As I enjoy my 30th year on this planet I reflect on the years that preceded this one, thankfully with very few regrets and mainly with a wistful feeling of nostalgia. As with most people, my teens years were a little touch-and-go, however I came through them unscathed and managed to avoid falling into too many peer pressure traps therefore didn’t enter my twenties with unfortunate tattoos or ridiculous piercings. These are not the thoughts of a judgmental old lady trapped in the body of a 30-year-old, I love piercings and tattoos BUT am prepared to admire them from afar on other people.
While at school I had wanted to get a few piercings, and always loving the thought of a Labret piercing (middle or side of lower lip) or Auricle (the cartilage rim that runs along the outer edge of the ear, away from the side of the head) but it seemed that everyone who floated around the heavy metal or stoner groups at school were getting those piercings and I wanted to do it for me, not because it was popular. I toyed with the idea of a naval piercing, but after seeing so many girls of all shapes and sizes in my year group get belly-button piercings, but again I didn’t get one as I didn’t want to follow the herd and so decided to not have any piercings done until after I had finished school/college because that way, if I still felt the desire, I would confidently know that it would be for me and not for anyone else.
I was always drawn to tattoos because I found something beautiful about loving something so much that you would want to honour it by giving it a position on your body forever, however I was sensible enough to realise that my music tastes would change with time and therefore a band tribute would be premature, and I wasn’t really the sort of person who would suit an easily chosen Celtic or Tribal design, and although I really wanted a quote on my inner forearm there was no piece of poetry, song lyrics or religious verse powerful enough to ink and therefore, as with piercings, I decided to not have any work done until school/college were behind me because I would have more time to develop as an adult and potentially associate enough importance to something that I would want to inscribe onto myself.
Which is why I feel a twinge of pain when I see some of the awful tattoos floating around out there. Whether it’s due to kids at school following the age-old trap of peer pressure, or whether it’s influenced by the power of celebrity culture where anyone who’s anyone is getting inked, more and more people are getting stupid tattoos with seemingly little regard for its long-term affects.
You see people with tattoos running from their shoulder down to their knuckles, not thinking that if you want to pursue a career in something client-facing later on in life then you’re probably not going to be the first person they send out to win new business if you’ve got a big, bold tattoo stretching across the back of your hand or snaking up your neck to your ear. If you’re going to get work done on your arm try to restrict yourself to a full, half or quarter sleeve tattoo, not allowing your designs to spill out onto areas that could affect your job prospects. I’ve worked in recruitment for over 5-years and the only time I’ve see people with visible tattoos on their hands/necks wearing a suit is when they’ve got a court appearance to smarten up for.
The problem is that there are a few big reasons that people, regardless of whether a celebrity or one of us mere mortals, live to regret the ink that we’ve paid for. Those reasons are:
1) Lack of planning. Many kids either find an unscrupulous tattoo artist more interested in profit than the law, or hit the legal age of tattooing without parental consent, and rush to get something done because like, y’know, everyone else is getting one. They get a tattoo with absolutely no personal attachment and, as the years pass, realise they’re wearing something that has no background story or relevance to who they are.
2) Falling out of love. The most removed tattoos are those that name a past love interest. Johnny Depp cleverly adjusted his ‘Winona Forever’ to ‘Wino Forever’ in my absolutely favourite tattoo adjustment, Angelina Jolie had her horrifically tacky dragon tattoo with Billy Bob (Thornton) in script above removed, later replacing with the birthplaces of her children and famously stating, “I’ll never be stupid enough to have a man’s name tattooed on me again.” I actually feel a twinge of physical pain whenever I think about Kat Von D’s recent tattoo of Jesse James’ childhood face, work she had done as part of the reality TV series ‘LA Ink’, and his awkward reaction followed by their relationship coming to an end. She now has to live with the tattoo of the man who cheated on his wife with her, then subsequently cheated on her with numerous other women.
3) It’s not quite what they wanted. David Beckham got his wife’s name inked on his body in Hindi, but due to poor planning misspelt ‘Victoria’ as ‘Vihctoria’; Hayden Panettiere chose to have “Live without regrets” in Italian (“Vivere senza rimpianti”) inked onto her body, but due to not consulting a dizionario Italiano added an additional ‘i’ resulting in ‘rimipianti’; Rihanna has ‘Rebel Flower’ inked in French, however perhaps due to failing or never actually taking French at school didn’t realise that adjectives usually follow the nouns they modify, therefore instead of her current “rebelle fleur” she should have walked away from the studio with ‘fleur rebelle’.
4) Identity crisis. We all change as we get older, it’s simply an unavoidable part of life: our likes and dislikes, social groups and personality undergoes so many adjustments so that although the tattoo you had done when you were 18 may have been ‘So You’ back then, if you grow up to no longer be passionate about or, worse still, no longer agree with your tattoo’s original message then it’s time to start counting spare change and saving up for laser removal.
For the sake of your 30, 40, 50 and 60 year-old self, before you get inked draw out your designs and modify where needed, do your homework on the spelling, think carefully about what that design means to you and discuss your plans with family or good friends so that others can give you some feedback. Don’t rush out to have something done, even if motivated by love, and listen to the little nagging doubts in the back of your mind.
Even if you’re passionate about getting some work done, if you can try to resist getting inked with your chosen design for at least 6-months or even a year, and that way a) you’ll have a better idea of whether or not you really want to get that design/persons name permanently marked onto your body, b) by then you’ll have had the chance to save up more money and will be able to pay for a better quality tattoo, and c) you’ll have time to reflect on whether that tattoo is really right for you.