure for not being able to run my life and still make her okay with everything, but as that year went on, I finally started to heal, and I started questioning that feeling. It’s only been the last few years that I’ve really been able to incorporate the idea that managing her feelings really wasn’t my job at all.

    It really is incredibly freeing when you realize that that cell you’re in is your own construction. I hope this turns out to be the case for you.

    • TyphoidMary said:

      You write about this experience with such compassion and clarity. Thank you for sharing.

    • what_not said:

      When my mom was a teenager she came home later from a concert than her dad remembered she’d told him, they got into a fight, and he stopped speaking to her for *three years*. When I ask her about it now she mostly says she feels sorry for him for all the things he missed, including her falling in love with my dad. She was young and couldn’t have been expected to navigate that relationship any better than she did, so she used her energy to do well in school, get a college scholarship, and find a great relationship. As you say, her parents did their job great (well, up until that point anyway), and they had to let her go make her way; if they had trouble with that, that wasn’t her fault at all.

      @OP, I think it’s worth noting that my mom was a good kid, probably her dad’s favorite, and I have my own story of a friend who didn’t speak to me for a week after I had sex for the first time because he “expected better of me”. I think there’s something to being put on a pedestal by someone or at least feeling very close to them that makes them feel like, by making decisions they wouldn’t agree with, you’re betraying them in some way. I wonder if that might not be doubly true when you’re aging, you used to feel seen as a valued authority, and maybe you feel like you’re becoming obsolete in the lives of the younger people around you.

      If your grandmother has felt you were close in the past, even if it’s not a definition of “close” you would use yourself, she may feel less angry about the tattoo and more hurt that you didn’t seek her advice or opinion in the matter. You are *not* responsible for her hurt feelings, you’re never obligated to consult with her about your life, and you never have to follow her advice if you don’t want to, but if this resonates with you it might give you some insight into her state of mind.

      • That is….wow. Just wow. I’m so sorry for your mom. It would be devastating to me if my dad stopped speaking to me.

    • notemily said:

      It’s interesting that you say “immediately go to college” is the “default narrative” because if it is, it’s only been that way for a VERY short time in the span of human existence. The default narrative for most people (most women anyway) used to be forget college, get married and have kids! And of course there were countless exceptions to that “default” as well. Screw the default! It’ll be a new default in a couple years anyway!

  13. One Two Three said:

    This isn’t really about the tattoo, I think. It’s about Grandma feeling like she’s out of the loop and not aware of what’s going on in her family, and reacting badly to that – “Am I going to find out about your engagement on Facebook too?” can translate to “I am not special enough to you to be informed of this very big news, I don’t matter to my grandkids the way I want to.” Conflating tattoos with wedding plans can seem weird, although they are from some perspectives permanent, life-changing decisions. Emotional logic doesn’t always equal earth logic.

    Does it come out as intrusive and controlling? Absolutely, and you’re 100% right, it’s not her place to offer commentary on your body art choices. Her feelings about tattoos are not yours to manage. And her feelings about you in general aren’t yours to manage either, but it may help to remember that what you’re dealing with was her immediate reaction to a kind of complex emotional situation – memorial tattoo to someone she really cared about showing up unexpectedly on a grandchild who is somehow already a young adult (that passage of time thing can be a shock for the system) – and that reaction may not really be indicative of her larger thinking or what you can expect going forward. Time will tell. Meanwhile it’s good practice on maintaining firm boundaries with kindness. If it was a one-off reaction for her, it won’t be an issue, and if it wasn’t, you’ll need those skills.

    • Anxiety Rage Cat said:

      I had the same thought. Grandma’s feeling like she’s out of the loop, or like she’s no longer being consulted on important decisions (esp. if LW would seek her out for advice), or that she’s no longer in the forefront of LW’s mind. Either way, it’s not on LW to manage these feelings, it’s Grandma’s job to roll with the changes and not make a big fuss.

      Also, loving this line: “Emotional logic doesn’t always equal earth logic.” I think I need to hang that above my desk! 😉

    • Rana said:

      That’s a good thought. My dad’s weird about Facebook – he’s both convinced that if he had an account it’d do nefarious things with his data and that because he’s not on FB he’s missing out on all kinds of things. He keeps thinking, for example, that my brother must be posting all kinds of stuff that he’s not sharing with my parents, because my brother is a terrible email and phone correspondent… but he’s just as bad on Facebook – I don’t think he’s posted anything there for months. It’s pretty much the same with all the rest of the family who are on Facebook; they don’t share much, period, on or off.

      But my dad keeps thinking that he’s outside the loop despite all my reassurances, and I can imagine that if something significant did come out on Facebook but not elsewhere, he’d be pretty upset.

      • “convinced that if he had an account it’d do nefarious things with his data and that because he’s not on FB he’s missing out on all kinds of things.”

        Seems to me like a fair summary of Facebook in 2016… hence arguably not “being weird” about it 🙂

        (it’s actually a concern of mine that so many community groups are now difficult to participate in unless you do have Facebook)

    • Buni said:

      The specificity of “Am I going to find out about your engagement on Facebook too?” makes me wonder if this isn’t – in Grandma’s head – history repeating itself. Was there maybe something in the Mom’s wedding announcement that blindsided Granny, and this has brought it up again?

      “First my daughter got some tattoos and didn’t tell and then got engaged / pregnant without my input, and now my granddaughter’s gotten tattoos without telling me so is a wedding next?”

      Just a thought. But I still agree that whatever and whyever her feelings may be they remain exactly that: hers, not the LW’s.

  14. crooked bird said:

    “Facebook is a totally normal way of finding things out about other people.”

    Well especially about tattoos! For Pete’s sake. If your grandmother thinks that her finding out on Facebook about your tattoo is the same as her finding out on Facebook about your engagement, she is WAY too invested in the condition of your skin.

    • crooked bird said:

      ETA: This is actually the part that gets me about the whole thing. It seems well within the average, if very annoying, for a grandmother to have a negative reaction to her grandkid getting a tattoo. “You shouldn’t have done it b/c tattoos are _____” = okay Grandma, maybe it was like that in your day, let me explain how things have changed, also it’s my body. “You shouldn’t have done it and you should have TOLD ME because I am your grandmother and have a RIGHT TO KNOW IMMEDIATELY when you get a tattoo” = Grandma, what is your deal????

    • MK said:

      I… don’t entirely agree on this. If you are close to someone, and if you are going to do something you know they disapprove of, it seems more appropriate to me to let them know in a way other than social media. I don’t actually understand why the LW thinks the only two options are telling her beforehand (which feels like asking permission) and letting them find out via Facebook. With the second tattoo especially, I would think the best course might have been to email her the tattoo news in a matter of fact way (I know you dislike tattoos, but I don’t agree with you and I got a second. I am letting you know in private, so that you won’t be surprised when I post about it/when we meet).

      • Ros said:

        But that implies validation that their objections and opinions matter. Harsh truth: they don’t.

        • Ros said:

          To clarify, for example: my grandmother greatly disapproved of my tattoo, my Anglo boyfriend/husband (English is my second language, and she doesn’t speak it), and my decision to not get married in a church. She was not consulted on any of these: she found out about my tattoo by seeing me in a swimsuit one day, she met my boyfriend when he came to Christmas dinner at my mom’s, and shje found out about the wedding plans when she got an invitation for it.

          And y’know what? That’s because it wasn’t a discussion where her objection or approval in any way mattered or would change the facts or course of events. She was welcome to attend and be pleasant. She was also welcome to throw a tantrum and not. But that’s basically the extent of the options open to her. Opening the conversation ahead of time makes it seem like her approval or opinions have a bearing on the situation. They don’t.

        • MK said:

          When I am close to someone, their opinions do matter to me; not to the point that I will make desicions based on them, but enough to give them the courtesy of a warning, so that they can process their first reaction in private. And i disagree that this “opens” the conversation, on the contrary it becomes old news by the time I actually meet them.

          • Jackalope said:

            Yes, I can see how one might go either way based on one’s individual circumstances, but I lean towards MK’s stance on this. If I had someone who objected to something that I did and part of their objection was feeling that they didn’t hear about it directly from me in real life/by phone/etc., I might well take that part of it into account and say, “Just wanted to let you know that I did The Thing, before I put it on FB.” I agree with doing it after the fact, because you’re not asking permission, you’re informing someone of your decision. But I would want to let them know. On the other hand, I know that my community tends to be fairly healthy for the most part, and so people a) understand that them not liking my decision doesn’t mean they get to veto it if it doesn’t involve them, and b) if they have serious objections, usually it’s something to respect (for example, I ride my bike for my primary form of transportation, and have had many people tell me they’re afraid I’ll get hit by a car; this doesn’t change my commuting choices, but I can appreciate that what they’re really saying is that they want me to be safe and well. This is objectively different from not wanting me to ride my bike because they think bike riders are all jerks, for instance). Someone who doesn’t have that sort of community may well choose to act differently.

          • I feel like you have a decision already and are in search of justification for it. “When I am close to someone, their opinions do matter to me; not to the point that I will make desicions based on them, but enough to give them the courtesy of a warning, so that they can process their first reaction in private.” What could possibly be more of an opportunity for LW’s grandma to process in private than reading about it, post facto, on Facebook?

      • I’m close to my mother, frequently do things she’d probably disapprove of, and never inform her at all, because I am a grown adult who can make her own choices. If she finds out about them via other means and is hurt, well, maybe she shouldn’t have made her disapproval so obvious.

        • MK said:

          I am also close to my mother and frequently do things she would probably disapprove of, but I do inform her when I know that she has strong opinions on those things, because a) I am a grown adult who can make her own choices AND can communicate said choises to another adult without sounding/feeling like I am asking their permission or blessing, and b) since I am close to them, I do care if she is hurt and, while I am not prepared to live my life the way she wants to avoid hurting her, I am willing to spare her learning news about me third-hand.

          I am not saying everyone has to care what their relatives think. But if you are prepared to wear long sleeves all Christmas to avoid confrontation, you already “care” in some fashion or other.

          • Maria said:

            b) since I am close to them, I do care if she is hurt
            I mean, being close to someone and caring has nothing to do with whether you validate or accommodate their controlling and irrational impulses. You absolutely can, if you would like. But not doing so is not a measure of how considerate you are, because we should be measuring consideration on a scale of reasonableness.

          • Yeah: they care enough to avoid being abused to any degree about a personal and private decision about their body. They can care about that without caring about hearing what their disapproving relatives have to say, and wasting family get-together time discussing a No One’s Business But Mine issue.

            I’m extremely protective of my privacy now because growing up, I wasn’t allowed too much of it, and my facial expressions, tone of voice, posture and whatever the fuck else they felt like getting in my face about at any given minute were all open for interpretation, and that interpretation was never going to go my way, and my own description of my thoughts and feelings were not trusted.

            Choosing to wear long sleeves to avoid a kerfuffle during a holiday get-together is not a valid argument in favor of telling disapproving relatives your personal business and opening yourself up for any degree of abuse or interrogation, because not all families are healthy and safe, and not all families can be “buttered up” at a distance.

            Your mom seems to respect that you are a functional adult and are not going to be a clone of her, and it also seems as if she does not lash out in a narcissistic rage when you fail to do something the way she would do it. Not everyone is so lucky, trust me on that.

    • BarlowGirl said:

      I’ve found out about birth of children through Facebook. A lot nicer to see that while scrolling than some of the things on my feed!

      • Ros said:

        Yeah, this.

        I’d personally “expect” closer friends (aka: people I see on purpose – as in, make plans specifically see, not run into at a party – more than once a year, say) or family (but most of my family is actually reasonable people, so…) to have let us know they were going to have a child (and by ‘expect’ I don’t mean ‘am entitled to the information’, I mean ‘it falls into the social norms that they would do so and if they didn’t I’d be wondering what I did wrong’).

        That’s basically the line we followed when I was pregnant with my daughter, and the line we’re following for this pregnancy. And to be clear: I’m desperately uncomfortable being like ‘there is an alien in my innards!!’ So… people who weren’t close to us found out about my daughter when my husband posted newborn pictures to Facebook. No cute announcements for us!

  15. VG said:

    The idea that you should have announced the tattoo to her “so she wouldn’t have to find out on Facebook” is a bizarre one to me. If she doesn’t like tattoos, she’s not going to like yours whether she finds out about it on Facebook or in a phone call or when a carrier pigeon lands squawking on her windowsill with the news. It’s your skin, it’s your business, and she’s just going to have to deal.

    • Anxiety Rage Cat said:

      Seconded. It sounds like Grandma is pissed not because she found out on Facebook, but because you didn’t ask her for permission (which, as an adult, you are under no obligation to do). If you had texted her a picture, or e-mailed her, or shown it to her in person, she would have had the same reaction. LW, give yourself a break! This is not about your status as a good/bad granddaughter, this is about Grandma being upset that she doesn’t have a say in your big life decisions. Which, surprise! She doesn’t.

      I also wonder if LW traditionally went to Grandma in the past (before adulthood) for advice on life stuff, and now Grandma is having growing pains at no longer having that control over LW’s life. It doesn’t mean that she has a right to react the way she did, but it does explain it somewhat.

    • twomoogles said:

      Yeah, I think this is yet another example of somebody pretending they’re only upset about something because of “how” they found out. Like with breakups/rejection, when people say they would’ve been fine if the person had done it sooner/later/gentler/more direct/on a boat/with a goat/with green eggs and ham.

      • Analyze All The Data said:

        The only time I’ve ever been upset about HOW I found out about something is when I found out my mother got remarried from her ex-husband, who I was talking to about an unrelated matter. A tattoo… is nowhere in that ballpark.

        • BarlowGirl said:

          Found out that our neighbour bought the house from our landlord and we would have to find someone else to live very quickly… from her eight year old daughter.

          I did think that was a little inconsiderate, yeah 😛

  16. Beth said:

    You are not a terrible granddaughter, you’re grandmother was out of line. I’m with the Captain on this and I like the idea of a personal email to her before you see her in person. Kind of head her off.
    BTW, my niece did make the mistake of posting her engagement on Facebook before telling my mother (her grandmother). I’m pretty sure she will NEVER let that go. It’s been 5 years and she still mentions it to the other grandkids. (Only had 9 bridesmaids, 2 junior bridesmaids, 2 flower girls, and 1 MoH at that one)

  17. S said:

    I told my Dad I was thinking about getting a tattoo and he told me I would get skin cancer.

    So be glad your mom is so cool and supportive and chalk your grandma up to sing what old people do, thinking they have a right to tell people what to do with your life, and generally not thinking it sould include anything fun or s that they wouldn’t like.

    You are not terrible, this is a very normal family conflict, just do what we all do and patronize them until they get over it.

    • S said:

      Wow mobile is the worst

    • Hey! That’s a bigoted take on old people. Moreover, the grandmother isn’t necessarily old (whatever value of “old” you choose)

    • B. said:

      “… just do what we all do and patronize them until they get over it”.
      Wow, way to be condescending to the LW. Not helpful. Also, speak for yourself. Also, don’t make sweeping judgements about people, “old” or otherwise.

  18. Charlie Kilian said:

    How about, “Grandma, it’s my body so I get to decide what I want to do with it. Full stop.” If she’s so against them, she can lead by example and not get one.

  19. I vote for not telling and letting her feel her feelings.

    The way you describe your grandmother leads me to believe that she will perceive any announcement (let alone discussion) as your acceptance of her right to input on your body.

    She doesn’t have this right, and there’s no point in making the extra effort to chill her out, because it won’t.

    • Ainomiaka said:

      I agree with you about beforehand seeming like an invitation for discussion. Grandma gets to see it after it’s done. But I can see the appeal of sending her an email or text with a photo and saying “now you know before Facebook ” as a way of making this about what it’s really about.

      • Oh I meant even after the fact. I think that the grandmother will perceive any announcement directed to her and any conversation with her on as “next on the agenda, LW’s body”

        • Majikkani_Hand said:

          I don’t necessarily disagree, but I think the advantage of breaking the conversation deliberately is that the LW gets to be prepared, rather than having to maybe react in the moment after being surprised by the Grandmother when she notices the tattoo. I think if it were me, I’d rather send the “here’s what’s going on and here’s the acceptable range of emotions you’re allowed to display (feel whatever you like)” email and then deal with the fallout while prepared, but it’s probably a factor that I’m terrible at responding in the moment.

          • That makes sense. I tend to figure that I’ll blow the bridge after I cross it, and don’t worry til then. Procrastination, it is my middle name.

            (Because a lot of things really do turn out not to be emergencies)

          • Ainomiaka said:

            I agree with this. Your reason is my main thought for why to tell grandma in private. Let her react, but I don’t want it to be a scene at a family gathering. There’s also some appeal to me of making grandma say “I think tattoos are trashy” or whatever she thinks rather than “why did I hear at the same time as Facebook?” But these are personal decisions about how to use my energy, with the caveat that I am assuming this is a tattoo that would be seen at some point. I don’t believe it’s possible to keep secrets forever, so I am assuming a reaction will happen at some point . Others may not share my energy priorities.

          • Yeah, we both are operating on How do I best use my energy?

            It’s interesting (and kinda fun) that similar aims led us to different tactics.
            😀

        • Ainomiaka said:

          I kinda added this below, but I assume that’s going to happen no matter what unless this is a totally hidden tattoo. Better have the conversation lw’s terms. But I see your point below too.

  20. I think this is interesting because you’re all piling into Grandma. I can completely see how the older generation find it perhaps a tad difficult to adapt to the prevailing ‘tatts are great’ culture. It is less than 20 years ago that many people (rightly or wrongly) considered them completely beyond the pale. Admittedly, it doesn’t sound as though Gma is being very flexible, but maybe softening this with ‘I know you’re not keen on tattoos, Grandma, but I love them and find them beautiful and meaningful’.

    Also the LW doesn’t specify, but I gather this tattoo was about a deceased child of said Grandma? So possibly the reaction was partly to do with the emotional impact of the tattoo as much as anything else. I think a little intergenerational kindness wouldn’t go amiss – from both sides of course.

    • Prpllzzrd said:

      She specified that it was in memory of her uncle who was Grandma’s ex-husband’s brother but a good friend. So if anything you think she’d be touched that her granddaughter wanted to remember him like this.

      • Oh yes, sorry, end of the afternoon and I was not paying full attention.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      Grandma didn’t say boo when other people in the family did it, though. So this is either gendered (if the other grandkids are male) or there is something else up. She said to the LW that she was angry to find out about it on FB, that it was disrespectful, and that she should have checked with her beforehand. And even if it was about a dislike of tattoos–this isn’t Grandma’s business!

      No one is piling on to Grandma. We’re pointing out that the LW is an adult, has the right to make her own decisions about her own body and life, and should not have to put up with someone berating her for doing just that.

    • TheLazyB said:

      Dunno about that about tattoos being considered beyond the pale up to <20 years ago. My grandma in law had a tattoo that she got when she was in her 30s I think and she was in her late 80s when she died.

      • BarlowGirl said:

        20 years ago was 1996 already.

        I saw plenty of tattoos by 4 years old.

        • Buni said:

          “20 years ago was 1996 already.”

          AAAAAAAAAAARGH!

          (sorry, nothing else to add, just my immediate reaction…)

          • Hahah right??? Also 1996 just makes me think of, like, fairy lower back tattoos and visible thongs.

    • B. said:

      I don’t think anyone who screams at her granddaughter for her aesthetic choices deserves softness of any kind.

    • Temperance said:

      Eh, I think it’s more of an issue of Grandma being a busybody and sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong. It’s not about her being older and disliking tattoos, but more about her being older and thinking that she’s the boss of LW and the owner/gatekeeper of LW’s body. I personally don’t know that LW owes Grandma, or anyone, an explanation or justification for her choices about what to do with her own body.

      • B. said:

        +1 I think that’s what going on here, too, but you phrased it much better.

  21. I feel you, LW. My mom loathes tattoos and I am 38 and dread the day she finds out about mine. (It’s not readily visible but it’s VERY large and all it will take is my shirt riding up at the wrong time.)

    I just have to remind myself that I’m an adult and I get to do what the heck I want with my own damn body.

    • msnovtue said:

      All I will say is that in the first year after both my parents had died, I got 2 tattoos, pierced my ears, and dyed my hair purple.

      LW, this is really kind of a two-part question to my mind: first, did you have an obligation to notify grandma beforehand, and second, should you cover up tat #2 when around Granny.

      1.) You’re over the age of 21, which means that both metaphorically and legally, you are an adult person capable of making your own decisions. Getting a tattoo is not a particularly major life event (like an engagement, pregnancy announcement, death, etc.), so announcing it via FB is perfectly fine. Honestly? That sort of thing is tailor-made for a Facebook announcement.

      2.) This is a bit trickier. First, as you are an adult (see above), again, you have no obligation to cover up. Granny needs to learn to deal with family members doing things she doesn’t like, and be aware she does not hold sway over the rest of the family.

      That said…… Consider the option of picking your battles. No, you don’t *have* to cover up, and if it makes you uncomfortable to do so, then let your freak flag fly, as they say.

      But I’ve had to deal with a lot of people who react like Granny… And sometimes, it just isn’t worth it. The sheer epic amount of fuss and drama raised over a minor thing like a tattoo, or dying your hair, or not wearing makeup, etc., is just not worth the trouble and stress of not doing as expected. And that decision is entirely up to you and your own personal feelings on the matter. For some people, reactions like this don’t even raise a blip on the radar. I am not one of those people, however, and sometimes, it’s just not worth the trouble. Much as I hate wearing makeup, it was always much less stressful for me to slap on some foundation and a bit of lipstick when going to family get-togethers or nicer occasions, as opposed to having my Mom nag me about it all night and likely for several days afterward.

      That’s the debate you have to have with yourself–which is going to cause you the least amount of stress and difficulty–covering up around Grandma, or the fuss she’ll raise as a result of seeing the new tattoo. Like I said, that’s not something anyone else can answer. And there’s nothing wrong with either option. Really. Each have their positives, and knowing when and how to pick your battles in life is a very valuable skill.

      And it doesn’t have to be just one way or the other…. Maybe on just casual visits you let it show, but on family holiday get-togethers like Thanksgiving & Christmas, you hide it. You know the situation that the people involved best.

    • Kat, Ph.D. said:

      Seconding this! In my story, my mom is the one having a fit over the fact that my husband and I are getting a dog soon. We’re in our late 20’s. We live 3000 miles from her, so there is literally never a situation where she would be asked to care for the dog, because she doesn’t visit us. We have Real Jobs. We make enough money to pay for the dog and its food and its care and even an emergency surgery or five. We have been planning this for FOUR YEARS and are finally in the right place in life where our jobs and schedules and money and location all line up nicely to make this happen. Plus, we’re motherfucking adults. Why am I listing all these things? Because my mom has spent the whole of my 29 years telling me that I’m not mature enough to make decisions about my own life, so her voice in the back of my head keeps telling me that I’m a stupid kid making a stupid decision. She has programmed me to question everything I do, and it’s fucking awful. I’m finally breaking the habit, but it’s hard, and it takes time.

      So LW, I totally, totally, one million percent get why you’re second-guessing yourself and worrying about this. Even if your relationship with your grandmother is generally good, the dynamic in your relationship (maybe because she’s your grandmother, maybe because of her general role in your family, whatever) is such that you’re worried about this. I feel that SO HARD. I wouldn’t fault you at all for continuing to cover up the tattoo just to avoid that particular fit, but you’re also definitely, definitely not obligated to do so. You haven’t done anything wrong, but I know how tough it can be to convince yourself (and your grandmother) of that.

      (See also: every time my husband and I visit our home state, I capitulate and sleep at my mom’s house, even though her guest room only has a twin bed, so my husband has to stay with his parents. I do this to avoid That Particular Argument, but I’m currently trying to talk myself into putting my foot down and staying with my husband’s parents during the next visit. It’s going to be ugly. Sigh.)

      • Ginger said:

        In case this might be relevant/helpful to you: If your mom might see you staying with “the other side’s family” as extra fuel on the fire, and you want to avoid escalating the fight even further, you might want to opt to stay at a hotel. Still a fight, but takes some of the spark out if that’s a particular thorn in your family dynamic. YMMV but I thought I’d toss that out there just in case.

        • Kat, Ph.D. said:

          So while my mom won’t be *thrilled* about the idea of us staying with my husband’s family, it’s actually the least problematic choice when compared to my dad’s house (because ugly divorce, and I don’t want to stay there anyway) or my best friend’s house (because that’s where I went when I left my mom’s house abruptly and caused The Great Schism). Hotels aren’t really a viable option because we’re At That Age where all our friends and cousins and siblings are getting married, so we’re flying across the country a lot over the next few years. We usually do a hotel room for the night of a wedding if there’s an associated shuttle to the event, but it’s a no-go for full visits, unfortunately. Thank you for the idea, though! 🙂

      • Temperance said:

        Stay with your husband’s parents! I’m encouraging you because that’s what I do, and the choice that we made. My parents are conservative evangelicals. My mother wouldn’t let me stay with Booth because we’re unmarried, and once we did get married … we were offered an air mattress on the floor in the living room. Uh, no. My MIL lets us stay in a bedroom with a door that locks, like actual adults, and doesn’t mess with our stuff or constantly throw Jesus at us or harangue us about going to church or visiting extended family (OK GMIL does this, but I ignore just about everything she says).

        Yes, it will be uncomfortable, and maybe even unpleasant, but sometimes an annoying argument will result in way better, and more comfortable, visits.

        • Ros said:

          Amazing how not haranguing your loved ones results in a closer relationship with people who want to spend time with you, huh. Who knew.

  22. Prpllzzrd said:

    This reminds me of the time my cousin went up to our grandfather and said, “Hey, Grandpa, I got a tattoo on my butt. Wanna see?” and then presented him with her derriere. Grandpa recounted the story with mixed mirth and horror for decades after the fact.

    LW, I think you should just fuck it. If and when your grandmother sees your new tattoo, you should say something like, “Oh, this? Yeah, I’ve had this awhile now.” And then change the subject. I am a fan of CA’s repetitive non-confrontive scripts and I think they might work well in this case. Good luck. You are not a terrible person and you shouldn’t let your grandmother think you are just because you like a little decoration and memorial on your skin.

  23. JustKate said:

    I dislike tattoos a lot…but so the hell what? Unless it’s my body (or perhaps the body of my non-adult child), it’s not my problem and it’s certainly not my concern. And BTW…your grandmother should probably not find out about your engagement on Facebook, but since when is a tattoo the equivalent of an engagement? Yeesh.

  24. craniest said:

    My insufferable assholier-than-thou older brother found out about my crescent moon and stars tattoo at Thanksgiving when I was wearing a shirt wiuth short sleeves. He got all pentacostal on me about it (leviticus needs to take a seat, seriously), also how I’m too old for getting a tattoo (I was in my 40’s) yadda yadda yadda and then asks me what it’s supposed to mean. I looked him square in the eye and told him it meant I like Procter and Gamble products. He did not say a WORD to me the rest of dinner. Which is what I wanted in the first place.

    • “Procter & Gamble”! HUR! I snort-laughed! Perfect response. 😀

      • alexcansmile said:

        ^I did too. Bahahahaha

    • BarlowGirl said:

      Off-topic – Crescent moons with stars are one of my favourite things. I think it makes me think of Sailor Moon. That sounds so beautiful!

  25. Minister of Smartassery said:

    I was 36 when I got my first tattoo. I didn’t consult anyone besides my tattoo artist. It’s my body, my skin and I have to live with the consequences of my choices. My mom didn’t know for more than a year because of its location and she only found out because she walked in on me switching tops in a department store changing room. She still hates tattoos. HAAAAAATES them. But I’m still a 36 year old adult and I don’t give a damn whether she likes it or not. If she’d pitched a fit like your grandmother did, she would have found herself out of contact with me for quite some time.

  26. MuddieMae said:

    [CW: bulimia]

    [Also this ended up really long. Tevs]

    Yeeeaaaah, Grandma definitely doesn’t need to be told before you get any tattoos.That’ just… not really a thing, not in the same way that people announce engagements and impending babies. People might share pictures or might not, but they don’t send out little announcement cards with a picture of their fresh ink. And incidentally, it’s completely fine to filter Facebook posts from Grandma. I filter most of my posts from a handful of relatives and in-laws that are perpetually shocked by my language and politics because I don’t care to have an unwinnable, unendable argument.

    Story time: My grandfather is a dentist, and when I was around your age I got an oral piercing. Many dentists, especially old-school dentists like my Grandpa, HAAAAATE oral piercings. It’s not completely unjustified (oral piercings can fuck up your teeth, especially if you are constantly chewing on them) but there’s also a big layer of “ah, kids these days are doing something weird!” involved. (I kept my current dentist because they were the first dentist to actually *look at my mouth* and see if my now 10+ year old piercing was causing any damage rather than just assuming it had.)

    Anyway, I obviously couldn’t hide this piercing since it was in the middle of my damn face, so I was subjected to a couple of lectures about how all of my teeth were going to fall out or something. I felt a lot like you, sort of bad because I was being lectured, and also really annoyed because I was an adult and it wasn’t his business and he didn’t lecture my cousin who made herself throw up all the time so why am I being singled out? [I’m very aware that bulimia-induced dental problems aren’t as simply prevented as removing a piercing, but I can guaran-fucking-tee you this is not why my grandfather forgoed lecturing that grandchild. He is absolutely the sort of person who believes that eating disorders can be cured with lectures about tooth damage.]

    In hindsight, I wasn’t wrong: my grandfather didn’t see me as an adult. I’d say that didn’t kick in until I was nearly 30 and even then he’s the type to question his adult children’s and grandchildren’s choices for various reasons that don’t have anything to do with us, our intelligence or thoughtfulness, our decision making process, or our value. He has his reasons which I won’t go into, but my point is that they are *his reasons*. They’re not my reasons and I don’t need to take responsibility for them.

    A really hard part of becoming an adult within a family, in my experience, is learning to be comfortable with other adult relatives’ disapproval without feeling like you have to manage their feelings or change what you’re doing to make them happy. Even in very egalitarian and enlightened families, children do not have the same autonomy as adults, and when they are small they haven’t formed their own values nor do they necessarily have a complete sense of themselves as independent people. So you may be in a transition period where you are getting accustomed to not unthinkingly bending to the opinions of your relatives, and that can be uncomfortable.

    • Ginger said:

      “but they don’t send out little announcement cards with a picture of their fresh ink.” I kiiiiinda really want to do this now! “And here’s the story of how I wanted to memorialize Terrible Boyfriend and all the lessons I learned from that relationship! See, the flames represent…”

      • MuddieMae said:

        Do it, do it!

  27. K said:

    LW, when my aunt got a tattoo, my grandmother saw it and angrily huffed, “we will NEVER speak of this AGAIN.”

    “Fine by me,” my aunt said.

    Grandmothers getting angry about tattoos is just a universal part of life, I guess!

    • Nina said:

      My mother-in-law, who is generally a wonderful, loving person, made some comment once about how of course I wouldn’t want my children to get tattoos, and I was like…why not? I mean, I want them to tattoo responsibly – go to a reputable place, make sure they can afford it, be sure they want what they are getting, etc. – but it’s their skin. If they want some permanent art once they are adults how is that any of my business? I think I scandalized my mother-in-law when I told her that, but to her credit, she has not brought it up since and I don’t expect she will again. I think there really is a generational thing going on. Tattoos just mean something different in US culture (and maybe other Western cultures) now than they did 30-40 years ago.

  28. RSVP said:

    This actually reminds me of the arguments I used to have with my mother about my hair. She’d go on and on and on about how I was washing it too often (she actually believed I’d “wash all the vitamins out of it”), she’d urge me to get a perm because “It’s too fine and limp”, or tell me that my early grey was due to not eating enough protein. (Never mind that all the relatives on my father’s side went grey early.)
    It took a long time to say “It’s MY hair, not yours!” Sometimes older women are overly invested in the bodies and appearances of their young female relatives. I’m not sure why, but that’s what seems to be going on here, and good on your mother for standing up to her.

    • allreb said:

      When I chopped my hair off, my dad was like, “But why? I liked it so much better longer!” to which I answered, “So what? It’s on MY head and I like it better short,” and after a second he said, “Good point.”

      • Luke B.A. Lady Tonite said:

        Other people’s parents do that, too?! My mother’s response to me chopping my hair off was, “But it looks stupid in the back! You’ll be sorry after you have to look at it for a month!” To which I replied, “I don’t care if it looks stupid in the back because I can’t see the back of my head!”

        I’d like to say that shut her up, but Darth Mother nagged me about my hair length off and on for the next 11 years.

    • BarlowGirl said:

      I… don’t think your hair has vitamins. Yeah, some of us can wash our hair too much which strips the OILS* but vitamins…? Nah. Also I tend to assume that the person attached to the hair knows what they’re doing with it better than me.

      (*I wash mine every other day or less if I’m not going out, because my hair DEFINITELY can be overwashed. It gets really dry, and does not look or act right. Even just my skin gets super dry if I shower too often, which is annoying.)

    • STH said:

      RSVP, you are SO right. When I was about 50, I kicked around the idea of not dyeing my hair any more to cover up the gray. My mother FLIPPED OUT. She acted as if it was HER hair, and she was totally freaked about it. I don’t remember now what I said to her, but she’s so controlling about her daughters’ appearances, that I’ve gotten pretty good at dealing with it. It was probably something like, “well, it’s my hair, not yours, so you don’t get a vote on what I do with it.”

  29. Jill said:

    Here’s how the convo went with my Gramma after I got a tattoo:
    Her: Why in the hell did you get that ugly thing on you?
    Me: Because I wanted a symbol of some important life events on me.
    Her: How are you going to find a husband with that thing?
    Me: By seeking out the company of men who don’t mind tattoos.
    Her: Well I think it’s ugly.
    Me: Well, that’s fine. Do you still need me to do your taxes? And are we still on for me driving you to the doctor Friday?
    Her: (Long pause). Yeah.

    In other words, in what was a five minute conversation about the tat, I made it clear that a )I have my reasons b) I’ve evaluated the risks c) I still intend to be a good grand-daughter because I care about you so get over it or realize you’ll have to find someone else to do your taxes and drive you around. She never brought it up again.

    But I still thank God she never saw the nipple piercing. 😉

  30. LW,

    I got my first tattoo years ago; it is very meaningful and very visible on my wrist. I grew up in a very conservative household and when my dad first saw it he flipped out – saying it was better to be estranged from family than to get a tattoo, wanted to do a body check for other tats, and what was I thinking etc… It’s been almost 9 years since and my dad still gives me grief about it. Now, my dad and I have a decent relationship so this might not apply, but I found that whenever he would give me his unsolicited or negative opinions about it (or new piercing which are almost as bad in his eyes), in the most bored and uninterested voice I just say “Ok” or “huh” or “my work doesn’t care” and continue reading, looking out the window or whatever it was that I was doing. There’s no real undoing of the tattoo and there’s no real response I could or should give to him so I act bored because it’s a boring conversation. It seems to work – I don’t really register what he’s saying anymore and he’s bringing it up less and less.

    I’m glad that your mom is team you and I hope that other people’s opinions of your body never hold you back from expressing yourself.

    • alexcansmile said:

      My dad used to be like this. His threat growing up was if we got tattoos he wouldn’t pay for college. So I didn’t get one. My sister got tattoos allllll over herself in college (where she still is) and dad found out, freaked out, and…..calmed down. He’s still paying for her school even. I got my first tattoo with my sister and my mom (all three of us got matching!) about a month ago and my dad even came and visited us during the appointment! He got over it. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the shock of it.

      • Nanani said:

        “All three of us got matching!”
        Cute!

        Reminds me of how in my family, MOM wants to do just that but my sister and I are not interested.

        (Nice contrast to certain commentors who think this is an ALL OLD PEOPLE vs ALL YOUNG PEOPLE thing too)

  31. Lily said:

    Every time I read this kind of story, I’m so relieved that my relatives, as complicated as they sometimes are, don’t behave like this.
    My grand-parents are rather conservative people (in US they would probably be considered republicans) and definitly not happy about some of the decision of their grand-children, but they seam to be able to keep their opinion to themselves.
    LW, this is not a “your grandma doesn’t like tattoos” issue. This is a “your grandma decides to behave like an ass” issue.
    I can tell you that my grandfather was not happy when I cut my hair short. Why do I know? Because when it grow longer afterwards, he mentioned that he liked it more now that it was longer, and when (next time I saw them) it was short again, there was a rather short look at my head, but he would never have said something. That was all. I know they have an opinion, they just choose not to say it and rather spend time with their actual grandchildren as they are.
    It’s totally possible to not like tattoos and behave like an adult about it.

    Fun fact: when I told my grandparents about an acquaintance who got disinvited for christmas by their own family because of their hairstyle (basically green), my grandparents lost their shit: “But why??! You sibling had green hair once and it looked good! Why are people that stupid? And anyway, it’s just hair!”

    Would it be possible to announce the tattoo the way you see it, as a great thing, as in “look grandma, I got a really cool tattoo! I’m so happy! Look at it!” and try to “not get it” if she doesn’t sound excited?

    • BarlowGirl said:

      My aunt once took my cousin and I to the city as a teen and spent the day with us in, like, public and everything. I had purple and blue streaked hair, and my cousin, who I will point out is over six feet tall, had a six-inch dyed-black mohawk. I’m sure she got looks.

      (Our Christmas pictures that year are actually hilarious. There’s the early morning ones of me looking like I’m still asleep and him too tired to actually spike the mohawk, and then there’s us, at I think 17 and 18, making gingerbread houses.)

  32. ks said:

    As a person who does not like tattoos, the correct response to not liking tattoos is to not get a tattoo. Possibly to also not date a person with tattoos, if they are really that big a turn off, although these days that is a more difficult proposition than it used to be.
    But at no point is the correct response to being a person who doesn’t like tattoos finding out a loved one got a tattoo your grandmother’s response. The correct response is to privately think it’s ugly or whatever, but to shut your damn mouth if your opinion was not solicited. And even if it was solicited, the correct response to give a polite, “that’s nice” or “interesting” or some other noncommittal thing about the tattoo and then shut your damn mouth.

    • Yup. This is excellent advice and can be extrapolated to pretty anything anyone else chooses to do with or put on their body. I am constantly agog at how many people want to run up and give me their opinions on my tattoos when I literally. do. not. care. Don’t like them? Feel free to avert your eyes, not date me, or better yet, fuck right off.

  33. TyphoidMary said:

    My grandmother is a miserable person, so when I said, “Grandma, look at the tattoo I just got!” and she looked at it and spat, “That’s stupid,” I just laughed. Sometimes low expectations are a blessing.

  34. EddieSherbert said:

    Okay, very similar situation here! I am two tattoos in (both like 6″ tall and couple across). One not usually visible on my lower back and one fairly visible on my calf.

    I did not tell many people beforehand. Honestly, I didn’t even tell my parents beforehand (they don’t care). I don’t like sharing online, so most people found out in-person after I got them.

    Both my grandmothers Are Not Fans. And my take on it has been to act very nonchalant. It’s No Big Deal And I Am Very Happy.

    I just let them see it when they saw it. I know my dad “fielded it” a bit with his mother (i.e. he saw me first and gave her a heads up before she saw me again. He Did Not Engage in argument, but let her know). And then when the inevitable “What did you do NOW? Aren’t you going to show me?” came, I just said some generic “Oh yes! My new tattoo. Here it is. I’m really happy with how it turned out.”

    “Well I don’t approve.”
    “Oh? Well, I’m really happy with it.”
    “Well when were you going to tell me?”
    “Right now. I’m really happy with it.”
    “Why didn’t you tell me beforehand?”
    “I wanted to show it in person. I’m really happy with it.”
    “I don’t like it.”
    “Sorry to hear that, I’m really happy with it.”

    Rinse. Repeat. “[mindless noise] I AM REALLY HAPPY.”

    And, if your family is like mine you’ll get the inevitable (paraphrased): “Now your wedding dress choices are ruined because you ahve to choose ones that will cover your terrible inky sins!!!” (Umm, what? I didn’t know I was getting married…)

    A. (repeat!) Cool. I am (still) happy with my tattoos.
    B. Darn, guess I can’t get that backless, knee-length wedding dress I always wanted, Grandma. (Do they make wedding dresses that show the lower back and bottom half of your legs?? That sounds awful to me??)

    • I wrote a short story for class once about a woman who had a slightly strained relationship with her mother. The mom had an “oh my, oh dear, oh no” attack because the daughter had gotten a tattoo, and one of the things she mentioned was “but what if you want a wedding dress with short sleeves?” (The character was engaged already, at least.)
      One of my classmates offered as a criticism that he didn’t think anybody would ever actually say that.
      I raised an eyebrow and said, “My mother said that to my cousin, and almost had a heart attack when the cousin said, ‘I LIKE my tattoo, why wouldn’t I want to show it off?'”

      • Ros said:

        When I got a tattoo on my upper back, my mother said “but what will you do about a wedding dress??!” as if it was the end of the world. (I was 22 and nowhere near marriage, for the record). My response was a deadpan “I… will… wear… one?” which seemed to defuse things a bit.

        So, yes, people ACTUALLY say things like that.

        (For the record: I got married at 28 in a dress with a low-cut back that showed my tattoo, and no one had anything to say about it.)

        • That’s great. I did actually say something about “backless, knee length wedding weddings” to my grandma (weirdly, she handles my sarcasm better than my tattoos!) but I like yours better. I tend to diffuse things with humor, which is okay, but I wish I was better at making my point more seriously.

          Kuddos! I’m sure your dress and tattoo combo was gorgeous!

  35. LW, I’m not a person who likes tattoos on my own body. So I don’t get tattoos on me. What other people do with their bodies is none of my business, and I have quite a few friends and acquaintances with tattoos (and my stuffy office is located about eight feet away from a busy little tattoo parlor). Some of them are cool, in my opinion, and some aren’t, and I keep the opinions about the ones I don’t personally like to myself. Ain’t nobody got time for unsolicited opinions about that sort of thing.

    I am betting Grandma is from the same generational cohort as my grandmother or mother, wherein tattoos were not common and had a lot of negative connotations for them, some of which were still around when I was a little kid. Like, sad stuff (e.g. Holocaust survivors had no choice but to get theirs), classist / snobbery stuff (e.g., tats are “only for” working ladies, bikers, ex-felons sailors and blue collar workers). Obviously times have changed! Everyone and (literally) their momma who wants it, and has a job that tolerates it, has body art or body mods or colored hair. I do not know if talking to Grandma about whether this is what is going on or not would be productive, or whether you would wind up feeling more insulted afterwards, so I’m not going to suggest that. I’m only saying that this seems to be what my mother and grandmother strongly feel, or felt, and it was something they didn’t feel a need to stop being judgmental about, because none of their kids or grandkids were into getting tats done.

    Here’s where I note that neither my mother or grandmother had pierced ears, and I got so annoyed by this restriction being applied to my own body that I just went out and got them done on my own when I was about 15 or 16 and simply didn’t tell anyone about it beforehand. When they noticed, it would be over and done.

    Surprisingly, my grandmother took my side about pierced ears, and my mother (unsurprisingly) was a real jerk about it for a ridiculously long time, and it is still a sore point with her that I did something to my own body about which she did not grant permission or approve. And the only response to that is “fuck it, not my problem, enjoy your stupid sulk over something that’s none of your business and unchangeable.”

    You clearly like your tats, your mom is on Team You, so I vote that you forget about wasting emotional energy and time trying to hide something that is now a part of you. There’s always Dermablend and long sleeves if you must, for whatever reason, but keeping it hidden around your grandmother? I think that would be exhausting and ultimately futile.

    I support you whatever you choose to do. But my bottom line feeling is that it is your body and you’re an adult. Her opinion is not desired or required, here.

    • Elbereth said:

      “Like, sad stuff (e.g. Holocaust survivors had no choice but to get theirs), classist / snobbery stuff (e.g., tats are “only for” working ladies, bikers, ex-felons sailors and blue collar workers). ”

      Also racist stuff: Tattoos are culturally appropriate for Polynesians (where the word comes from) and also for Native Americans.

      • And excellent addition to the “how about examining WHY you feel so strongly about tattoos? Could you be playing into some outdated bullshit and stereotypes, maybe?” list.

  36. There’s this story in my family of how my mother declared to all five of us “When you’re an adult, you can get a tattoo if you want, just don’t tell me about it!” We all took it with a “yes mom.” sort of thing. Well my baby sis promptly got her first tattoo when she was old enough. And a few others later. Never told my mom–as clearly requested. Mom found out one day when they went swimming. Flipped out. About the tattoos, about the fact that my sis hadn’t said anything. Even though she’d specifically asked not to be told. It’s like she just expected never to know about it somehow or I don’t know what. Now my sis gets the occasional tattoo, the last one was a phrase in latin. Mom again flipped out while I sat there talking about what the phrase was and why she’d picked it. It’s like she needs to be dramatic and disapproving because being blase would be wrong.

    My mom flips out when I wear two different color socks or big chunky butterfly earrings. (I’m 40) I’ll probably get a nice dramatic reaction to the blue dye in my hair when I see her. But I’m 40. It’s my own life. Let them drama and go on with your life.

    • Blue Meeple said:

      My mom is pretty cool about stuff, but my dad Does Not Like Change. The last time my mom changed her hairstyle (which, admittedly, was an enormous change from very long hair to very short) he told her flat-out he didn’t like it, even though it looks amazing and she loves it. He eventually changed his mind, though, so I’m really glad he knew I’d dyed my hair purple for several months before he ever actually saw it.

      Also, when I finally did see him, I told him he didn’t get to comment on my hair until he’d had time to get used to it.

      • My parents are the opposite. When my dad found out I’d gotten a navel piercing at age 18, he basically went, “Well, I don’t really understand why you would do that, but it seems to make you happy. What do you want for dinner?”
        My mom FLIPPED. “Take it out!” (No.) “What will people think?” (Probably nothing, and who cares anyway?) “Well, you’re never getting a tattoo!” (Not your choice, Mom.)
        This is the litmus test for big important things, and it’s why my parents don’t know I’m bi and poly. I could tell Dad and even if he had Feelings, we could talk about it and shouting wouldn’t be involved. With my mom…yeah.

        • Blue Meeple said:

          Yeah, even given what I said, I have zero interest in telling my mom that I’m ace. I’m not sure she even knows asexual is A Thing and she would probably think she’d done something wrong raising me and it was her fault (while she’s usually cool about stuff, the fact that neither my sister or I date much or are interested in kids? that seems to rankle…). That is just not a conversation i want to have.

          • BarlowGirl said:

            *sees a comment about asexuality by someone with a name starting with B* Did I write a comment in my sleep?

            Other than being an only child… thiiiiis. Meeeee.

    • cavyherd said:

      I’d love to just stand there, letting her flip out, and stare at my watch. After [interval], “You done yet? ‘Cause I want to go [eat/go to bed/watch tv/launder the cat].”

      • The one time I tried that with my mother, she just about dislocated my jaw. So, hmmm, maybe judge whether or not you are going to get slugged by an asshole who wants to yell at you without interruption for hours if you say anything to indicate you aren’t being adequately terrorized by unreasonableness and shouting..

        • B. said:

          Jedi hugs if you want them, britpoptarts, that’s an awful thing to have done to you 😦

          • Thank you. Yeah, I was not a fan of that, either.

      • Schmousie said:

        +1000 for “launder the cat”.

        • Jackalope said:

          I dunno. I said, “Hah! Go launder the cat!” and started laughing, and one of my cats Looked at me and laid his ears back. So not all audience members approve.

          • Keep an eye on that cat. He understands English, clearly. He’s two opposable thumbs away from ruling us all..

        • Nanani said:

          I just remembered I actually need to 1) do laundry and 2) scoop the cat box, so thanks!
          Off I go to launder my cat.

  37. hbc said:

    Is there some context where her behavior makes sense? She clearly doesn’t like tattoos, but that doesn’t seem to be enough since she’s let the other people slide. Have you always been The Good One on whom she pinned all the dreams for the future of her family? (Obviously, a tattoo or seven doesn’t stop that in reality, but it might in her mind.) The others could be off the hook because, even though she loves them, she has a lower bar.

    Similarly, maybe she feels closest to you so it’s more about being out of the loop with you, whereas with the others she wouldn’t be upset to learn that they got married 6 months ago and didn’t tell her. Or maybe the others actually did a “Gram/mom, I’m getting a tattoo” and dutifully pretended to consider her opinion.

    None of this entitled her to notification, of course. It’s just that a bigger picture review might give a hint of what approach might work best with her. For example, if it’s the closeness, I might say, “I didn’t think you’d want to know since you’re so opposed to tats. But sure, I’ll give you a heads up next time as long as you promise to be supportive.” But if you realize that she’s a controlling jerk, then she gets a “I didn’t tell you because I don’t need your permission” and you start preparing some boundaries.

  38. Anxiety Rage Cat said:

    This letter reminds me a lot of some past tension between me and my mom about tattoos and dreadlocks.

    When my husband and I got engaged, we decided to get engagement tattoos that match. They are celtic bands that had each other’s name on them, i.e. mine has my husband’s name under the band. When we were showing them off to my folks after getting them, my mom asked (half-concerned) “so, what happens if you get a divorce?” I said “it’s cool, I’ll just tattoo ‘is a dick’ under Husband’s name!” It got a laugh from everyone in the room, and I think it showed how unconcerned I was about it. It was also a handy answer to have that I could toss out without feeling anxious or worried. It’s basically the equivalent of a shoulder shrug (which the Captain has recommended when dealing with people who make big drama over something that’s none of their business), and my way of saying “I’m not concerned, and I don’t really care that you are concerned because it’s my body and therefore my ‘problem'”.

    Related: when I was 25, I decided to have dreadlocks put in. I’m a white girl, so the dreadlocking process can take awhile… basically, my head looked like a rat’s nest for the first year before they really started to lock up and look like dreads. My mom was NOT happy about this hair decision, and I gave her a little leeway by agreeing to wait until after our wedding (and therefore, have them not show up in the wedding pictures). However, after getting them put in, she would nit-pick when she saw me by saying things like “aren’t you worried about looking professional for jobs?” and “are they ever going to look good?” After a couple of months, I finally snapped and said “Listen, it’s my hair, and my decision, so knock it off with the comments.” I was firm and confident, and was AMAZED that it totally worked. After that, no more comments about my hair.

    LW, instead of accommodating your Grandma’s discomfort, you could try being direct: “Grandma, I know you don’t like tattoos, but it’s my skin, my body, and my choice what to do with it. If you want to spend time with me, stop making a big deal out of something that isn’t your problem.” It’s scary to do (when I stood up to my mom, my heart was racing and I was sweating heavily), but the pay-off can be so worth it! And it shows her that a.) her opinion is not going to stop you from doing what you want with your life, and b.) if she wants to spend time with you, she has to respect your bodily autonomy.

    You are in the right here, LW. Stick to your guns and don’t act like you’re doing something shameful because you’re not! Keep rocking those tats, and enjoy the fact that you’re an adult who doesn’t need anyone else’s blessing to live your life the way that you want.

    • Kat, Ph.D. said:

      My mom sounds very similar to yours, and I’ve found that making a joke out of it can put a stop to some of her nitpicking. My philosophy is this: she doesn’t have a right to question decisions of mine that don’t affect her, so I’m not obligated to treat her questions seriously. It took me a while to get to that place, though, and I’m still working on my “knock it off” scripts for when she needs to just fucking stop, already.

    • Green said:

      My mom hated my dreadlocks at first, she said once that we didn’t like them and that was it! Then about one year ago, we were driving somewhere and she turned to me in the car and said: “I never thought I would say this, but the dreadlocks really suits you! I’m so glad you still have them.”
      That was one of the biggest surprises she has ever sprung upon me. This also shows that people can change.
      Grandma on the other hand…

      I like your response about the matching wedding bands, that idea sounds really neat!

  39. I think if you do something you want to do but know a relative of yours is going to object, then…you know you’re paying a price in dealing with Grandma’s inevitable upset. If you want the tattoo more than you want her to not be upset, then that’s your choice, but know going in that she’s not gonna react well and that’s what you’re choosing to deal with rather than passing up the tattoo to avoid it. Sometimes that’s just how it goes with family.

    I was around on the day when my aunt and uncle found out my cousin got a tattoo when she turned 21–we were in Hawaii and they could see her leg–and wheeeeeee….that was fun. But in the end, it’s not like they can do a damn thing about it.

  40. MrsLokiofAsgard said:

    I’m a big fan of “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness over asking permission”. Your grandmother doesn’t need to know before you get a tattoo. It’s not her body and it’s not her choice.

    I am going to talk about the facebook thing though. When I got pregnant with my first born I only directly told immediate family (mom, my husband’s parents and our siblings). Our families are too large to have called everyone individually. We went with an online blanket announcement. My aunt was insulted by this. Like…SERIOUSLY insulted. She thought I should have called her directly and told her the news. She really never spoke to me again. If I visited my grandparents (who she lived with) she’d find a reason to be out that day. I tried apologizing but her response was “I’m your aunt! I changed your diapers. This is my first great niece/nephew.” She was hurt. I tried apologizing. It was never resolved. Long story short…my aunt died just after my daughters third birthday. I sat in the church that I was baptized in and had this horrible thought…she was there in the church on my first day there and I was there for her last day in church and she never knew how much I loved her and Oh my Goodness what would it have killed me to pick up the phone and tell her, the aunt I was closest to, that I was pregnant instead of online??

    Facebook is impersonal. You know your tattoo bothers Grandma, call her, let her know personally. She’s not going to be happy about the fact you got one, but she won’t be angry to have found out with the masses.

    • I’m sorry your aunt died without meeting your daughter; that sounds heartbreaking.
      However, you’re not exclusively to blame for that. I can see her being hurt that she wasn’t among the first to know, especially if she’s of a generation that doesn’t see online communication as authentic. But it sounds like she was cutting off her nose to spite her face by refusing to have any contact with the child whose existence was so important to her. It could have been a lesson for you – “okay, next time remember that phone calls are important to Aunt” – but instead it sounds like it just caused everyone pain.

    • Temperance said:

      Oof. I’m trying to be gentle here … but the problem wasn’t with you, it was with your aunt. You tried to apologize, even though you did nothing wrong, and she repeatedly rebuffed you. I’m sorry that she passed before she was able to make up with you, but you extended the olive branch repeatedly.

      I have an oversensitive parent who similarly expects personal phone calls with any news before anyone else finds out about it (including my husband or my sister, who are my favorite people). She threw a temper tantrum and didn’t speak to me for weeks because I didn’t personally call her before talking to Booth to let her know I passed the bar, even though I was at work and then ran to a bar to celebrate. She saw it on FB, because my husband updated FB for me and because my newly-minted lawyer friends were posting shit on each other’s walls.

    • BarlowGirl said:

      Honey. Your aunt chose not to meet her FIRST GREAT NIBLING, your amazing daughter, because she was petty about Facebook.

      That’s not your fault.

    • wagtail said:

      I feel most of the replies to your comment miss the point of your story, which seems at heart to be about who is “close family” and who is “the masses” in your words, and how we indicate who is who. I also think the responses somewhat undermine how lovely and genuine the self-reflection is here in their desire to get you not to blame yourself.

      Some adults, especially those that do caregiving, bond with kids in a way the kids by sheer developmental fiat have no awareness of or capability of reciprocating. It sounds like your aunt felt very close to you and felt like she suddenly became aware that what she thought of as parental caregiving (getting this from the “changed your diapers” comment) was not considered that way from the outside. That is nobody’s fault at all. I think there’s a lot of underrecognised pathos in the way generations bond with one another and our society which really stratifies by age can have a hard time understanding why a grandparent might act in any way differently than a 20-something friend or a work colleague.

      Thank you for a lovely comment.

      • MrsLokiofAsgard said:

        Wagtail….you’re right. I don’t blame myself and my message was more about that she saw herself as such an important person in my life and that realization hit me at the worst possible moment…the moment when it was too late to let her know that I saw it from her point of view. She was there for ALL of my moments in life from my baptism to my wedding (and all those in between!). She never, not once, didn’t show up for me in those big moments. She wasn’t my mother but she was my aunt and her hurt was real in being lumped in with “the masses” and I never got to acknowledge that or apologize for that while she was living. Yes, I understand that she didn’t get to meet my daughter and she only hurt herself in that aspect, but her reaction to how I delivered that news has changed how I look at these things now.

        LW, she’s your grandmother and by all accounts it sounds like you may have a decent relationship with her (tattoo aside). She’s told you it bothers her that she found out through Facebook. She told you it bothers her that you get tattoos. You want to get tattoos…get tattoos. But maybe call her first and share it with her before the rest of the world? She may not be happy about the tattoo but she’ll know that you respected and cared about her feelings enough that you told her personally.

  41. Karen said:

    LW, please feel free to disregard what I’m about to say if it doesn’t apply to you and your situation. I totally relate to you as someone who has a half back piece and whose parents hate tattoos.

    What works for us is a don’t ask/don’t tell arrangement where I hide my tattoo pics from them of Facebook and wear clothing that covers it when I see them, and they pretend not to notice if it shows around the edges of my shirt collar.

    Now, granted this is easier to pull off with some tattoos than others, but since your mom and other relatives have tattoos, I’m wondering if what your grandmother was upset about was a perceived “flaunting” of your tattoo at her. Not that you did this, because from everything you’ve shared in your letter, your actions were completely reasonable. But your grandma could be perceiving it that way because brains are funny things, and brains especially double down on the Attribution Error when it comes to things that we don’t like.

    It may be possible that your grandmother would be satisfied with some symbolic discretion – blocking her from seeing your tattoo pics on social media, wearing cardigans or chunky bracelets to obscure your ink, etc, as a gesture of good will on your part.

    But if you think that she’s the type to go seeking out things she disapproves of, or that her sense of entitlement to critique your body and choices would be undeterred, then by all means, as the Captain says, fuck it. Your body is yours.

  42. lw, how does it change things for you to acknowledge she’s never going to like or approve, and that it doesn’t matter because it’s still your body and you get to choose what you do with it?

    I’m not claiming it’s simple to do that. We want the approval of the people we love. But if you give up on having it, does it make it easier or harder for you to breezily say something like ‘I know you don’t like them, but I do’ or ‘You don’t get to choose what I do with my body’ to her?

  43. Temperance said:

    I can relate, LW. My parents are conservative evangelicals, and they think anything outside of very plain dressing/little makeup is a sin or “weird” or “freakish”. I had pink hair for a long time, and have a tattoo and a pierced nose.

    I do what I want and don’t care about any stress they put on themselves about me being gossiped about or what have you. I don’t care that they’re judging me for not fitting their list of appropriate actions for a female.

  44. Ahh, I forgot to add to my last post. Personal anecdote: My mum LOATHES my body mods. Hates them. Passion of a thousand suns. Has used the term ‘sel-mutilation’ to refer to them.

    She still loves me. I have boundaries of steel on this. She says ‘Is that another tattoo?’ I say ‘yep, and I love it’. She lets it go, because I am thirty and after many wobblings on her part I eventually just said ‘I am gonna do what I feel is right regardless of what you have to say on it’ and she settled down. Now it’s more… affectionate poking, I guess?

  45. notemily said:

    Tattoos always seem to come up on advice columns! Prudence and Carolyn Hax get a TON of letters about them, sometimes like “I got a tattoo and someone doesn’t approve,” but often from the other half of the equation–“my [daughter or other relative but usually a daughter] got a tattoo, and I feel so betrayed!” I know older generations have different ideas about tattoos, but jeez, they sell fake tats for little kids now! They’re no longer solely the purview of sailors and prostitutes!

    Sometimes it’s something super weird, though. I think Prudence got both of these: One was a woman of color who discovered her new boyfriend has a tattoo of the Confederate Flag (!), and the other was a woman whose boyfriend has a tattoo that obliquely commemorates all his sexual exploits, and he told her proudly that he added her to the design. Yuck.

    (This is kind of off-topic but I’m fascinated by what subjects come up in advice columns, especially since I made my advice column Twitter bot.)

    For the LW, I know very well how family can guilt-trip you and it produces all these reaction-feelings that you can’t control, even if you KNOW the thing is none of their business and they don’t have any right to tell you to feel guilty about it.

    • RSVP said:

      Oh my, I remember both of those letters! Especially the one about the beads being added to the rosary. “It’s okay, you rated really highly! I gave you four beads!”

      • Oh God I remember the rosary one – I really hope that was fake. It was very bizarre.

    • MrsLokiofAsgard said:

      I know older generations have different ideas about tattoos, but jeez, they sell fake tats for little kids now! They’re no longer solely the purview of sailors and prostitutes!

      THIS! I am in my 40’s…and as a kid literally the only people I knew who had tattoos were bikers and guys who used to be in the Navy. In the 90’s when I was in college it suddenly became “the thing” to have a tattoo…and now it’s a form of art that, while I enjoy looking at, I am still too scared of to get. (It’s the needle and buzzing noise….makes me get all squinchy!) My sister got a tattoo when in 1994 and my family was shocked! LOL…now most of them have some kind of art. My mom turns 60 this year and she’s mentioned getting one this year. 🙂 I really need to work on that fear. LOL!

  46. Ramona French said:

    Grandma, I don’t want to hear it. Drop the subject.
    Grandma, case closed. Change the subject.
    Grandma, I don’t want to hear it. Let’s talk about something else.
    Jeez, Grandma, let it go.

  47. Kay said:

    She’s acting like she found out about a pregnancy over Facebook lol.

    “Grandma, tattoos are not something a grown woman needs approval to get. You found out about it on Facebook, it its just a tattoo. Not a wedding or birth announcement. You’ve made your feelings about tattoos clear in the past, so I saw no reason to bring it up just to upset you because again, it isn’t up for discussion and it doesn’t make me a bad granddaughter.”

  48. Kimbeaux said:

    Email her: Grandma, I have a new tattoo. I am letting you know in an email so you can manage your feelings before I talk to you again. I love you and want to have a good relationship with you, but I will not tolerate a feelings-dump like you did over my first tattoo. Please realize that how you choose to behave towards me affects our relationship. I look forward to talking to you once you have accepted that what I do with my body is my choice and mine alone.

    • B. said:

      A+ script

  49. I’m thinking the issue could be with the memorial element of the tattoo combined with discovering it by surprise on a public platform. It may have caused a rush of emotions- hence her reaction to this particular tattoo and no one else’s.

  50. KT said:

    *delurk* Ahh so much familiarity… So, LW, I got my first tattoo this year on my shoulder (I am in my early thirties) and my mom, who hates tattoos, did not take it well. But we got past it when we had a conversation that went basically:

    1. Remember we only see each other maybe three times a year and most of those times I am wearing long sleeves.
    2. I didn’t get this tattoo at you. I got it because I wanted it and since I have a car payment and a retirement account I figured I was an independent human. You agree, right? Right.
    3. Let’s not spoil any of our precious time together arguing about a tattoo.
    4. You can say exactly one rude thing about it to my face, one time, and then we never have to talk about it again because, once again, I’m always wearing sleeves around you.

    I don’t know if this would work on your grandma, but it worked on my mom.

    (I get that feel, though, that you feel GUILTY for doing something someone who loves you disapproves of, even though it is literally not hurting them at all nor interfering with their day-to-day life. What is that called?)

  51. TO_Ont said:

    Some people do really hate facebook and/or social media in general and resist it as much as possible. MostMmake peace with it, sometimes by avoiding it, sometimes using it. But a lot of people still on some level hate the idea that conversations that they might once have had in person are now on the internet, or hate that a corporation owns so much of their private stuff, or hate how public it feels, etc.

    I don’t know how much of that is genuinely part of this, but the comment that she had to learn about it through facebook made me think of that.

    It’s true that it’s quite common these days to share information that way, but some people still do think it’s rude or sad in some way to say something through facebook that could have been said some other way. And it’s sometimes, but not always, generational.

    If it seems like that might genuinely be part of it here, either just putting grandma on a list where she doesn’t get to see some posts, or mentioning the tattoo to her in some other context before posting it (but AFTER getting it done, and only if you feel like telling her).

  52. AwesomeSauce said:

    Memorizing all the excellent “responses to a disapproving relative” scripts for if/when my mom finds out about the tattoo I just got. It is my first. I am 40. 😀

    • I’m in your age cohort, and about to hit a milestone birthday in October. I’m also focusing some of my self-improvement energy at my body, and am close to reaching my goal. I am seriously considering a tiny nose stud and a dangly navel ring to celebrate the adoption of better lifestyle habits once I reach that goal, and for having successfully made it on my trips around the sun about eleventygajillion times so far. 😉

    • solecism said:

      Just turned 46 and thinking of getting a back piece to celebrate my year of transformation and new beginnings. Middle-age fist-bumps! Just need to make an appointment and get moving…

      • AwesomeSauce said:

        Middle-aged fistbumps all around! britpoptarts and solecism, I hope you both come up with awesome ways to celebrate your mid-aged bods 🙂

        • Huzzah! Solidarity!

  53. Medusa in the Mirror said:

    Another tattoo story. The parents were fairly easy to deal with; before I got any tattoos I would have my friends show my dad their tattoos and he’d say nice things about G’s dragon or N’s line-drawing cat, so when i got tattooed it would have been hypocritical to complain. I was going to break the news to Mom slowly, but she walked into the house as i was coming out of the shower in a towel and got to see them all at once. It took her a while, and she didn’t like them, but she was pretty clear that it was my choice and not hers.
    Mom’s mother, on the other hand, was another matter. GG had always been judgmental, supremely self-centered, and concerned with what the proverbial neighbors might think. One night when I was in my late 20s or early 30s she, Mom, and I were out for dinner. Grandma lit into me. In public. “You only get those tattoos to upset me!” I thought, “geez, I’m sure there are less expensive, painful, and permanent ways to upset you.” What I said was “You don’t have to like them. I like them. It’s my body and my decision.” To which she responded, “You’re my grand daughter, it’s my body too!” Actually, I think there was a bit more to it than that, but that was the core. I almost walked out, but instead looked at Mom and did the very obvious topic change, which Mom ran with.
    Over the years the subject would come up and I’d reiterate my stance, while marveling at her archaic lack of boundaries. Now I’m in my 50s, Mom is dead, and GG is 98. For the past decade I’ve been the person who is around to do stuff for her. Now all she says is how thankful she is for me and how she couldn’t get by without me. She’s still self-centered and all that, but I don’t hear about the tattoos any more.

    TL;DR It’s your body, LW. Stick to your scripts and your boundaries. What Grandma thinks and says isn’t really your problem.

    • “You’re my grand daughter, it’s my body too!”

      *fills entire comment box with NO*

      Good on you for weathering that mess.

      • Exorganist said:

        That sounds like something my grandma would say.

      • anglerfish said:

        “You’re my grand daughter, it’s my body too!”

        Sorry to hijack your comment, Medusa, but I could really use some advice.

        Growing up, my mom has used this line/philosophy about me. My body is her body. My pain is her pain. It was the final word in many of our disagreements (eg: my skin hypersensitivity VS her need to methodically remove all impurities from my skin, my desire to wear cute frilly things VS her desire for me to dress sensibly). I always backed down, because who am I to tell a grown woman what to do with her own body?

        Was this wrong? Or is it normal for parents & kids, but wrong in Medusa’s scenario because it’s a grandparent/grown up grandchild?

        • notemily said:

          What? Of course that’s wrong. Why would your body be her body? It stopped being her body when you were born.

        • zyronife said:

          From the moment you are born, you are an autonomous being. Your body belongs to no one but you. (And, no, there is no parental exception to that; parents are your guardians, not your owners.)

        • daen said:

          Yes, I think this is wrong. As a parent, she has a responsibility for your safety and care, and she may think she feels your pain as intensely as you do… but your body is yours. Hers is hers.

          I would like to say about how claiming ownership of someone else’s body sounds an awful lot like slavery, but I can’t find the wording.

    • Majikkani_Hand said:

      I’ve heard that from family, too. Equally unimpressed by the twisted logic it takes to get there. Too bad I’m inclined to counterculture in my appearance! 😀

  54. Vandorendra said:

    LW, I so feel your pain on this one. I had wanted a tattoo for years and when I finally got an appointment to get one, I mentioned it in passing to my mother not thinking it would be a big deal. Cue huge tirade about “I raised you better than this, only common and vulgar (yes, really) people get tattoos, I don’t understand where I went wrong as a parent”. Thankfully, as a long time CA reader, I was able to shut most of it down with similar scripts to what you have been offered here.

    I’m now planning my second tattoo, and I’ve gotten a piercing that my mother would not approve of. I haven’t told her about either of these things, and I don’t intend to. If at some point she notices either of them, I will calmly tell her that it’s not her business what I do with my body, and get on with my life. I hope you are able to do the same 🙂

  55. msexceptiontotherule said:

    I engaged in some teenage rebellion, part of which involved me getting a tattoo months before my 18th birthday when I would have legally been old enough to do so (looking back I do feel badly for putting the tattoo artist at risk of losing his ability to earn money practicing his art) but I wasn’t so rebellious as to tell my parents I’d gotten one. Over a year later, my not-so-great-with-respecting-privacy-mom walks in on me while I’m in the shower and sees my lower back tattoo, squeaks out “Is….that a….tattoo?”; all I can really respond with at that point was “yep.” and she walks out closing the bathroom door behind her (shocking considering her difficulties with respecting the near universal symbol a closed door represents – privacy, keep out unless told otherwise). Surprisingly enough she never said another word about that tattoo, she did wonder out loud why I felt the need for the 2nd one I got, which is no bigger than a quarter and on the inside of my left ankle. I was 21 when I got the 2nd one and while she could sort of whine about it she knew that since I was an adult it was my choice – not sure what she’d make of the numerical significance associated (mostly by religious folks) with my first tattoo having 3 flowers with 6 petals each…but she hasn’t actually come close enough or wanted to look at it long enough to realize I accidentally wound up with a floral representation of the devil’s number…

    Point is, LW is an adult and it wasn’t necessary to get grandma’s approval before deciding to get a tattoo. Deep down grandma probably knows this – she’ll see LW’s tattoo when she sees it, I’d want to move the conversation along after because nobody lives forever and why not try to keep things pleasant during the time we have together.

  56. My first tattoo was an 18th birthday present from a friend. My mum had previously said, on many occasions, “over my dead body are any of my children having tattoos.”

    What i did was approach my mum and say “Mum, i’m getting a tattoo. I’m not asking you, i’m telling you. [Friend] is paying for it as a birthday present.”

    I’m lucky that my mum is relatively sensible. She just sort of sighed and said “You’re basically an adult and I can’t tell you what to do, but can I at least see the design first?” It was a small tattoo designed by a friend of mine and she loved it.

    2 years later she got a tattoo of her own!

    • Exorganist said:

      Yeah, my mom was like that too. I’m sure she’d rather I not, but I’m 24, and knows how much of a snob/hygiene freak I am. She’s also glad that I’ve “broken free” of her controlling mother, who controls her life.

  57. Exorganist said:

    This reminds me of my grandma… I got a tattoo a while back, and I never told her. I wear long sleeves around her (rolled up, it’s above the elbow), so she never has to see it. She doesn’t have Facebook, which helps. The part where it gets absurd is that I’m trans, and not out to her, so I go by a different name and pronouns when around her (once a week, basically), and everybody else has to play along. I change into different clothes, because mine would horrify her, I try to arrange my hair in a way that won’t provoke an immediate reaction. I know I’m her favourite, and she always says she loves me, but I always think that she doesn’t actually, she just loves the person who she thinks/wishes I am. Anyways, my whole family tries to varying degrees to pretend to be different people around her, and this has gone on for most of my family’s entire lives (except for my uncle, who is genuinely grandma-appropriate, and also tells her when he finds out we’ve done something that isn’t). If my grandma found out that her favourite granddaughter got a pretty large tattoo, she’d probably say she wished she was dead, act like I killed her, and probablywrite me out of the will, and threaten suicide. It’s fucked up in the extreme.

    ANYWAYS, my bullshit advice is do what the Captain said if your grandma is not the type to threaten suicide, and write you out of the will. Otherwise, accept the price of long sleeves and choreographing your movements for doing something that she disapproves of.

    • Exorganist said:

      I’m replying to myself saying that I really get having a controlling grandma, and the sense of guilt that I have for doing ANYTHING in my private life that my grandma might/would disapprove of is really strong. It’s hard not to project that guilt onto other people – I feel guilty for doing things that I “shouldn’t”, even when they don’t affect my grandma, but I suppose not everyone has to live that way. I’m jealous of people who don’t.

    • Elektra said:

      I’m really sorry that you have to hide some pretty important aspects of yourself (your name! your gender!) from your grandma so she doesn’t hurt and abuse you. It sounds like your family structure appeases and facilitates her abusive behaviours, which would make it incredibly hard to refuse to tow the family line and stand up to her. That’s a really shitty situation to be in, and I hope you’re ok.

  58. CommanderBanana said:

    LW, I am a woman and I have a lot of tattoos – full sleeves, chest, back, one leg, stomach, the works, and the images are mostly of skulls and other violent things, so, yes, I am familiar with unsolicited opinions about tattoos.

    My parents DGAF so I haven’t had to deal with the level of opprobrium you are facing, but let me give you a few tips that have helped me:

    1. What you do with your body is your decision and you don’t have to justify or explain it to anyone. Full stop.

    2. You can take this advice or not, but I personally now refuse to discuss the “meaning” behind my tattoos with anyone, because what I have found is that when people who disapprove of tattoos start asking that, it’s not because they want to know why you got a certain design, it’s because they want to pick at your reason for getting them. I just refuse to play that game. The most I’ll ever tell anyone about my tattoos is that I like them, and if they want one, here’s the name of my artist.

    I think the Facebook thing is a whole ‘nother issue, and as I’m not really a Facebook user and none of my family is, so there’s literally zero FB-related drama, I don’t know what to say about that. I will say I have a lot of friends who have the same thing happen with relatives (them getting all butthurt about finding something out on FB instead of by a phone call or whatever method of communication THEY have decided is the ONE TRUE WAY).

    Personally I don’t find tattoos a big enough deal to merit an in-person phone call, but apparently Grandma does, so if you get another one you could head it off at the pass by calling her before posting any photos. That being said, I also personally think that people who insist on using FB as a Thing to get offended about are assholes.

    I personally don’t like FB and don’t really use it, and I have missed out on events that I wanted to go to because they were announced on FB and I only checked it once or twice a month, but that’s on me. If that’s the method of communication that works the best for friends, that’s their decision and I can either decide to be a dick about it, or I can decide to check FB more often, which is what I do now.

    Finally, if FB IS causing a huge amount of drama in your extended family, it may be worth it to rethink how you use it to interact with family members.

  59. AutumnFire said:

    LW, as many others have said here: You’re an adult. It’s your body. God didn’t die and leave your grandma in charge. The good Captain’s scripts are a much nicer way to phrase any sort of confrontation with her, but in essence she has NO decision with what you decide to do with YOUR body. You’re 25. You’re entitled to do what you want.

  60. resili0 said:

    Portrait memorial tattoos are emotive. That is not to say that you should have asked permission or that your decision to memorialise your uncle in ink was wrong. But to see the image of someone I loved on the skin of someone else I love suddenly appear on my FB feed and know that others in my family knew that ritual was happening and I didn’t – I can relate to being shocked. You and your mum had a moment to remember your uncle. You shared that with your FB friends. I don’t think you did anything wrong but I also think it’s understandable that your grandmother may have had grief brought up when she didn’t expect it. This might explain her outburst and the unspoken truce about it.

    It might be about how you remember your uncle vs your ink.

    • It doesn’t have to be a portrait to be a memorial tattoo. I have a memorial tattoo for my mom, of our favorite flower.

      I’m guessing, but it sounds like the grandmother was using the memorial angle as leverage. :/

      • resili0 said:

        It doesn’t have to be a portrait but I think a memorial tattoo is emotive. Tattoos can be part of how people grieve and so the idea that some family create that memorial could make a relative feel excluded. Grandma may have seen the wrist tattoo and not let on because it is not linked to the uncle. It might be that a tattoo not linked her dead friend would not produce the same reaction.

        Or it might. I’m mentioning it because I don’t think the issue of the memorial aspect has been debated much.

      • Elektra said:

        Yeah, I didn’t assume it was a portrait, either.

        Even assuming grandma’s reaction is partly driven by grief (which I doubt), it’s still not ok. It would be ok to say something like ‘hey, I have nothing against your tattoo, but please understand it brings up a lot of memories about [uncle] when I see it that are really difficult for me. could you try to keep it under wraps when I’m around?” It is not ok to fly off the handle and personally attack the LW because of grandma’s feelings.

        My sisters came to an agreement like this recently after our grandfather passed away. They were honest about the different, mutually exclusive ways they were grieving, and that allowed them to make space for each other and respect the way the other grieved.

        A shared favourite flower sounds like a beautiful way to remember your mom.

  61. Miki said:

    I say you should buy your Grandma a gift certificate for a tattoo and present it to her together with a pledge from your mom and you to accompany her and help her pick out some really cool ink. Because I don’t think this was about the tattoo at all; it was about your grandmother not feeling included.

  62. I can relate a little. My family’s gotten used to my tattoos, but I recently got a septum piercing, and I’m already preemptively annoyed by the “It makes you look like a bull!” snark I’m expecting from my godparents. I’ve already decided on a flat “Yup, and careful: you mess with the bull, you get the horns,” and if push comes to shove, “Well I like it, and there isn’t much you can do about it.”

  63. I am so glad The Captain was on the “Fuck it” train. My grandmother hates tattoos and makes sure to let me and my other family members with them know all the time. You don’t have to walk on eggshells or pretend like you are the way she wants you to be. This approach really works for anything that grandma hates. Do you, and she can deal with it. 🙂

  64. cherrona said:

    I don’t think you should hide the tattoo, LW. If she sees it and asks why you didnt tell her, just tell her that it’s because it’s none of her business. What you do with your body is no-ones business but yours. You’re an adult and as such you can do whatever you want with your body. Of course, you may have to be nice about it so as not to cause too much trouble. Personally I think it shouldn’t be up to you to try to keep the peace and monitor her feelings over something like this, but you may have to for the sake of family harmony.
    Good luck, LW

  65. I don’t like tattoos. I don’t have any, I don’t want any… my reasons are aesthetic, and I know my aesthetic sense doesn’t match other people’s. Now, having said that, I hereby declare that LW’s body is her own and it nobody’s business if she gets a tattoo, or three, or twenty. It is nobody’s business but her own where she gets them, either. If you meet someone with a tat you like, and it’s appropriate to do so, by all means complement them on it. But otherwise, bodily autonomy reigns. Do not be rude and criticize. LW’s grandma not liking her tats is not LW’s problem, it’s grandma’s problem and grandma needs to grow the hell up and behave like a civil adult.

  66. Helbling said:

    I have zero patience for people attempting to 1) try to force me to believe it behave as if their opinion or approval are important and necessary in parts of my life where they really really aren’t and 2) people who truly to put me in charge of managing their feelings.

    Grandma here has hit both, and that’s without even touching the seriously hinky family dynamics where she only shows this level of controlling entitled behaviour to you and no one else. So, take with a pinch of salt because I am aware I am overly aggressive about this, but my response would be:

    Her:*insulting/outraged/unreasonable comment*
    You: *look at her like she’s grown a second head* Grandma, my body is none of your business.

    Repeat that sentence twice more if needed. Don’t deviate, explain or argue, just continue repeating that phrase. Optional bonus if she still hasn’t dropped it after that is to repeat one more time with vehemence and an expletive inserted somewhere. If she STILL hasn’t dropped it by then, say that as she’s obviously currently incapable of having a respectful conversation with you, you’re going to stop talking to her now and will try again another time.

    Then remove yourself from the situation/deliver the cut direct until you can remove yourself from the situation, and don’t pick up communications again with her until you can think about the situation without feeling either anger or fear/shame, depending on your favoured emotional response to such behaviour. It’s ok if the time frame for that is in the order of months.

    Oh, and remove granny from Facebook. People’s presence on social media should only be for those who are interested and proud and happy for you and what you choose to do with your life, not for those who lurk in your update feed seeking ammunition to berate you with should you make a decision that differs from theirs.

  67. Green said:

    This hits really close to home for me. I’m the first grandchild from her first child, and my grandma have meddled a LOT in my life. Vacations, boyfriends, if or when I should have children, but mostly about my dreadlocks. She HATES them, and isn’t afraid to call me dirty or ugly.

    Thanks CA for some good scripts that I also can put to use, probably very soon…

  68. zephyr haversack said:

    You say you don’t need her permission — but you still sound very keen on having her approval. So that’s kind of a conundrum for you.

    Maybe if you explain to your grandmother that tattoos are the fashion these days? Because they really are, just like over-the-knee boots, thick eyebrows, and velvet. So you’re just following the trends of the day, as she doubtless did when she was younger, also probably still is. She’s worried that it’s some sort of bohemian, “counter-culture” thing, but really, now that so many “regular” folks have some sort of Celtic thing or butterfly or Tweety Bird ink, it’s about as “edgy” as eating buttered popcord at a Pixar movie.

  69. bobaney said:

    I’d just like to say, don’t give up hope on your old relatives. My mum usually stops speaking to me for a few days when I get a new tattoo. Slowly she’s mellowed but it was bad when I was a teen. But then earlier this year, she secretly asked me to take her to get a tattoo. It was the most surreal experience of my life and I still half don’t believe it happened. I think it was because she’s almost 70, and I was dating a very nice tattoo artist who she liked. Poor guy was the most nervous of us all but he did a great job. I wish I had seen my dad and sisters’ faces when she unveiled it at a family pool party I wasn’t at. Priceless.

    I think she still doesnt like me having many and visible mods but she hasnt said a word since she got hers!!!

  70. Nanani said:

    I wonder how LW’s mom got around this load of body monitoring?
    If there are any borrowable strategies, borrow the crap out of them!
    (I realize this might not possible if the issue in grandma’s mind is Facebook or Your Age or some other factor that didn’t exist before)

    As for the line about the other grandkids being fine… I gotta wonder if those are all grandSONS by any chance?
    Grandma strikes as possibly having some ugly thoughts about what kind of woman has tattoos, and it could be worth confronting that in whatever way works best in your family.

  71. Chuck said:

    LW, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. It sucks. I have to confess, I’ve been hoping a letter would tackle this issue, because it’s one that I struggle with every day.
    When I got my first tattoo my older sister became so angry at me that I didn’t tell her, she ignored me for days then came into my work crying because “she thought she had ruined my life”. My mother feined coolness at the time but then asked me not to get anymore and said that tattoos are disgusting etc. My father hates them with a passion.
    I have quietly continued to get tattoos, telling absolutely no one except my husband (sometimes not even him). I love my tattoos and deep down I know that I can do what I want with my body and no one can stop me, but I still feel conflicted. I don’t want to stay hidden, I want to stand by my choices with conviction but I feel dishonest and duplicitous. I don’t want to dread summer! I really don’t want to deal with my family members Opinions and Reactions.
    I feel with you on this one LW and wish you the best of luck.

    • B. said:

      If it helps, it’s not your fault you can’t be honest with your family about your decisions. You tried to tell them, and they proved to be unsafe people to trust with that information. I hope you feel better soon, it sucks having to hide something that makes you happy ❤

  72. Smith said:

    Your grandma sounds exactly like mine! Except she never thought her grandkids were in the wrong and always blamed their parents (i.e., when my cousins got their first tattoos, their mother was a terrible mother who neglected her kids and was ruining their lives etc. etc.). I waited to get my tattoos until after she had died, to avoid the uncomfortable conversations about how my parents were terrible for “letting” me do such a thing.

    I’m definitely with Capt., call her on that bullshit in the moment. I used that technique with my grandma for just about anything, and while it didn’t stop her from criticizing everyone around her, it did at least stymie her in the moment. My cousins with tats were also VERY good at a young age at dismissing anything negative she said towards them with an “oh grandma, you’re so silly!!” attitude, and that REALLY got her goat. Good luck out there!!

  73. Sketchee said:

    This! “It’s okay for your Grandma to not be 100% happy with your decisions. People still love each other all the time despite not agreeing about everything.”

    One thing that made my life easier is just accepting that loved ones aren’t required to be 10000% supportive of every little thing each other does. You’re allowed to be annoyed, have different experiences, disagree on politics, whatever it is. Just knowing that helps me keep my mouth shut and not fan the flames. Grandma will find out however she finds out and will love you. She won’t love the tatoo or that you got it. She loves you. I’m a killing with kindness person, so however she reacts I’d go with “I know this is just how you express that you care. I’m happy with my decision and I’ll be okay. Love you grandma, how’s things with gardening or friends? I want to focus enjoying our time together!”

  74. Jynnan_Tonnyx said:

    Nth-ing everything the Captain said, with extra emphasis on “You’re not terrible”! You don’t owe your grandma the information beforehand, especially knowing her attitude about tattoos. It’s your body! It’s in no way about her!

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