'Get Off My Lawn, Tattoos,' Says Curmudgeonly Columnist

As long as local papers have grumpy older columnists, we will continue to get inane opinion pieces on the horror of tattoos and body piercing. There's actually something charming about Lehigh Valley News writer Paul Carpenter's column "Dorney Park is right to ban tattoos" — it's nonsense, but it comes from a proud tradition of nonsense.

Carpenter begins with a school district's ban on "I [Heart] Boobies" bracelets, complaining that a federal judge "came down on the side of sleaze" by allowing them. I'm not saying the bracelets aren't tacky — I'm just saying you have to appreciate the mindset of someone who considers "boobies" to be vulgar.

He then segues into proper attire. In Carpenter's mind, TV news anchors and lawyers are basically the only ones holding up the standards of decency. Everyone else has decided to start dressing like a schlub, including journalists.

In the newspaper establishment, many blame the decline of readership entirely on things like television, the Internet and other diversions. That decline has been concomitant, however, with decisions by newspaper managers to let journalists work while dressed like stevedores or bums.

I'm pretty sure we switched to wearing sweats when we were too depressed over the fall of print media to wear real pants. But yes, I'm a filthy stevedore.

Finally, Carpenter arrives at the subject of tattoos, specifically the tattoos of a 20-year-old woman denied a job at Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom. He is delighted that an amusement park maintains "some standards, some integrity." And really, would you trust a tattooed person to supervise the water slide?

Carpenter also objects to the use of the phrase "wholesome demeanor" to describe the woman.

The 20-year-old's multiple tattoos were not accidental. She apparently did this to herself, uglifying her skin for life, on purpose. Wholesome? Yipes.

Yipes, indeed.

The rest of the piece is a tirade against tattoos that rejects everything from the term "body art" ("To call this art is the most grotesque misnomer imaginable") to the kind of people who get tattoos ("ink freaks"). As far as Carpenter is concerned, tattoos are for criminals.

As I have argued before, the heaviest concentrations of tattoos are on the skin of the lowest elements of the human race. Pimps, pugs, prison inmates, prostitutes and the members of criminal biker gangs are the creatures most likely to have tattoos.

Furthermore, he says, anyone getting a tattoo must be trying to look like one of the aforementioned creatures. And how dare they apply for jobs at water parks.

Naturally, Carpenter received his fare share of angry response — enough that he devoted a second column to the haters. And with what appears to be his trademark condescension, he called out his critics for using bad words to express their ire.

Contrary to some unflattering opinions expressed here Wednesday, people who disfigure their own skin are well educated, culturally advanced and gracious - and to prove it many of them offered their own refined dissertations to confute any notion that does not reflect tattoo adoration.

"That is the most (expletive deleted) repulsive thing I've ever heard anybody say," Brittany said of Wednesday's column about "body art."

On the one hand, Brittany doesn't sound like the best representative of the community. On the other hand, Paul Carpenter thinks "boobies" is vulgar.

The rest of the column is more of the same, though I was particularly delighted by Carpenter's list of tattooed role models: Charlie Sheen, Angelina Jolie, Mike Tyson, and Charles Manson. You would be hard-pressed to find any young people with tattoos who got them to look more like Charlie Sheen. What is it the kids are saying these days — "duh, winning"?

That having been said, if you tattoo a swastika on your forehead like Charles Manson, no, I don't think you should be allowed to work at Dorney Park. It's nice to know that Paul Carpenter and I agree on something.

[Image via Flickr/micaeltattoo]