Love doesn't always last but tattoos do. Since the dawn of time, people in relationships have memorialized their love and commitment to each other by getting individual or couple tattoos. But when relationships end former lovers often have “tattoo regret”which causes them to say "what was I inking" and more to the point, "how do I get rid of this” now unwanted piece of people art?
According to some recent estimates nearly 30% of the adult population in the United States (100 million Americans) have one or more tattoos. Among people in the 25 to 35 age group the percentage jumps to 45%. The latest estimate is that Americans spend 1.65 billion dollars a year on tattoos. However, many tattooed people soon come to regret their decisions to ink.
Over 25% of the population who have tattoos want them removed, with the correspondingly higher percentage for millennials. Dr Paul Friedman, a spokesman for the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, says that his medical specialty performed 85,000 tattoo removals in 2017, the latest data available.
However, this figure does not include the thousands of tattoos painted over or removed by other medical workers and tattoo artists. One particular subset of those wishing to remove or obliterate their tattoos are spouses, couples and intimate partners who, at one point in their life, thought it was a wonderful idea to paint their undying devotion to each other in body ink.
Take for example, the comedian Pete Davidson of Saturday Night Live fame. Pete, a living billboard of tattoos, has paid homage to everyone from Hillary Clinton to Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Winnie the Pooh to virtually every girlfriend he has had during the past few years.
In 2018, Davidson began dating the singer Ariana Grande. Almost immediately Pete took off for the tattoo parlor and had a number of tattoos inked to celebrate their relationship, including "bunny ears" on his neck and the phrase "Mille tendresse" (a thousand tendernesses) across his back, which matched the same phrase Ariana had inked on her back.
Ironically, Pete's tattoo artist even tried to dissuade Davidson saying; "Hey, dude, let's just stop with the girlfriend tats until after she's your wife." The tattoo artist proved prescient when the Davidson/Grande relationship imploded after three weeks. Shortly thereafter, the bunny ears were filled in and became became a black heart. Additionally, the "thousand tendernesses" were scrubbed from his back.
As for Ariana, she had her tattoo of Pete's name on her hand painted over with - wait for it- a black heart, so that they both continue to have matching tattoos even though they tried to get rid of them.
Given this experience you would think that Pete would have be learned. But no! Once he started dating Kim Kardashian he decided to memorialize their love in ink. Since tattoos can be removed Pete decided to do something really special for Kim. He had her name, "Kim", branded on his chest with a hot iron so he would not be able to get rid of it or cover it up. As we know Kim and Pete are now history but "her brand" will live on forever.
Obviously, Pete is not the only one to have couple tattoo regret. Angelina Jolie had her fifth husband's name "Billy Bob" tattooed on her arm. When they divorced Angelina had his name removed and covered up with the dates and birth locations of her six children. Well at least she will remember to send the kids a birthday card.
Other celebrities with couple tattoo regret include Iggy Azalea, Mariah Carey, Heidi Klum, Charley Sheen and Johnny Depp. Some celebrities had to get rid of a number of tattoos. For example, Eva Longoria, formerly married to the basketball star, Tony Parker, had his name, jersey number and wedding date removed from various parts of her body.
Interestingly, tattoos of wedding dates seem to be a particularly favorite way to memorialize eternal love - especially if done in Roman numerals. Kaley Cuoco and her former husband, Ryan Sweeting got matching Roman numeral wedding date tattoos which had to be removed after the divorce. Kalay ended up covering the numerals with the tattoo of an enormous moth. Why a moth? Kalay explained that she needed something big enough to cover the giant numerals and the moth wings did the trick.
However, if you are going to use Roman numerals can you please make sure that you get them right. A wife recently revealed on Tik Tok that she and her husband decided to get tattoos to commemorate their wedding anniversary. She elected to have the initial "A" (the first letter of the husband's name) tattooed on her ring finger. Okay, not much can go wrong with the letter "A."
Now the husband was supposed to get the date of their wedding, January 1, 2019, tattooed on his arm. Instead he ended up with Roman numerals that stood for 11919. Expressing her regret over his tattoo she explained "I knew I should have googled it for him. Hundreds of TikTok viewers later commented on the failed Roman numeral tattoo with stories of similar mistakes as well as suggestions that such tattoos jinx the relationship.
There may be something to the notion that tattoos can cause a rift in the marriage. The actor, Sylvester Stallone, and his wife of twenty-five years, Jennifer Flavin got into a major argument over a tattoo. Years ago, Stallone had his wife's beautiful face tattooed on his right bicep. However, Stallone who loves dogs, including "Butkus" the Bull Mastiff from his Rocky movies, had Flavin's face painted over with a new tattoo of his recently acquired Rottweiler. Jennifer responded by filing for divorce a few days later.
It appears that millions of Americans, including couples who are married or intend to marry, will continue this fascination with tattoos. Some will live happily ever after but many may come to experience tattoo regret, especially when the relationship ends and you are left with that reminder of the other person. Far be it from me to suggest how people should or should not celebrate their relationships, even though many of them have made their way to my office.
Finally, I end with another type of possible “tattoo regret”. Recently a new study conducted by researchers from the State University of New York at Binghamton found that almost half of all of the inks used in tattoos in the United States may contain cancer causing chemicals.
A lead scientist, John Swierk, sounded the warning bell when he noted no dye manufacturers make pigment specific for tattoo ink. Rather the ink being used in many tattoos contains the same pigment found in paint and textiles. Indeed, since tattoos are regulated by the cosmetic industry their ingredients do not come within the scrutiny of the Food and Drug Administration. However, the European Union recently issued a ban on two commonly used blue and green inks. Certainly, this is a concern worth noting and watching as more research is done.
So, in conclusion “think before you ink.”