White trash, thug, biker. These terms and more have been used for decades to describe people with tattoos and extravagant piercings.  But those days are gone and a new era is coming into dominance. Tattoos are gradually gaining social acceptance and slowly losing the negative stigma commonly associated with them. As young adults, many people go through a rebellious phase and tend to do things deemed stupid by adults.

The more common action is a piercing that can be removed and grown in, thus eliminating proof that it happened. Tattooing, however, is a permanent action and is becoming more common among young people, even those coming from well-to-do families.

At Elon, we are oftentimes sheltered from the outside world, comfortable in our bubble, not seeing things like this. But times are changing.  Only three years ago, a student with a tattoo was a very rare sight, while this year we can see more and more. It could be simply a word or two on a wrist, or on the side of a torso, hidden from view.  But there are students with sleeves and half-sleeves displaying their artwork to the world.  Can we still claim that these demonstrations of creativity are just youthful acts of rebellion that will be regretted in later years? Absolutely not. Tattoos are no longer the dangerous act that leaves us vulnerable to hepatitis and other diseases and makes us unemployable.

Young people today have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, blogs and websites to make their points known without permanently altering their bodies. This is what makes tattoos even more special. As we become more and more educated, students are making better and more informed decisions about ink choices. By talking to Elon students that have taken the plunge and gotten "inked," it is quite hard to find a student with a tattoo that they got just because it "looked cool."

Tattoos are actually meaningful exhibitions commemorating an achievement, the passing of a close relative or friend, or even a quote that is close to the heart. While smaller tattoos only take an hour or so to finish, larger ones require a commitment of many hours of sitting, months of healing and up to hundreds of dollars. None of these things are to be taken lightly or done simply to be a rebel.

In our world today, people gain recognition and protection from discrimination for just about everything under the sun. Anything that does not interfere with properly getting the job done is protected under discrimination law, except for tattoos. Unfortunately, many professions and organizations still desperately cling to the archaic idea that tattoos are bad and will interfere with performance. If anything, tattooed workers demonstrate that they have the dedication to live with a choice, even if it is one they later regret.

No matter if the ink is good or bad, meaningful or spur of the moment, it clearly displays a point in the life of the wearer, a point that they will remember. He or she can forever look back and see where their life was at that exact point.

That's the beauty of a tattoo.