I’d wanted a tattoo for a while before I finally mustered the courage and the moola to get one. The year was 2002 and I had just been thrust out into the world with a piece of paper and a prayer. My normally liberal mother mentioned more than once that tattoos were for “MTV girls” so I figured waiting until after graduation to get inked would soften the blow. It didn’t.
Tapping into her psychic mom power she managed to call me on my cellphone at the exact moment I was handing over my credit card.
“Whatchu doing, sweet the beat?” she asked innocently, clearly leaning in for the kill.
“Oh. Um. Yeah. Right. We’re just out. Hanging,” I stuttered, sounding as if I’d just stolen some cookies from the cookie jar or committed a murder.
“Oh, really? Out where?” my mom asked, although I was positive she could see exactly what I was up to from her crystal ball.
“We’re at a tattoo parlour!” I yelled, cracking under the pressure.
And that’s when the real interrogation started, from “Who the hell’s getting a tattoo” (me) to “Where? Tell me where?!” (on my back). We decided — or more like she did — that I’d get it “someplace no one can see it–ever.” I can still remember her shouting “BELOW THE BIKINI LINE!!!” through the phone as I was hanging up and signing the consent form. The rest, of course, is history. I got the tattoo–an homage to her no less–and did not become a hobo or a high-class prostitute, as my mother feared.
By the time I researched images and interpretations and artists, my mind was made up. All my mother’s parental stalling did was fortify my resolve. I was an adult now, after all. I was the decider! How daaare she question my choices I thought while bent over a chair with my pants pulled down below my butt crack, sucking on the Corona my friends brought me to dull the pain.
These days I forget I even have a tattoo. I can’t see it unless I try and my attachment to clothing makes it hard for other people to point it out. But what I’ll never forget is feeling like the ultimate choice was mine alone. Sure, there was an acute fear in knowing that I was maybe making a horrible body-altering mistake, but I also found strength in that. If I hated my tattoo a few years from now, at least I got it honest.
Isn’t that the one thing with potential mistakes? The fact that they are yours to make?
This is why I, along with a lot of Washingtonians I know, call complete bullshit on the DC government’s proposed mandate that anyone in the market for a tattoo wait at least 24 hours before they do the do.
“We’re making sure when that decision is made that you’re in the right frame of mind,” says Najma Roberts, a Health Department spokeswoman. “And you don’t wake up in the morning saying, ‘Oh my God, what happened?’”
Okay, on its face that reasoning sounds reasonable. But, I’m sorry Big Brother, you cannot regulate regrets!
What’s next, my local ANC rep following me home from the club to make sure I don’t wake up in the morning next to a dude named Dudley and say, “Oh my God, what happened?” Or perhaps the mayor will go grocery shopping with me next week to make sure I don’t buy that pint of Chunky Monkey and regret the ensuing food baby. Basically, I think this is dumb, mostly because the government actually thinks it can legislate alleged indiscretion with arbitrary time lines. Janet Jackson’s “Let’s Wait Awhile” is hardly the template for law-making.
Is it just me or are the decisions we make — especially the one’s that can’t be washed off the next day — a huge part of the growth process? Are all regrettable choices even bad?