DEAR HARRIETTE: My 16-year-old daughter would like to have a tattoo for Christmas. As her parent, I'm not too happy with the idea of her having a tattoo at such an early age. I'm planning to buy her something she needs -- clothes -- instead of the tattoo. How should I tell my daughter that I will not be giving her a tattoo for Christmas? -- Inkless, Chicago
DEAR INKLESS: Your job as a parent is to instill values into your children. Clearly, values vary from family to family and even within families. But if you think that 16 is too young for a child to get a tattoo, you need to teach her that.
My daughter is 9, and we talk about it now. For me, it's not even an age issue. I don't begrudge others having tattoos, but I do not favor them and will be thrilled if my daughter never gets one.
When I was your daughter's age, I wanted to get a gold tooth for my birthday. Why? All the kids were getting them at that time in my hometown, so we thought they were cool.
Rather than appearing horrified, as I'm sure my mother was, she sat me down and told me to imagine myself 20 years in the future as a professional woman. She asked if I thought I would want to wear a gold tooth to my job, and if I would even be able to get a job wearing it. When I said I would just have it removed, she told me it would stain my tooth, leaving a gray tooth right in the front of my mouth.
Needless to say, I didn't get the gold tooth. My mother's lesson was about my future rather than the birthday. I suggest that you talk to your daughter about her future -- as you also say "no."
DEAR HARRIETTE: Someone I once had a romantic fling with has been trying to talk to me more lately. He's nice, but I'm just not interested in anything more than friendship. Anything that happened between us lasted a couple of weeks and was over months ago. How can I get him to back off? -- Feeling Icky, New York
DEAR FEELING ICKY: It takes some people longer than others to get over a fling. One reader recently wrote in about this very topic, asking me to remind everyone that when you become intimately involved with someone too soon, it often wreaks havoc on your life. Unfortunately, you are in the throes of that experience right now.
What's done is done on that front. What you can do is tell him directly that you are not interested in being in a relationship with him now. Remind him that your fling ended long ago and that what you can have now is a friendship. If he is not willing to have just that, tell him you cannot be friends anymore.
If you decide to attempt the friendship, limit your conversations so he can cool off. The less access he has to you right now, the better.