4 Social Taboos You Need to Get Over in Your 20s


Social taboos are both a blessing and a curse. 

Some help us guide convention and standards for living in a positive way, like not killing people or cheating on a significant other. But others, and the stigmas that surround them, can prevent us from progressing as a society — like dating outside your race or judging someone by their outward appearance. 

Here are four of these taboos involving sex, alcohol, dating and expression that perhaps it's better to get over sooner rather than later:

1. Tattoos and piercings

The social stigma behind tattoos reaches back years and years where tattoos were – and sometimes are – still seen as low class symbols of stupid mistakes made in youth by social deviants and criminals. In fact, even still of the adults that Pew Research Center studied with tattoos in 2010, 72% of them have tattoos hidden from view. But millennials remain the progressive generation with nearly 4 in 10 having a tattoo (with half of them having more than one and 18% having six or more) and nearly 1 in 4 having a piercing in someplace other than an earlobe. People have long expressed themselves through clothing and hairstyle choices – and more permanent body modification is the next step, and a step that you need to be comfortable with so many of your peers making.

2. Drinking during the week post-college

This is not an endorsement of getting hammered on a Tuesday afternoon and not showing up for work in the morning – or not being awake for the Mass Effect 3 binge you had planned on spending your Wednesday on rather than sending out your 100th resume for an unpaid internship. But there's nothing wrong with having a social drink with friends if you are lucky enough to get off work in time for happy hour. Although the midweek drink might still smack of college afternoons wasted by the pool with a low grade beer and not a care in the world, it can actually work as a great networking opportunity as you progress – and always avoiding the happy hour isn't always the best idea.  

3. STDs/STIs and getting tested

Studies continue to show that STDs and STIs remain highly stigmatized to the point where your sexual history characterizes you as a person far beyond the choices you make in the bedroom even if you contracted the disease from a supposedly monogamous partner. But rather than pushing people to be safer this stigma actually can deter some people from getting tested along with the other barriers such as lack of availability of convenient and affordable testing centers. Take Marquette University for example. A National College Health Assessment from last year had the percentage of students at the university in Milwaukee, Wis., that are sexually active at 62.6% – but had the percentage of students who went to the school's student health center for STD testing at 3.6%. STDs and STIs aren't good – but stigmatizing them and shaming people into not getting tested out of fear is worse.

4. Dating outside the norms

This can go for age or interracial relationships but dating in your 20s is all about finding the person that complements you. And it's hard to say that your perfect match will happen to be the same age and race as you and just happen to bump into you while you are ordering your dirty chai tea latte or will be sitting next to you on the train as you ride home from work. Expanding your horizons to things that might be taboo is not just OK, but it's better for you. Even if things don't work out, sharing time with someone with a different background enriches your understanding of the world. I mean, did we not learn anything from Monica and Richard, people?