Follow Up Friday: Tattoo Regret

Friday, February 19, 2010

Last week we received this Valentine's day poem:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Time to rethink
That Obama tattoo

Victoria Pitts-Taylor, professor of sociology at the City University of New York, follows up with a discussion of tattoo regret and what tattoos mean to different people.

Got a story of tattoo regret? Wish you could have a tattoo re-do? Comment below!


Victoria Pitts-Taylor

Comments [49]

ilove tattoos

I have tattoos. I love them. To the ones who disagree, then fine. But just as you think we are dumb we think the same of you.

Apr. 19 2012 04:43 AM
cha0tic from The Wild West Midlands

Hmmm. As has been mentioned, this has turned into a tattoos right or wrong discussion.

Yes I regret my tattoos, but only for the quality I could afford when I had them done. Kind of like 'That Computer I bought, then spent a ****load of money on extra memory to beef up. Then the cost of memory dropped and I realised I'd bought a pup' that sort of way. I have fond memories of what I did with that 'puter. Play Doom and discover a life online. I have fond memories of the time I got my shoddy tattoos. Just like I upgraded my 'puter with more consideration. At some point I'll get some more ink done. There'll be some cover up work. But I'll have my 1st tat' refreshed. Just like I keep the Amiga on top of the wardrobe as a reminder of how I got into computers.

Feb. 20 2010 06:00 AM
Xavier R

My biggest problem with tattoos is that most are bad, high school-level art. Just having it permanently attached to your body doesn't suddenly make it profound, although I guess it may for the wearer. And if so, fair enough. Every once in a while I'll see a tattoo that is very cool and the person wearing it can really rock it. But if you need to tell me a long story on what you're tattoo "symbolizes", what's the point? If it's aesthetically pleasing it doesn't need to be explained. There is no surer way to get a groan and a dismissive eye roll from me than to begin a sentence "My tattoo symbolizes . . ." I don't care.

Feb. 19 2010 07:21 PM
hjs from 11211

just my experience, but of course nothing is 100%

again it's about one's self esteem.

Feb. 19 2010 03:46 PM
Kate from NYC

I thought that this comment board was about regretting tattoos. How can you know or comment ANYTHING about tattoos if you don't have one. Frankly, I don't think anyone cares what you think if you don't have one. These must be the same people that tell me I can't have an abortion if I need one. Why can't everyone just worry about themself and stop judging. I have two beautiful tattoos that I drew myself and see as a reflection of who I am now and who I will be, I have photo albums too. And there is a HUGE difference between artsy pieces as self-expression and a tweety bird tattoo you got on a drunk cruise on Spring Break, but frankly to each his own and I respect EVERYONE's right to tattoo or not to tattoo.

Feb. 19 2010 01:57 PM
Elizabeth from NYC

My tattoos are mostly all symbols of my memories. I still enjoy the ones with more meaning and thought behind them.
I do have two I'm currently removing - they were done in haste. I probably would have put more thought into those knowing what I know now - removal hurts.

Judge what you will, pigeonhole and assume the worst about me. Your prejudices and fears say more about you as a person than my tattoos ever could.

Feb. 19 2010 01:56 PM

tattoos are so ubiquitous at this point that arguing about why people get them is the same as arguing about why people wear shoes or have brown hair

Feb. 19 2010 01:38 PM
the truth!! from BKNY

Touche - LOL Have a great weekend too!

Feb. 19 2010 01:11 PM
hjs from 11211

the truth
at least I'm giving MY opinion not that of some guys living 3000 years ago in a far away desert. have a great weekend!

Feb. 19 2010 01:00 PM
Nora Rocket from Queens

As one might expect, this thread has turned over to folks who choose not to participate with their bodies in this manner attempting to police the bodies of those who do - using hateful terms like "stupid" and "easy" and "immature" and "trivial" and "limited" to tell us who we are.

Internet anonymity makes it very easy for you all to judge how and why and who I am.

Again I'll say, the only difference between tattooed people and non-tattooed people is that tattooed people don't care whether you're tattooed or not.

Feb. 19 2010 12:33 PM
birder from brooklyn

that is very sad micheal. so willing to stay so close minded. i am not a child. i am a 37 year old man that plans to be doing this for the rest of my life. you are basing everything you are saying with no working knowledge of tattoo culture or history. we should really meet sometime.

Feb. 19 2010 12:22 PM
anonymous_listener from East Village, NYC

This is another thing I don't understand: the idea that a tattoo is a way to "remind me of who I was when I was younger" (as one commentator above said). Um, if you really think you're going to forget maybe it wasn't all that interesting to begin with! In all seriousness, everyone has the choice in their life whether to be a stodgy old fart or not, and based on what I have seen in my 32 years, age and the aging process have next to nothing to do with it. The people who think "I can only really live it up when I am young, I better really act out, and I had better collect some souvenirs along the way to remind myself of it in my dotage" are bourgeois at any age, no matter how many tattoos they get. They started out that way and lack the personal development to escape it. Yes, if you are a young person one day you'll probably have to get a job, but you don't have to become a static old fool. Likewise, the people who think getting a tattoo makes them edgy, no matter what they do with their life or what beliefs they hold, are deluding themselves. I have met plenty of people with large & vivid tattoos who hold some of the most retrograde and unprogressive views. There is no unwritten law that says getting older means becoming square. If you look around and the older people you see seem really conformist to you, it's because they always have been, it's not because they didn't get a tattoo. Get some new & more interesting role models in life other than your suburban parents and move on.

Feb. 19 2010 12:22 PM
JP from NJ

Only thing I can think of that will never change in my life is my birth date and my SS#. Neither would be an “edgy” or “rad” tattoo. Why put permanent cartoon on your body if life is forever changing? And for those that need a tattoo to remember, I can guarantee my photo album would be better for remembering events in my life then a tattoo of super dude or a tattoo of my dog haphazardly placed on my calf could ever do….

Feb. 19 2010 12:22 PM
the truth!! from BKNY

HJS - we had the "eating shellfish" convo before, my comment does not exclude eating shellfish, the topic is tattoos at the moment.

Look at your comments...I mean WOW what is your deal today?!

Feb. 19 2010 12:18 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Birder [27]

I appreciate what your points, but there is all kinds of "smarts". There is an epidemic of people following more and more trends and chasing superficial stuff to fulfill some inner need. It's mostly young people doing this (I said "mostly"), and don't tell me young people don't do "foolish" things (if they already knew everything they would eventually learn... well you can figure out the logical endpoint of that thought.)

So much of this seems outwardly to be about proving that the individual is unique and different, but the irony is, they only want to fit in with "the crowd" -- the herd. I have always been amazed that people who are desperate to prove how different they are don't see this paradox.

But even if it wasn't a trend, it is still a superficial means to distinguish oneself and requires nothing more than the money to pay for it. It is no different than the way people feel inflated because they buy an expensive "sexy" car. Ego by proxy.

Yes, the media in our society continues to promote the idea of the rebel -- untethered, unresponsible, no strings, free to do whatever he or she wants -- having "fun" is the highest idea we aspire to. Never is the nobility of belonging to and having responsibility a community regarded. That doesn't make anyone any money and it isn't edgy.

What is different about tattoos is that as fashion trends and statements, they are mostly PERMANENT. But that seems to be lost upon many young people.

Years ago and in most other worlds today, people who are struggling for their existence would consider this silliness and worse (a waste of resources.)

So, enjoy your friends, but you haven't changed my mind about the triviality of this behavior.

Feb. 19 2010 12:15 PM
birder from brooklyn

if any of you anti tattoo folks would like to talk about this further feel free to contact me. meet me for coffee or a drink sometime. if you're not to scared.

Feb. 19 2010 12:14 PM
Debbie from Queens

*I guess I could say preserve immaturity, not necessarily in a bad way...

Feb. 19 2010 12:14 PM
Debbie from Queens

In addition to being an auto-biography, tattoos that one gets in youth demonstrate immaturity, not necessarily in a bad way. I have a friend who has a giraffe tattooed on the inside of her ankle. She got the tattoo in the early/mid 90's when in college, as part of the trend. I also got a tattoo on my ankle during that time. I once asked her if she regrets it. She said that, although she wouldn't get the tattoo now at her age, she thinks of it as a permanent tribute to her whimsical, 18 year old self. I think that is a healthy perspective.

Feb. 19 2010 12:07 PM
birder from brooklyn


you have obviously never had anything important happen to you in your life that you just though "i would never want to let myself forget this moment". for most heavily tattooed people that's what these things are marking. the birth or death of a loved one as an example. the image to me does not have to have anything to do with it. it's the idea of what it is, and who it is for.

also most tattooers i know are married and have families that they provide a wonderful life for. oh...and...they probably make more money than you.

Feb. 19 2010 12:07 PM
hjs from 11211

truth and eating shellfish sends u to hell!

Feb. 19 2010 12:01 PM
bacchante from NYC

99.9% of tattoos in modern society tell me


limitations in appreciating the natural human body

commitments to personal ego rather than ideals

an inability or severe barrier to change, grow or learn; stubborn, lack of humility

things to wonder :

percentage of people with tattoos who spent a few hundred on a tattoo while in debt to friends or family

percentage of people with tattoos who have spent any significant time repairing a relationship in their life

listen to the people here, "NEVER" about a few marks of ink on their skin? Please

Feb. 19 2010 12:00 PM
anonymous_listener from East Village, NYC

I just can't relate to the desire to commit to one symbol or image or name for the rest of one's life. To me the idea that I might still find the same tattoo design as meaningful at age 74 as at 34 is sort of horrifying; my interests are always evolving, relationships come and go, and I'm comfortable with that. I don't want to become static. I think people who are afraid of change are rather immature (at worst) or mawkishly sentimental (at best). The idea of trying to dare myself to remain the same by getting something permanently inked on my body is just so off-putting. Why would I want to be the exact same person looking at the exact same design every day thirty or forty years from now? At one time it was a pretty powerful way to make a countercultural statement but those days are long gone; now there are loads of sorority girls with ink.

Feb. 19 2010 12:00 PM
Hugh Sansom from Brooklyn NY

When Angelina Jolie does a fashion photo shoot, 9 times out of 10, her tattoos are airbrushed or make-uped out.

Feb. 19 2010 11:58 AM
birder from brooklyn

for micheal b

some of the most heavily tattooed people i know are some of the smartest people i know. you have your idea of what these people are like but i bet if you actually weren't so scared of them and talked to them you would change your mind. by the way they are also some of the kindest and most generous people you will ever meet. even some of the biker types.

Feb. 19 2010 11:57 AM
Bob from New Jersey

I have noticed lots of guys at my gym have Chinese characters as tattoos. I wonder if they are equally popular with women.

Feb. 19 2010 11:57 AM
hjs from 11211

fyi new cops can't show tats

Feb. 19 2010 11:57 AM
Amy from Manhattan

One more factor about tattoos: you can't donate blood for a year after you get one.

Feb. 19 2010 11:56 AM
hjs from 11211

and as you age they look awful

Feb. 19 2010 11:55 AM
Linda from NYC

I have 3 tattoos, I've had them for 20 years or more. I still like them, although they have weathered and need to be cleaned up. I wanted to get tattoos when I was young (early 20s) as a way to keep in touch with my youth as I grew old. Something that would remind me of who I was when I was younger. I knew that if I had a tattoo and had children (which I do now) that it would keep me "real" as it were with my kids and some of their youthful rebellion by reminding me of my own. Well see if it works when they want one.

thanks for reading this.

Feb. 19 2010 11:55 AM
David Lion-Coward from UWS

how about vitamin-advanced nutrient ink?

Feb. 19 2010 11:54 AM
hjs from 11211

nothing says I hate myself more than too many tattoos. (if you’re a female it also means I'm easy)

Feb. 19 2010 11:54 AM
the truth!! from BKNY

Those familiar with the Bible would not have placed inked markings on their bodies in the first place.

Feb. 19 2010 11:54 AM
Aaron from Brooklyn

At least the subway tokens represent what New York used to be rather than what it is today.

Feb. 19 2010 11:54 AM
Andy from Brooklyn

There's a good rule that will prevent you from regretting a tattoo: If you want it for a year, there's a good chance you will want it forever. If you have the idea, and then wait a year, and you still want it. You're good.

Feb. 19 2010 11:53 AM
New Brunswick Pete from New Brunswick, NJ

I enjoyed the idea of the tattoo as a biography. This is a song about it as a history.

Feb. 19 2010 11:52 AM
David Lion-Coward from UWS

OBviously tattoos are auto biographies. is that a Ph.D. level insight?

Feb. 19 2010 11:51 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

"Visual biographies of the self"?? This is to characterize what some Cro-Magnum biker guy does, raised to the level of serious discourse. More drivel.

Feb. 19 2010 11:51 AM
birder from brooklyn

wow the messed up ideas of what people think as to why people get tattoos. i get them for me and no one else. they are my memories of all the important things in my life.

Feb. 19 2010 11:51 AM

I don't have any tattoos, but I know a woman who, in lieu of a ring, had her wedding band tattooed around her finger. I bet she regretted it when she was divorced a few years later.

Feb. 19 2010 11:50 AM
Lisette from Austin

Tattoos are a sign of insecurity. I truly believe that. As is smoking. Pity the foo' who does both.

Feb. 19 2010 11:50 AM
Tyler from Manhattan

I am a proud Canadian and have a tattoo of a Maple Leaf on the middle of my back. I have always loved it and will never regret it!

Feb. 19 2010 11:49 AM
Jennifer from NYC


Feb. 19 2010 11:47 AM
Nora Rocket from Queens

But, Allison, "we" are...

What's the old chestnut on the subject on to whom it matters that one is tattooed? "Tattooed people don't care if you have tattoos or not," or something like that?

Feb. 19 2010 11:44 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Tattoos are another pathetic example of the decline of our society... this epidemic of "Look at me! Look at me!" -- everyone striving for attention -- celebrity lite? -- by the most superficial means... as if vanity license plates weren't bad enough from the '70's.

People have too much time and disposable income on their hands nowadays.... Very sad that this is what some people need to do to make themselves feel good about themselves. All artificial.

Feb. 19 2010 11:43 AM
Allison from Gowanus Brooklyn

Gosh...I thought we were supposed to be civil.

Feb. 19 2010 11:32 AM
Seth from Upper West Side

I regret that the NYPD and FDNY allow their ranks to wear tattoos. They look like scary pro wrestler and Hell's Angel trash. It's unprofessional. Why is this allowed?

And anyway, it's soooooooo tiresome.

A tattoo says: I WISH I had an edge. And I follow any stupid trend that comes down the pike.

Feb. 19 2010 11:19 AM
Allison from Gowanus Brooklyn

Not a chance!

The only thing I regret is that I haven't gotten more yet. You've inspired me...finishing my sleeve this spring!

Feb. 19 2010 11:04 AM
Nora Rocket

Through my (substantial) experience of devising and receiving tattoos, choosing artists, and living squarely within a subculture that is dedicated to physical self-determination as a participatory endeavor, I regret nothing. NOTHING, ha!

Feb. 19 2010 10:26 AM
birder from brooklyn


they are who i am. no regrets.

Feb. 19 2010 10:02 AM

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