EAST BRIDGEWATER, Mass. Amy LeBlanc couldn't wait for her eighteenth birthday, but it wasn't presents she was looking forward to.
"I wanted to go out and get a tattoo that would really annoy my mother," she says, and she headed for the nearest "body mod" shop, her driver's license in hand, as soon as she reached the minimum legal age in Massachusetts.
When she returned home with a facial "tat", however, she was disappointed. "My mom was like, 'What's new?' No screams, no tears. I felt like I'd wasted my money."
Amy is part of a new generation of body modification aficionadoes who have found that tried-and-true techniques for outraging one's parents have lost their potency now that Hollywood starlets, CPA's and demure librarians have joined the club. As a result, she's considering a quantum leap upwards on the rebellious offspring scale; human branding.
"It's like totally sick," she says, usually a teenage vogue term for "good" of the brands that her friends are getting on the few remaining square inches of epidemis that have not previously been pierced or inked. "A lot of my friends are vegetarians, and they say you feel closer to cows once you've been branded."
Human branding has historically been used primarily as punishment for crimes or to mark members of disfavored groups, such as gypsies. The ancient law of England provided that those convicted of petty theft "should be burnt in the most visible part of the left cheek, nearest the nose" with the letter "M" for "malefactor", unless they were guilty of stealing long-playing records by British folk musicians such as Donovan, in which case the letter "W" for "wuss" was used.
Amy is thinking of a simple Western design--two Z's and an A--that will stand both for her first name and her favorite activity; sleeping late on weekends.
"I'm like so totally wasted in the morning," she says. "I can't believe people actually get up before noon if they don't have to."
Dermatologists say branding presents problems that tattoos do not, and urge teachers to explain the risks to students in high school health classes. "We are just now perfecting laser removal of tattoos," said Dr. Philip Crane of Children's Hospital in Boston. "For brands I think you'd either have to zap the limb off or else put the kid out to pasture."
Copyright 2006, Con Chapman