No Regrets: A Lesson In Tattoos

Mistakes? I’ve made a few. Do overs? I wish they were endless. Unfortunately, that is not the way the world works, and the old adage that you should just  follow your heart is pretty true, because no matter what happens, you can generally always pick up the pieces later. We should learn from our experiences, not regret them. Except when it comes to tattoos. With tattoos, you should listen to your heart, and then wait a year and see if you still feel the same way. Otherwise you might find yourself in a world of Tweedy Bird-induced sadness.

When I started brainstorming my first tattoo (I always knew I would get some – funny how that works), I thought I wanted something symbolic of my youth. I wanted something that combined the old me with the new me, and was a permanent (remember, permanent) reminder of who I am and who I was becoming (I was 20, so you know, I knew everything there was to know about life). I was thinking something music related would be nice, like a lyric from a song I loved as a kid.

So it was that my first ever tattoo idea was “Forever Young” (the Rod Stewart version, because it matters) in cursive on the inside of my wrist.

When I told my more inked-up growly friend, he grimaced at me (always grimacing, that one). “Are you sure?” he asked, all furrow-browed. “Yes, it will be like an homage to my mom (she is a huge Rod Stewart fan…) and a reminder to always have fun and appreciate life.”

“Think about it for a year,” he said, “and then decide.”

As you can imagine, I never got that Rod Stewart tattoo. But that waiting period did not deter me from brainstorming up other equally ridiculous and ill-advised body art.

For a while I thought I wanted something cat-themed, because I love my cat so much. Maybe I would look hot with little chest paw prints like Eve has. Or how about a cat leaping through the grass, or a silhouette of one sitting, looking longingly into nothingness? Gosh, cats are so wise! No, no, and super no. You know who gets cat tattoos? Cat ladies. Which, I will admit, I will probably be someday, but not now. The cat tattoo, like the rest of my predetermined old age weirdness, must wait. By the way, who wants to be roommates in 50 years?

Some of my favorite tattoos on other people are food related. I love when people get giant cheeseburger tattoos, or a slice of pizza on a surfboard. While I don’t think I will ever get one (though, who knows), I do think a wedge of cheese wearing sunglasses would look cool. Right? Guys? I love cheese.

Other tattoos I love (on other people):

  • Tattoos of their own names. So tough guys, really.
  • Tattoos of tragic events. You know, like a sinking Titanic.
  • Tattoos of baby faces. Not Babyface – that would be pretty cool -but the face of a baby. Here is some wisdom: Your baby is hopefully only going to get prettier. Why not wait until she looks less like James Carville and more like Sally Draper and then get the ink. Unless your baby looks like Blue Ivy, then, by all means, get the needle out now and do me too.
  • Tattoos of ghouls. Ghosts, vampires, spiders, you name it. All the things I want to see when you take your clothes off.
  • Tattoos of a lipstick kiss on a dude’s neck. I mean, really, is there anything hotter? (Answer: Yes. Anything is hotter.)

The cool thing about tattoos is that they do represent a certain period in your life, and they are physical snapshot of whatever it was you were going through at that time. They are about self-expression, and at the very least when I see a bad tattoo on someone, I respect that person’s boldness.  It’s hard to actually regret tats, because you can’t really regret who you were when you made that choice. Of the tattoos I do have (a paper airplane, a quote from a letter my grandmother wrote me, a flower, and an ampersand), I regret none. But I gave them all pretty good consideration beforehand. The only one I worry about even slightly is the ampersand (in the picture above), because it is a buddy tattoo with my current boyfriend. The thing is though, our relationship has been my longest, so even if we breakup or something (Zeus forbid) terrible happens, perhaps I will always look on the tattoo fondly. It will exist as a sort of reminder of what I was capable then, love-wise, and how hopeful I was about our future. Hopefully.

Otherwise I will just get it changed to look like a shark jumping over a sea of  tigers eating hot dogs. Obviously.

  • Jordi Blythe

    I had my name tattooed in Hebrew (Yarden: ירדן ) on the nape of my neck a few years ago in the states. I currently live in Israel and when people ask my name, I can just lift my hair and show them. It’s like having a permanent nametag. I thought about it for a year (like your more inked-up friend and my more inked-up friend suggested) and I have no regrets. My mom just about had a heart attack when I told her (immediately after the fact) but she has also grown to love it just as much as I do.

  • Emilie Danielle

    Got the same advice: “Think about it for a year”. And it’s definitely worth it to follow! Not only will you realize the bad ideas, but if you’re still commitment to an idea but not a design, it gives you time to perfect your design and become even more committed to it.
    I’ll always remember when I was getting my first tattoo (that I had been thinking of for a few years at least), seeing this french backpacking couple in the tattoo shop. They looked at the displayed designs for about 15 minutes, then pointed to one and got it right away. And I remember thinking how ridiculous it was to decide on a tattoo in 15 minutes and that hopefully that will never be me!

  • Joelle Poitra

    After my brother passed away in 2003, the quote: “This Too Shall Pass.” was always popping up in my life. After contemplating a few years, I finally took the plunge and after last week, I now have it tattooed across my chest. Definitely a conversation starter and I don’t mind telling people what it means to me and I haven’t gotten one person to tell me anything negative about it yet. :)

    My thoughts on tattoos are that there are far more worst things in life to dislike & complain about. If they mean something to you, then go for it & don’t regret them because of what others think. When you got them, they once meant something to you. We can’t all like the same things, but we can at least respect each other’s choices & beliefs. To me, my tattoos mean something. I always have to remember why I got them in the first place. My tattoos don’t make me who I am, define me or affect what I can do. No regrets. EVER. Never. =)

  • Alyssa Bacon-Liu

    It’s so crazy I happened to read this because I JUST got an ampersand tattoo on Monday! Spooky! I didn’t know they were that common to get as tattoos but it almost makes me feel better knowing I’m not so crazy to get it permanently inked on my body. It has do much meaning to me and do does the cross on my ankle, I’ve never regretted them for one second :)

    • Alyssa Bacon-Liu

      *so much and *so does

  • Patty Housel

    I have 7 tats and really only regret one. My tramp stamp. I swear it looks like a coaster. I will be getting that fixed. Somehow. I agree, think about your choice long and hard. do NOT get someone else’s name on your body unless it’s a family member you want to pay tribute to and seriously consider where you place it. Office jobs might be hard to come by with a tat on your face. Just saying.

    If I had a million dollars I would have a tat body suit. You know how some people have sleeves? I want all mine on my torso, only seen by those I deem worthy of viewing the masterpiece. I have a long way to go.

  • Gea Marín

    I only have one tattoo for now. It’s a red hibiscus on my back and I absolutely love it! I always knew I’d get a tattoo just didn’t know what it’d be, just like you… it was last year when I got it, a week after turning 18! it was my ex-boyfriend’s birthday present (we had broken up for a month or so by then, but he paid for it anyway. Nice, I know.) and it means a lot to me. It means all my childhood and what I expect to get from now on.
    The thing is that I decided on what to get tattooed two weeks before getting it done. And no, no regrets. I think it just depends on the person and on what it means.

  • Caroline Jeffery

    i’ve had an idea for my first tattoo for about a month, but i’ll take your advice and wait another 11 to mull it over. =D

  • Cat Richardson

    Love love love the ampersand. A lot! Both of them.
    I almost did the think about it for a year thing, and had every intention to.. But then I won a gift certificate to a tattoo shop and it expired a month-ish before my year was up. I got the words “faith hope love” and they are beautiful – haven’t regretted it for even a second.

  • Lauren Fletcher

    If I were not such a chicken with needles I would get a little star with GC inside it, as they are my Grandpa’s Initials. He was the only grandparent to live long enough for me to actually know, and he always used to call me his little star because out of all of his grandchildren I was the only one who loved performing.

  • Mary Clare O’Sadnick

    while i agree with “waiting a year” or even a few months… i also disagree! i’ve taken that advice my whole life and because of it i lingerlingerlinger and find a million other things that i think would be fantastic as well, so it becomes this ritual where i think of a great new tattoo every 6 months and then think of something else and at this rate ill never get one! Sometimes, just going for it, could be the start of something beautiful.

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