Why I regret my tattoo – and you might, too
Tattoos are the rage, but will the hip young dudes still love them later?
It’s often said that it’s the things we didn’t do, rather than those we did, that we regret as we grow older. However, for me there is one exception: my tattoo.
These days, tattoos are the norm rather than the exception. Nobody turns a hair when a young girl strides past with reptilian arms, or when the person in the queue in front of you has a back that doubles as a billboard. In fact, there seems to be an epidemic of tattoos among the young.
I know I should feel vindicated. But I don’t. Instead, I feel like rushing up to them and asking, ”What on earth were you thinking?”
It’s a rhetorical question. I know what they were thinking. Twenty-two years ago when I got my tattoo, I thought I was immortal: that I would always be the person I was then.
But let this be a warning: as difficult as it may be to believe now, you will not always think a tattoo is cool, nor will you always hang out with people who think a tattoo is cool.
One day, you might want to get married, perhaps even in a white sleeveless dress. One day, you might want to wear shorts to the school fete without your child’s friends commenting on the dragons on your calves.
One day you might not want, ”Peace” or ”Love” written in Chinese characters across your bosom. One day, like me, you might wish you had never had a tattoo.
I am not the only one. Today, laser tattoo removal is big business. Removing one tattoo can take from five to 20 treatments, depending on the size and depth of colours. A small non-professional tattoo, not far below the skin surface, can cost around $90 per session, but larger professional tattoos can cost anywhere between $200 and $500 per session to remove.
So what prompted me to get a tattoo? Two words come to mind: vanity and stupidity. I saw The Three Musketeers with Michael York as D’Artagnan and was intrigued with the fleur de lys that was tattooed on the arm of Milady (Faye Dunaway) to mark her as a prostitute.
To hide her ”shame”, Milady always wore ribbon or garter around her arm, which I also regarded as rather alluring.
Initially, my partner at the time agreed that we should take the plunge together on my 30th birthday. In those days, tattoos were still mostly the preferred accessory of sailors, wharfies, prisoners and the like, but I figured that it was OK to get a tattoo as long as you didn’t look like a person who would have one.
I took about five minutes to choose the design that I would wear for the rest of my life – two tiny pink primroses with four green leaves on my right shoulder. I paid $50 and emerged with a piece of gauze taped over the wound and a new identity.
A few weeks later, I was at work when the staff were called to an address by the editor. It was a warm spring day and I was wearing a sleeveless top. I was immersed in the editor’s speech – the usual doom and gloom about newspaper circulation and impending cuts – but it seemed that several others weren’t, as when it was over, one male colleague came over and told me that my tattoo was ”fantastic”. Then another. And another.
This was certain proof that I had done the right thing, and for the next few years I looked forward to summer when I could reveal my secret.
But fashion changes and so do people. Fast forward a few years and I am meeting my husband’s parents. I see the surprise on his father’s face when he sees my tattoo and register a difference in his attitude to me.
Fast forward again and I am picking my daughter up from school. At the school gate, the only other people with tattoos are fat and toothless and complaining about the price of fags.
I suddenly realise that I am a member of a club that I did not intend joining.
These days, my tattoo has faded, just like my desire to be as daring and alluring as Milady.
Like every other fashion choice you make, tattoos tell people at lot about you. But sometimes they tell people who you were, rather than who you are.