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Tattoo Wars: Can a Waiting Period Prevent Stupidity?

Maybe DC bureaucrats can add mandatory spell check to the 24–hour tattoo waiting period.

Maybe DC bureaucrats can add mandatory spell check to the 24–hour tattoo waiting period.

District of Columbia leftists have been so generous in providing ideas for negative columns; it’s only fair to compliment them when they do something positive. Currently the District of Columbia Health Department is proposing a mandatory 24–hour waiting period before getting a tattoo. I think making prospective tattoo customers pass a Breathalyzer and recite the alphabet backward would be a good idea, too, since it combines a sobriety and I.Q. test.

As gratifying as this waiting period is, it’s still mystifying. Why draw the line here? The extent of cultural decay that gets a pass in the District is breathtaking, so what makes getting a tattoo worthy of regulation?

It’s true that throughout history tattoos have been associated with less desirable elements including pirates, cannibals, the SS and neo–Nazis, but guilt by association is never an issue in DC. You have only to count the number of politicians at the various alternative lifestyle ‘pride’ parades to know that.

Trendies use a tattoo to declare themselves ‘edgy’ without the accompanying inconvenience of joining a para–military organization or abandoning their vegan diet.

Still, just the mention of a waiting period was enough to motivate the Washington Post to interview those opposed.

Paul Roe, who owns a tattoo parlor, is quoted as saying, “It’s honestly ridiculous. Why not 24 hours’ waiting time before shaving your head?” (This points out the danger of the uncreative mind attempting to construct a metaphor on the fly. Unless Roe is using henna tattoos his marks are permanent, whereas even the worst haircut eventually grows out.)

Roe’s trump card against any new rules is two words: Breaking bad. “Simple regulation is effective regulation,” he said. “Overregulation will kill the profession and drive it underground and make it less safe for everybody.” Evidently the tattoo industry is as fundamentally lawless as meth dealers and abortionists. At the first hint of government oversight everyone threatens to head for the nearest alley and bring out the coat hangers.

Actually I’m not a total anti–tattoo fanatic. I can see the need for a medicinal tattoo on Alzheimer’s patients (name, address, phone number, next of kin and the GPS coordinates of the assisted–living home) for those awkward times when grandpa is found wandering in the median wearing grandma’s pajamas.

My view of ‘decorative’ tattoos is the same as my wife’s. She believes getting a tattoo is like wearing the same tee–shirt every day for the rest of your life.

Marcela Onyango told the WaPost that she had been pondering getting her late mother’s birth year — 1961 — etched on her rib cage for the last three years. Naturally, she thinks waiting an additional 24 hours constitutes an outrage. Although she might wish she’d delayed even longer if a future armed robber mistakes those four digits for her PIN number.

William O’Sullivan contributed an opinion piece where we learn that in the tattoo subculture “there seems to be an unspoken code not to talk about them [tattoos].” Another bizarre case of flaunting something in public you don’t want people to notice.

It’s like the time I was walking through a casino and a woman passed by who was featuring her pulchritude in an outfit with a plunging neckline.

Since I’m weak and a sinner, my attention was irresistibly drawn to that canyon. Simultaneously, my wife poked me in the ribs and the woman’s companion gave me a hostile look. “Hey,” I protested in defense, “if you don’t want people to look at the merchandise, keep it out of the display case!”

While Virginia only regulates tattoos for those under 18, the DC waiting period will apply to everyone regardless of age. And about time, too, since it looks like AARP may soon be offering a tattoo discount.

Darlene Nash, a 57–year–old grandmother, told the WaPost her tattoos are for a dead sister, two granddaughters, her mother and friends who died of cancer. This epidermal notice board is located on her shoulder blades so everyone behind her on the ladder to the water slide can pause and consider mortality.

Evidently there is a lot of commemoration going on. In the same article the owner of Maryland tattoo parlor says older customers “often want to commemorate a milestone, such as the death of a spouse, the birth of a grandchild, a marriage or a divorce.” Looking at it that way, the ink saves time and gas in the long run, because you won’t feel guilty for not visiting mom at the cemetery; and it lasts a lot longer than a mylar birthday balloon.

The Posties also discovered Myrna Armstrong, a tattoo culture professor who has comforting news for older hipsters. She says since the over–55 set already has saggy skin there’s no need to worry about the tattoo wilting. It’s like buying a pre–shrunk shirt. The tattoo–wanting senior just has to find an ‘artist’ skilled enough to ink on the fleshy equivalent of a grocery bag.

It could be the DC Dept. of Health is on the leading edge of a body ink backlash. The Army is considering a ban on any tattoo on the forearm, below the knee or above the neckline and it will require the removal of “offensive” tattoos.

I only wish the District would expand activities covered by a waiting period. Right now the authorities require a waiting before you can buy a gun, but it’s step–right–this–way if you want an abortion. It seems only consistent to expand the wait period to abortion, too. Because although a gun purchase may sometime result in an innocent death, an abortion purchase is designed to result in an innocent death.

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