No Regerts?
August 25, 2019 2:29 PM   Subscribe

People with tattoos: Do any of you actively regret getting your tattoos?

I am having major pre-first-tattoo anxiety and one thing I worry about is regretting it in the future. I have a lot of really complicated feelings about getting a tattoo: I'd like one, I know what I want and where I want it, I like how they look, and importantly, I like the feeling of reclaiming a body that I feel has subject to other people's or society's opinions for way too long. I feel like, for one reason or another, I have only relatively recently taken my life into my own hands - and for me, I feel like the tattoo symbolises that, because it is so very much not what I would have done before.

But, I have this idea of the kind of person who gets a tattoo (confident! Cool! Has swagger!) and I don't know whether I (conservative, cautious, prone of overthinking and anxiety) am that person. Of course I'd like to be, but I know I am not. I worry about looking down at the tattoo after getting it and being like, why did I get that? How could I ever have thought of myself as the kind of person who gets a tattoo?

Conventional wisdom talks about how tattoos are a permanent addition to your body and you could be down for a lifetime of regret if you get the wrong thing. But how common is it to actually regret your tattoo? That is why I turn to you, AskMe. How many of you regretted getting your tattoo years down the line - and was that because of the actual thing you got tattooed, or because you felt that in retrospect the act of tattooing wasn't right for you?
posted by sockandawe to Grab Bag (79 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
15 years later, I love my tattoo just the same. No 'ragrets'.

posted by sevensnowflakes at 2:36 PM on August 25 [6 favorites]

I do not regret mine. You could have been me right before I got my first (and only) tattoo. I really identify with the identity crisis you outlined. Bold vs. cautious, which of those traits is more “me”?

It’s been almost 10 years since I got mine and never once have I regretted it. I’ve also, perhaps relatedly perhaps not, never been seriously tempted to get another one since. I thought my concept over solidly for two years before I bit the bullet and went through every type of doubt possible in that 2 year span. (No concept since then has been as sticky and compelling to me; hence no new tattoos). once I finally did it, I was so so so happy with it, partly because of the choice I was making to embrace the spontaneity and fear of getting it. I highly doubt I’ll ever really regret it at any point in the future.

Good luck with whatever choice you make!
posted by seemoorglass at 2:40 PM on August 25 [6 favorites]

I got a tattoo at 21 of a bull and a bullfighter. I am now actively in the middle of getting it removed (year’s long process).

I don’t think the art itself was terrible, but I made a big realization: At 21 I thought I was basically an adult and done being a child and done changing tastes. I thought I would be the girl in torn fishnets and chunky boots who liked the darkness of bloodthirsty sports forever. This is no longer the case, *was* no longer the case within a few years. At 40 now I know myself a lot better and know that I am the type to keep falling in love with and being fascinated by new things constantly and have an ever evolving aesthetic, and that at 40, looking back on what I was into at 32 is as funny and distant and bizarre as being 21 looking back at my teenage tastes.

Where I am now is that I might be open to getting a tattoo again, but I think it would need to be of something that commemorates my life somehow (a memory or deep love that I will always have) rather than be an expression of my taste or interests (which I know now will surely change).
posted by sestaaak at 2:46 PM on August 25 [28 favorites]

I got one (my only one) at 25 in a place I could not see so it would not constantly remind me if I was unhappy with it. That is 25 years ago and I don’t regret it, but neither do I think it really did anything for me beyond tick off the “got a tattoo” list. Maybe having this one (and it is a well-done, large back piece that took several sessions from one of Toronto’s top artists) stopped me from impulsively getting a small, cheap tattoo somewhere I would regret.
posted by saucysault at 2:47 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]

I don't regret *getting* a tattoo, but I have changed in my perspective on cultural tattoos. In the 90s a lot of us white young people were getting tattoos from cultures we didn't know much about because the art was cool and interesting. Now I've got a more nuanced view about colonialism and appropriation (not that it's *always* forbidden, but that you need to think more deeply about it), and I feel like one of my 90s tattoos shouts out that I got some art from a culture without learning about it. I'd like to get it covered up with something more neutral (probably botanical) while still honoring the shape of the design by the original artist (who was from that culture and who got paid for making the art). Also, as sestaaak alludes to above, I know myself a lot better know than I did at age 25, and can make more nuanced decisions about who I am and what I identify myself with.
posted by matildaben at 2:52 PM on August 25 [3 favorites]

Yeah I regret my sleeve but only because I thought of a better idea to have matching cyborg arms afterward. Other than that, it’s fine.
posted by Young Kullervo at 2:57 PM on August 25 [3 favorites]

I have a commitment band with someone I broke up with 18 months later. No regrets. It's now a funny story and it's still a gorgeous tattoo. (It is, however, not in readable English nor does it involve any names. We did plan ahead *that* much.)
posted by restless_nomad at 2:59 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]

It's been about 3-4 years since I got my first and currently only tattoo, and I still love it. Still makes me happy every time I look at it. I'm sorely tempted to get another.
posted by DingoMutt at 3:01 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]

My tattoos haven't aged very well, but that's among the reasons I chose places where they could easily be covered or shown by choice. I still don't regret them, even if I would do them differently now. It is still only by sheer luck that I didn't end up with something I would now find culturally worrisome, which I would regret. There are a bunch of fleeting ideas I had at random times that I am very glad I didn't execute, but even if I had I probably wouldn't be tormented by regrets or anything.

I will eventually get some more, now that I feel like I'm properly old enough to make good decisions and can afford to really properly work with an artist to develop a design.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:09 PM on August 25

The only thing I regret about one of my (two) tattoos is that I was kind of shy and intimidated when I was getting it and didn't speak up to more clearly articulate what I wanted. I still like it, but it's not exactly what I went in for and I wish I had had more self-confidence to speak up at the time.
posted by Weeping_angel at 3:16 PM on August 25 [6 favorites]

I have no regrets about any of my tattoos (and am actively planning more!) because they tell stories - in the sense that they represent where I was in my life, the things that were/are important to me, remind me of my values, etc. I got my first at 18 and I'm now 44. I don't have anything on me that's problematic (as a few people noted above) and, at the same time, two of them are not what I would choose now - but they represent who I was at the time. Good stories, good memories.
posted by VioletU at 3:22 PM on August 25 [4 favorites]

Yes, I regret mine but I'm an outlier in that I did on myself 37 years ago and it no longer looks like anything recognizable.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:33 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]

I have an exceptionally stupid tattoo. It was done jailhouse style, with a sewing machine needle, in another language and alphabet, except that it's grammatically wrong so it's pretty much gobbletygook. It is really, really dumb -- and I don't regret it at all. I was 18 and dumber than a sack of rocks. I like to think of it as proof that people can learn and improve.
posted by pleasant_confusion at 3:35 PM on August 25 [31 favorites]

I have 3 tattoos and love all of them. I think that's because each of them is very meaningful to me, and not in a transient way. Like I have my favorite flower on my leg, and I don't see that ever changing.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 3:38 PM on August 25

Got my first at 30, no regrets 17 years later.
posted by kyrademon at 3:40 PM on August 25

I am a plain, pudgy 51-year-old person whose conservative outside doesn't match my insides, which are much more hippie-like, though I am a timid and indecisive type. I just got my fourth tattoo Thursday; mine are all within the past six years or so, and I love them. Honestly the sensation of LIKING part of my BODY is so novel and thrilling! Plus the older I get the less I worry about it. Say I don't like it and I have to live with it for the rest of my life - how long can that be, anyway, 20-30 years tops, big deal.
posted by Occula at 3:45 PM on August 25 [21 favorites]

I have a tattoo that I regret. It's a small figure on my sternum. I got it when I was 21. It's from a culture that is not mine, in a location that was probably more for advanced-tattoo-getters than for the casual tee-hee-this-is-fun-lets-get-tattoos-and-play-beer-pong college tattoo getter.

I'd like to get it removed but I'm afraid of the pain. I haven't gotten any tattoos since.
posted by Gray Duck at 3:59 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]

I am an anxious person and waited a really long time to get my first tattoo because I was worried I'd regret it. Now the worst thing about it is that i sometimes forget that I have it! I have two more (the most recent two summers ago, very visible on my forearm where the others are mostly hidden by clothes) and I still love them all in different ways. They're not all as relevant to me and my life as they were at the time, but they all have meaning and I care about them. I will note that when I went through a period of having the mopes, one of the signs of that was that, briefly, I really didn't like my tattoos. Who knows why, but it was unusual and it went away once I got better.
posted by jessamyn at 4:03 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]

I don't regret mine, but I am sort of indifferent to it. I got a pretty vine around my ankle about 10 years ago. It was what I wanted at the time, but in retrospect I wish I had got something custom designed maybe, or more unique/personal/special. It's ok, I don't hate it or dislike it, it's just there.

I do have an idea for another one that I've had in mind for a long time, but I want to draw it myself and I currently lack the skill. The fact that I've liked the idea for so long makes me think I will be happier with it in years to come than I am with my current one. But who knows. In this day and age tattoos are common enough that even if you wind up less than enthused down the line, there's not the kind of regret that there used to be when tattoos were mainly associated with folks who spent time on the rougher side of life.

Of course, this all depends on the tattoo. Tattoos that are very large, ugly, edgy, very life-situation specific or in a place that is difficult or impossible to cover are more likely to be regretted at some point. And of course rest assured that the surest way to doom a romantic relationship is to get the person's name tattoo'd onto your body.... lol.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:07 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]

I have five tattoos and my only regret is not being able to afford more of them.
posted by bile and syntax at 4:16 PM on August 25 [8 favorites]

I was 40, got my first tat, designed by my daughter-she asked if I would get one when she got her first, also her design. I said yes, if it was something meaningful to me. It was!

I have two more, all drawn by her, and the third was done while my youngest daughter got her first tat. Mine is a piece from her design. It's been 21 years and they are all dear to me. I really
Iike when people ask me about my tattoos. They all have deep personal meaning for me.

I would Iike to get two more, text phrases on my inner forearms, just haven't got the time or $$ right now.

No regrets, ever.
posted by LaBellaStella at 4:18 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]

I got one when I was in my early 20s, on my arm where I see it every day, and I still love it. It's a simple design that I drew myself. When I see it, I'm reminded of the reason that I got it, which has a very positive effect on my state of mind. No regrets. And I'm considering another, along the same lines.
posted by dbx at 4:29 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]

Regret? No. I have a very chill relationship with my dumb tattoos. (It helps that they're all places that are easily covered.) They were all important to me at various points in my life and I feel like they're remembrances of me's passed. If I regretted them that'd be like saying I regret the person I was when I was 19 and 25 and 35 and I don't at all.

I do have a gihugic unfinished really not that attractive back tattoo that I need to scrape together the funds to get an actual artist to both pretty up and finish, but it's not a priority. The fact that it's unfinished is actually pretty hilariously symbolic in and of itself.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:34 PM on August 25 [7 favorites]

I overthink everything... (or do I?). Definitely not cool, confident or swaggery. I got my only tattoo on my forearm after my daughters were born. I wanted something very specific and custom about family, the journey and what is important to me. It’s been about 5 years.

Absolutely no regerts.
posted by pixlboi at 4:38 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]

I'm a Fairly Tattooed Person (20+ over 13+ years). I absolutely adore getting tattooed. I have so many more that I want. Slowly working on full sleeves, etc.

But overall, I see being tattooed as part of my identity. It's extremely common to have one or two and not have it be an identity. Honestly, having a tattoo means nothing in terms of personality, coolness, etc. (And it can be frustrating when people assume things because I have tattoos.) There's no "type" of person who gets a tattoo, other than getting one.

I only regret 1 of mine. I didn't ever think I would regret one. It was a combination of bad work, design, and placement. I'm in the process of getting it removed and a coverup. Let me tell you, it sucks. The laser treatment is expensive and painful. Since it's new-ish (less than 10 years old) it won't all go away. And then I've gotta work on a coverup.

I'm also a person with anxiety. And overall, if I could have never gotten it removed (and eventually covered) it wouldn't be the end of the world. Again, I have a lot of them. I if I did some of them again, maybe they would be different but that's part of being tattooed.

However, I always recommend people
1) go to a really good artist who does clean, quality work
2) place the artwork somewhere you see it every day around the house while thinking about it -and/or get some printable temporary tattoos to test it out
3) consider less visible places
4) it's always okay to wait.
posted by Crystalinne at 4:50 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]

I have 3 tattoos; my first at 18, second at 24 and last at 30. I don't regret any of them, though at times I wish I had approached them differently. Mostly I wish I had been more choosy about the artist doing them. I am exactly the kind of person who puts a lot of thought into new tattoos, but I find it difficult to balance what I want with what the tattoo artist recommends. I want to respect their knowledge and experience, but also it's my body? With one tattoo in particular, I wish I'd just done it the way I originally wanted instead of being told by the artist that it would come out better if done their way. I still love it though, it just has a bit of weird energy attached to it now because of that.

Like others have said, they represent who I was at certain points in my life for better or worse, though still relevant to who I am today. Which makes sense, right, because every single thing that ever happened to me or that I've done goes into the weird formula that calculates who I am right now. They make me feel more kindly towards past me, and remind me to be gentle when thinking about all the ways I've fucked up in the past.
posted by BeeJiddy at 4:55 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]

The most cautious and anxious person I know has multiple tattoos, including one she got with her even more cautious mom after they went through a rough experience together. You can be a tattoo person as much as anyone else can!

On the other side, you can always wait if you’re not sure! It’s ok not to get tattooed. You can be tough and challenge convention and not get ink, :-)
posted by sallybrown at 4:55 PM on August 25

I have this idea of the kind of person who gets a tattoo (confident! Cool! Has swagger!)


Boy, do we heavily tattooed people have you fooled. I'm at the point where I measure my tattoos in "percentage of body covered" rather than number. I know a lot of other heavily tattooed people. We're just like anyone else, really, only more colorful when naked.

The only tattoos I regret are smaller pieces slapped in the middle of large areas. I have a piece across my shoulder blades that will require removal or incorporation into a coverup if I ever want to get a full back piece.
posted by mollymayhem at 5:01 PM on August 25 [4 favorites]

I have my inner wrists tattooed with song lyrics. They’re still meaningful but I do wish they were in a less visible location. If I was able to go back I guess I wouldn’t have gotten them. I also have one that a friend did inside my lip - that one I have no regrets about and smile whenever I catch a glimpse of it!
posted by tatiana wishbone at 5:06 PM on August 25

I don’t regret mine (12 years ago) but I do regret not going to a better artist
posted by raccoon409 at 5:14 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]

I have four tattoos. (I also plan to get more.) I don't regret any of them. There is one I'm probably going to cover up -- not because I dislike it or the design, it's just ... a kind of poorly-done tattoo (but the circumstances around getting it were great and I still have a lot of affection for it because of that).

I would say that all my tattoos have been something that as soon as I saw the image (or had the concept), I knew I was getting it as a tattoo. It was instinctual every time. I think when you know, you know. If you have doubt, it's probably not the right design or the right time.

But yes, take the time to find the right artist and tattoo studio. Find someone who will listen to you and that you feel comfortable with. That will make all the difference.
posted by darksong at 5:17 PM on August 25

I have four, only two of which I can see every day. One of them sort of morphed into a giant black blob. It’s actually kind of funny because it’s become sort of a Rorschach test; no two people who see it identify it as the same thing. While I wish that one still looked good, I don’t regret getting it, and there’s sort of a funny story surrounding it anyway. I’m actually planning to get another fairly big one when I can afford to lay down some coin.
posted by holborne at 5:30 PM on August 25

I got my first tattoo when I was 29 because I'd moved to a new country and became friends with a really talented tattoo artist. He'd been studying/doing Japanese style tattoos for decades and knew his shit (Seriously, yakuza dudes came over from Japan to get body suits from him). I picked a dragon because they're very traditionally in that style and the symbolism had some aspirational meaning for me at that time. I took a picture and sent it to my sister who immediately replied, "I guess you're the girl with the dragon tattoo, now." Motherfucker. Where was she three weeks ago? My perspective irrevocably was shifted. Would I get that tattoo again? No. Do I regret it? Absolutely not. It's a lovely piece of work and a memento of a person I was when I got it. I think as long as you do the research to get a solid piece of art applied by a person who knows what they're about, you'll be fine. I feel like good looking tattoo can be something you always take pleasure in even if the personal connection isn't what it was.
posted by FakePalindrome at 5:31 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]

20 years after my first tattoo, I do not even slightly regret having tattoos. That first tattoo isn't a design I would get today for cultural appropriation reasons, but it's part of the person I was at the time and I feel about it more or less I feel about a host of other decisions 20 year old me made: a complex blend of amused and fond and "oh, honey, no" and ultimately glad for even the unwise choices, given that they are all part of who I am today.

I will note that if said first tattoo were somewhere readily visible to strangers I'd have had a cover-up done by now, because there's a difference between complicated-but-overall-positive feelings about my past ink choices that I'm happy to discuss with someone I'm getting semi-naked with, and blithely walking around like a microaggression billboard. As it is, I'll probably have the design covered/altered in one day but I'm in no rush.

Tattoos are great, do heartily rec, future you may roll her eyes one day at the exact design you choose but I doubt she's ever going to think taking a step to reclaim your body in a way that feels right to you was a bad or regretful thing.
posted by Stacey at 5:40 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]

I still love the tattoos I have, and I have some pretty silly ones that might not age well. That being said, if I get to an old age and my biggest regret is a tattoo then I figure that's a sign of a very decent and comfortable life.
posted by thebots at 6:00 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]

Yes, regretted the one (small) tattoo I had. Lasered it off. Were I to do it again I would encourage future self not to choose a tattoo until I was in my 30s at a minimum. If you're considering tattoos remember colors don't age well, go for black! (And check my history if you need advice on how to get tattoos lasered off, I'm very pleased with my results)
posted by arnicae at 6:12 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]

It's been about 3-4 years since I got my first and currently only tattoo, and I still love it. Still makes me happy every time I look at it. I'm sorely tempted to get another.

This is exactly me.
posted by gemmy at 6:14 PM on August 25

I got my first tattoo at 44. It took me ages to decide what I wanted. Then it took me months to get in for a consult and appointment with the artist of my choosing. That was a number of years ago, and I have zero regrets. It's on my left arm, covered by a t-shirt or long sleeve shirt.

I not only have zero regrets, I actively plan to get more, but I haven't decided exactly what I want, where, and who to do the work. (I no longer live in the same city as the artist who did my first tattoo.) I do know I want to get a memorial tattoo for one of our kitties who passed far too young from FIP, but I know I'll also want tattoos for my other kitties one day and am trying to figure out how to arrange all of them.

The only moment I might have had a regret was a positive experience instead. My partner and I went swimming with her kids and her friend circle, and it didn't really occur to me that they had no idea I had a tattoo. Her kids knew about hers (a forearm tattoo) but had never seen me shirtless. They were really jazzed about it, though they were scandalized I hadn't thought to inform them about it. Her friends were also cool about it and all was well.

Until I did it, I didn't know if I was the kind of person who gets tattoos. I suppose I am. I draw the line at face and hand tattoos, though I respect your right to do whatever you want to your own body. Sometimes when I'm particularly groggy and waking up in the shower, I look at my arm and it's just a tiny shock - right! I have a tattoo! But no regrets.
posted by jzb at 6:16 PM on August 25

I regret the first one I got, (a) because it's on my back and I can't see it and (b) it's too small and I should have gone much bigger. The second one, I love. I designed it myself and got an excellent artist to execute it, and it's on my shoulder where I can see it. When I have some spare money I'm gonna get him to do a half sleeve on the other side.

Got both after the age of 50. They always told me I'd regret tattoos when I got old and wrinkly, but I started getting them then instead. Agree that colors are a mistake. They fade.
posted by Peach at 6:58 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]

I have had my tattoo for about 18 years, and I would describe myself like you - conservative, cautious, prone to overthinking. Like another poster above, I was shy when I got my tattoo and did not ask for the thing I really wanted (white ink). A few years after I got it, I learned that it doesn't mean what I was told it meant - it's a "Chinese character" that actually isn't anything. It meant what it meant to me, though, so that didn't bother me that much.

However, as I've gotten older, I've come to regret it more. Not actively regret - it's definitely more passive than that. It's on my to-do list to investigate getting it removed but it's been on my list for a few years. The reasons are many - it has faded and looks like a nearly-twenty-year-old tattoo, I am uncomfortable with the cultural appropriation of it, I am a person who has changed a lot since I was 21 and will continue to change so that no piece of art will likely encapsulate me forever.

i like the idea of having a tattoo - I like that it surprises people who know me well when they discover it (see above, conservative, cautious, and prone to overthinking). I like that I did something that surprised even me. I just don't particularly like having this tattoo anymore, and don't have the mental energy to come up with something "better".
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:06 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]

If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't get mine. However, I wouldn't call it regret.
posted by Sunnyshe at 7:31 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]

I got my only tattoo on a whim because a good friend turned 18 and wanted one. Had a hard time picking a design but flipping through the book-o-designs came up with something meaningful. It's barbed wire without the barbs around my ankle. But it's really Yin and Yang in their eternal dance coming together and back apart. Still love it. After 30 years it's gotten a bit fuzzy and could use a touch-up. Good memories, no regrets.

I'd second that they have printable non-permanent but relatively longer lasting temporary tattoos now. Those seem great for getting the design and placement just right.
posted by zengargoyle at 8:40 PM on August 25

As a fellow anxious overthinker who recently got their first tattoo, I think you’ll find the whole experience kind of....therapeutic?
posted by cakelite at 9:00 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]

I deeply, deeply regret my tattoos. Bad culturally-appropriative art in locations hard to cover. I’m in the process of getting the smaller ones lasered off. I’m getting a coverup on one that the laser failed. And the biggest one, I’m stuck with forever, and I’m sad about it. They all remind me of a really bad time in my life.

That said, I think you’ll be okay. It sounds like you’re in sound mind and you’re thinking things through, neither of which were true for me.
posted by sock puppet du jour at 9:08 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]

First tattoo in 1994. Second in 2000. Then a very large and intricate chest piece in 2015. Which made the two earlier tattoos look incongruous. Some painful laser sessions, and now my left and right upper arms sport very large, very distinctive pieces more in keeping with my chest.

I don't think at any stage I regretted either of the first two, but my tastes changes, and it was time to move on. The laser removal technician nailed it when she asked me 'regrets or making space for more?'. I replied that I'm making space.
posted by tim_in_oz at 11:07 PM on August 25

I have two, one on each forearm, and didn't get the first until I was 50 - a couple of years ago. My wife was getting her first and I started to come round to the idea of getting one, once I'd seen that it wasn't nearly as painful as I'd stupidly imagined it would be. I have a relatively large number of piercings and had always wanted a tattoo, but was a bit scared to get one for a very long time (I'm a huge coward when it comes to physical pain, or the idea of it).

My biggest sticking point was deciding what to have - my wife suggested a Duck-Rabbit, as that was the central image in my PhD thesis, and means a lot to me, so I loved that idea. I did a lot of research and prepped the design file myself and emailed it to the artist, and then we played around with templates to get size and position right - it was really important to me to be in contol of this part of the process - I'm a visual artist by trade. We did the same process with the second one, a Necker cube on the other arm (again with the Wittgenstein, but he's very much a central part of my teaching/making philosophy).

I love them both very much, I have no regrets whatsoever, though I'm finding it hard to decide whether to stick with the Wittgenstein/optical illusions theme or branch out into something else equally meaningful, but financially that's all theoretical at the moment anyway.

I think a part of being happy and not having any regrets about having them done has been the fact that I had reached a point in my life when I know pretty much who I am and what I do, and I don't see that changing radically, only deepening. I actually use mine as teaching aids now!
posted by Chairboy at 1:41 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]

One thing I think might help your anxiety is to make sure the tattoo means something to you. You seem to have thought about this a lot though.

I have two tattoos, the first I didn't exactly regret, but it was a spur of the moment thing and I forgot the one thing I really wanted tattooed for a long time. I still love the tattoo, I would have had it done eventually anyways. My second tattoo is a matching one with my best friend and it took us about a year to decide what to get. Its an old-school TV, antenna and all, drawn by the artist. As soon as we sent pics to family, the response was why we'd get the Simpson's TV. So that's annoying but I still don't regret it.

Both tattoos are in visible places, one is on the inside of the wrist, the other on the inside of my bicep. I'm very happy with both.

And if you change your mind later, laser removal is a possibility.
posted by LizBoBiz at 3:14 AM on August 26

Yes, do regret and wish I hadn’t done them, though I enjoyed the process a lot and have some good stories. Removal takes a long time and is much more expensive than the original tattoo. I won’t remove all of them for that reason even though I kind of wish I could. I am almost done removing one that is hard to cover and was small/simple.

It’s much more typical for people to have tattoos now vs when I was young, so I see them a lot even in professional environments. That makes it easier to just have them and not think too much about it.
posted by rainydayfilms at 4:16 AM on August 26

It's okay to have regrets. Mistakenly believing the goal is to die with no regrets is not a great way to make decisions IMHO.

Anyway I'm a very dull 47 year old woman and got a tattoo in the midst of a really dull mid-life crisis two years ago and I have no regrets.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:18 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]

I (40-something very sedate looking college instructor) have several tattoos (the most recent on Saturday, it's still in the Tegaderm) and I don't regret any of them. I do have two that are much older than the rest, and I am idly starting to think about what I could do with them. I don't want to cover them up, but I am considering larger pieces that would incorporate them now that I know more about art and styles and have an artist that I really love. But that's not regret, just growth and change - and the older tattoos will still be in whatever else I add.

My artist likes to remind us that nothing HAS to be forever - there's removal, there's coverups, there's adding to the design. So there is that.
posted by joycehealy at 5:15 AM on August 26

Conservative appearance working in a conservative field person here. I thought about a tattoo for years and years and could never decide. Flash forward to 2 years ago and my love being diagnosed with Cancer...within months I had a tattoo done that Incorporates images that remind me of him and always will. No regrets, I cannot conceive of that ever being the case.
posted by ReiFlinx at 5:51 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]

Something to note is that I often, strangely, regret my tattoos the most in the few days after getting them done. I've done fairly spur-of-the-moment tattoos and very deeply planned ones, and in both cases, they're often followed by a spike of "holy crap, now this is on my body forever, what a terrible idea." It doesn't help that this moment is also when your tattoo is at its itchiest and scabbiest and it's also the time when you notice that slightly wonky line that you wish were a little straighter, or whatever. But then almost immediately after THAT I fall in love with it and stay in love with it for years and years. Just wanted to flag that for you, in case you do get the tattoo and then have a similar experience.

In terms of longer-term regret, as people have said upthread, I now have tattoos that are decades old, that I certainly wouldn't do again, but that I still have great fondness for because they represented a particular moment in my life.

Do get the best artist you can afford and don't be shy about speaking up during the planning process, including the placement of the stencil, but it sounds like this is the right thing for you.
posted by EmilyFlew at 6:11 AM on August 26 [6 favorites]

Got my first in 2002 and was already thinking of my next. However it took me until 2015 to come up with, and design it. Then I got my 3rd 2 years later, and I am already planning the next.

posted by terrapin at 6:50 AM on August 26

I am 39. Almost everyone I know in my peer group has a tattoo. My husband and I do not. I know dozens of people who regret theirs and many more that are happy. All I know is every design I've ever considered, I wouldn't have wanted 5 years later. It really depends on the person. But you will very easily find all types of people who have them. It's completely commonplace now. We're more unique for not having any, I feel.
posted by agregoli at 7:21 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]

If I had it to do again, I probably would not.
posted by kabong the wiser at 7:28 AM on August 26

I got my first tattoo at 21, and the only thing I regret is not speaking up to the artist and adjusting the tattoo further to my liking. It’s small and hidden so I don’t mind, but that’s my only regret. After that, I made sure to speak up on all my next tattoos, and make sure I got them in style I love. Sometimes I miss my bare skin, but then I love what I got (a row of beautiful doors from my old neighborhood and then hands catching a falling star.) I get grief from older people and those are the times I wish I wore long sleeves so I don’t have to hear the gripes.
posted by buttonedup at 7:35 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]

I don't regret any of my 4 tattoos, but there is a divide between how I feel about the ones that were more impulsive and the ones that I wanted for years before I took the plunge (50-50). The fact that you're asking this question means that you won't fall into the former category.
posted by sugarbomb at 9:31 AM on August 26

I have 5 tattoos, 4 of which are pretty visible (one on my ankle, 1 on each wrist, and 1 on my inner forearm). I’ve worked in some pretty conservative environments - consulting with federal agencies and at a religious non-profit and they’ve never been mentioned by anyone in these environments.

While some of them haven’t aged well (like, AT ALL), I don’t regret them even a little. Even if someone offered to remove some of the lamer ones (like “eat a peach” on my wrist that now looks to read “cat a peach” and is actually quite embarrassing as a friend did it one night while we were drinking way too much, oof), I don’t think I’d take them up on the offer.
posted by youandiandaflame at 9:53 AM on August 26

I have 5. The two that I'm sort of "eh" on at this point are ones where I came in knowing exactly what I wanted. The 3 that I love are ones where I said more hand-wavily "I want a tree on my upper arm" or "here are some elements, make them into a workable composition" because I went to a tattoo artist whose personal, distinctive style I really liked, and hit it off with them in the consult. I doubt I will get work done by a journeyman "do it all" tattoo artist again.

My general advice is: (a) find an artist who specializes in a single style that you like; (b) follow their Instagram feed for a while, since you'll generally get a sense of what they're excited about; (c) go in to your consult with an idea (this is important, don't go in with nothing) but be flexible; (d) only book a session if you personally like them and are happy with their take on your idea.
posted by supercres at 9:57 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]

(My first was when I was 24 and I'm still getting them almost exactly 10 years later.)
posted by supercres at 9:59 AM on August 26

I have about 10 tattoos, including some stick-and-pokes, and regret none of them.

For the record, mine are mostly botanical stuff that nobody finds offensive and I didn't get anything from another culture.

I have a lot of tattooed friends and their regrets are usually due to one of the following categories:
1) Cultural appropriation
2) Former relationships
3) Places like the stomach that can age badly after weight changes
posted by vanitas at 10:01 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]

I have read this thread and I am quite happy with the responses. I am not a tattoo person. Maybe better put, I am not a person with any good or creative ideas for a tattoo.

However, I want to tell the asker that of all the reasons I have heard friends, coworkers and people in this thread, your reasons for considering it are as good, if not better, than any other reasons I have heard. I tell you that because I have found that regrets come from poor planning, not thinking through a course of action, and not having a reason before acting. While not all of my decisions have worked out (a lot haven't truth be told), I regret very very few because I had good or well thought out reasoning at the time.

Whatever decision you make, feel confident that you thought it out and are making the right decision for yourself in that moment or in that time.
posted by AugustWest at 10:23 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]

Add another tally to "one tattoo, don't regret it, aching to get more."

My wife suggested we get matching tattoos, way back in the time before we had kids and could be spontaneous (9 years ago? At least that long).

We each have "Mine" on our left inner wrists, written in each-other's hand. I was super nervous about getting it, but it was pretty quick, and not actually painful (felt like a cat claw pricking my skin, over and over).

Thinking more about my one tattoo, I think it has a number of Pros: small, something that is meaningful but could be re-purposed (still happily married, so definitely no regret there), not in a super visible place, in my native language (I understand what it says, and I'm not appropriating another culture).

My biggest regret: while not illegible, it's blurry. I can apply some after-the-fact meaning to that, but it still irks me at a low level.

I want two specific tattoos, but 1) they cost money, and I want things that are decently big, and probably multicolor, and 2) yeah, mostly #1. OK, a bit of hesitation, but I've been thinking about both of them for years now, and my resolve hasn't wavered. I'm tempted to ask people with good-looking tattoos about their experience and the artist, but I haven't, yet.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:46 AM on August 26

I have no tattoos. You could get some temporary tattoos made, and see what you think. Find great tattooist to do the work.
posted by theora55 at 11:10 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]

I got my first tattoos in 1982 - cheap flash & not particularly meaningful to me as a person, mostly because I was much too young to know who I was, just that tattoos were something soldiers got. Luckily, I was at least smart enough to get them in places that were usually covered (also, at the time visible tattoos were frowned upon in my military force). Fast forward to the last couple years: I decided that I was finally old enough to know who I was, and it was time to get some coverup work done. Again luckily, 35-year-old cheap tattoos fade and blur so much that they're fairly easy to cover with some clever art choices and placement, and my tattooist is very clever indeed. Now I'm a year into work on a very large back piece that I will absolutely never regret, because it's spaceships and planets and I've loved science fiction for half a century now, so I don't think my tastes are going to change at this point.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 11:45 AM on August 26

For context, I have tattoos all over my arms and wear short sleeve shirts at my job as a programmer working on banking services. It's pretty conservative, but the CEO hates "business dress".

My first advice : DO NOT get a tattoo unless you 110% love the design and feel it completes you. If you have doubts, don't do it.

Tattoos are forever, but the converse is also true. You have forever to get one. There's no hurry. I got most of mine after 50. You will know when the time is right. And if you don't know in your heart it's right, why would you do it?

I have regrets about not spending a bit more time thinking about the design one of them before I got it. If I had it to do over I'd get the same thing with a slightly different design. But regret having them at all? Absolutely not. I love them. They are part of me.

But I'm sure that's because my reasoning was very much, "Will I be sad if I don't get this?". In other words, I didn't ask "should I?".
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:05 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]

I only got my first tattoo a few weeks ago. But I am also someone who is pretty cautious and risk-averse, and personally I regret not getting tattoos earlier. I think a lot of the usual advice regarding tattoos is for people who are the opposite of us and are more likely to make rash decisions. I think for me at least, I need to be encouraged to take more risks.
posted by chernoffhoeffding at 12:35 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]

i have one tattoo in a very visible place (inside right forearm) of my beloved cat. it's the only tattoo i will ever get; i don't regret it even one bit. it's well done and a very accurate likeness of him, which helped me after he died.
posted by hollisimo at 3:05 PM on August 26

I have really enjoyed reading everyone's answers! Thank you so much for sharing your stories.

What has become evident to me is, although I do want the tattoo, I don't NEED to get it RIGHT NOW. I was labouring under a completely manufactured sense of urgency along the lines of "If I overthink this, I won't end up doing it so I have to get it IMMEDIATELY" and that was what was stressing me out. I'm very sure about the design and placement, and have found an artist whose style really speaks to me and is right for the design I have in my head. But taking the urgency out of it has lessened my anxiety about it.
posted by sockandawe at 2:26 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]

I have some of the world's dumbest tattoos. I was NOT sure I wanted a lot of them and I love all of them. My experience is that I got used to them and grew to love them even if they were flights of fancy such as getting a stick poke tattoo in my living room that simply says "BDW" for "Billy Dee Williams". I mean, Billy Dee is pretty cool so it wasn't hard. Regardless, even some of my more serious tattoos I got when I was younger now seem a little eye rolly but they are like a diary on my skin on the person I was.

Everyone has anxiety but it didn't last for me and instead turned into lasting and deep affection.
posted by josher71 at 8:57 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]

A friend of mine would draw the tattoo she wanted (it was very simple) on herself where she wanted it to see if she liked it well enough to go through with it. She got it. I LOVE that idea for the temporary tattoos.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:18 PM on August 27

I've got a dozen-ish or so, and nearly all were self designed or designed side by side with the artist, and planned for a loooong time - generally mulling on it for a year or more to see if the idea still 'resonated' when I circled back to it. No gogurts about any of the designs themselves, altho I've learned some things about how my skin handles ink in certain places that has made one or two of them less than optimal in preservation. But on the upside, nothing is permanent - you'll probably be dead in 80 years or so, and the Earth itself won't last past five billion before the sun explodes - so it won't be a problem forever! Now to count down the months and see if I still think getting a massive Ernst Haeckel back piece is still a good idea...
posted by FatherDagon at 1:19 PM on August 27

It took me a long time to get my first tattoo, because I was scared I'd regret it. Instead, I've found the process of getting tattooed and the consequence of being tattooed both to be extremely validating. It feels like staking a claim on my own body -- welcoming and embracing it in ways I've never been able to do otherwise. I might not 100% love the designs 100% of the time, and there may be things I wish I'd done differently, but on the whole, my tattoos are a way of saying: this body is MINE, and I can do what I want with it. And that feels AWESOME.
posted by linettasky at 6:16 AM on August 28 [4 favorites]

I have six tattoos -- on both shoulders that are 11 years old, both ankles that are 7 years old, and both palms, one five years old and one seven days old. I don't regret them because they are so much a part of my body, it would be like regretting my eyes. How they look has faded and changed due to scars and time, but it is a delight to see the changes because all of me has changed.

Regarding your specific question about being the "type" of person who gets tattoos, and having the act of tattooing be for me or not: though that never entered my personal thought process because of how inherently settled into my physical form my tattoos made me feel, I know that externally it matched with how others see me (alternative subculture, adventurous, etc). I have a friend who is a proper, portly professor type, who has never "done a drug" and doesn't like to jaywalk -- he enjoys the depth and nuance of character it indicates about him that people would never guess he has a tattoo, much less a stick'n poke (prison style) handmade one. He can't be not the type of person to get a tattoo, since, by definition, he is one. :)
posted by Pwoink at 7:22 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]

I have two. One I did myself as a young teenager, one that was done professionally when I was maybe 18. In other words, I've had them almost 2/3 of my life. No, I don't regret them. They are hidden under clothes,, but regardless I am still happy to look at them and they and seem to be aging ok -- definitely changing with age, but I like to think that is adding character, not decaying. Given that I did one for free and paid $40 for the other, I feel like I definitely got my money's worth.

If I get more, I will go big (full back, full or half sleeves). But that is a big financial investment that right now I don't feel like making, so that stays as a "maybe someday" kind of thing for now.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:42 PM on August 28

I'm only a year into my Mr. Rogers tribute tattoo, and the only thing I regert is that I didn't do it sooner.

You are a beautiful, completely unique, sack of watery meat - briefly conscious, on a massive orb hurtling around a big ball of gas 67,000 miles per hour. Shrink that sun down to a grain of sand and the solar system fits in your hand, and the Milky Way Galaxy is the size of North America (200-400 billion stars). We don't even know how many billion galaxies are in our universe. We don't know if it ever really ends, or if there's another orb out there somewhere with some other or same kind of sentient being conflicted over making a "permanent" mark on their sack.

I mean why would you not go and get that tattoo? There's precious little time to waste.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:05 PM on August 30 [3 favorites]

I love mine. I thought of doing that specific design at 19. I drew what i wanted and put the drawing by my bathroom mirror, and said if I still wanted it a year later, after seeing it every day, I would do it.
I'll be 50 soon and I still love it.
posted by tardigrade at 1:25 PM on August 30 [2 favorites]

My tattoos are ...difficult to cite... publications of my scientific research and they are definitely a control thing for me. The mobility impairment that my EDS gives me has kept me out of the lab and forced me towards the kinds of bioinformatics that dominate it. It was at least in someway an insistence that I could do neat things from a desk chair too and a way to claim ownership of this new path.

When I got it I was also in the middle of a pretty rapid and terrifying decline in my mobility, that has since thankfully at least levelled out, and it was definitely about death in that kind of way that is really about life. I was pretty keenly aware of how the tattoo really isn't going to be on me forever, and I guess what a pretty interesting branch of psychology calls 'mortality salient', while that absence of forever was pretty immediately relevant. The med student who eventually gets to really know me in the most intimate way conceivable will certainly be at least conversant in the visual language my tattoo is written in, and I'd bet may even appreciate it, but they will have other concerns as they disassemble me before the whole business gets either cremated or disposed of as medical waste - destroying it in a way that really is forever. What really struck me about tattoos isn't so much their permanence as their profound impermanence, displaying their message across a precisely human time scale.

Maybe it says something about my disposition, but I found this deeply comforting while I was stretched out on the back of a chair. I didn't need to worry about a making a design that would ring true forever, just one that would never ring false for the strangely relative amount of time while I still needed my rebellious skin. The idea of tattooing as something that simply scratches away the surface to openly display whats really under you, rather than keep it hidden, appeals to me. We do this constantly with other kinds of choices we make in life, almost especially the small ones that don't really affect us, and it almost seems strange not to take advantage of our ability to do it conspicuously with our skin. Its like it wasn't just about taking control of my meatcage, but also the finite amount of time it would carry me around.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:44 AM on August 31 [1 favorite]

I thought long and hard about getting a tattoo in my late teens, then decided against it because I couldn't think of anything I was sure I would always like down the road. Then, in my mid to late forties, I got a couple of tattoos. A few weeks later, they were gone.

I had a bleeding problem with my small intestine that necessitated transfusions of 2 units of blood every 14 days. Even with weekly injections of epoetin, my body couldn't produce enough red blood cells to keep up with the bleeding and I was deathly anemic (hemoglobin level of 4.5) until I started getting regular transfusions. My gastroenterologist repeatedly tried to endoscopically cauterize the bleeders in my small intestine, but it wasn't working. About the 5th attempt, he said "I'm going to try cauterizing again, but it hasn't worked before and it probably won't work this time either. So while I'm in there, I'm going to put a tattoo before the section of small intestine with the bleeders and another tattoo after the bleeders. That way the surgeon will know what part of your small intestine to cut out and throw away." That's the story of how I had tattoos for a few weeks. With the exception of the docs and a few people in the surgery suite, nobody, including me, ever saw them.

I'm glad I got the tattoos. I'm even more glad they were removed along with the bleeding problem. If you ever find yourself in the same situation, I enthusiastically recommend getting tattooed.
posted by Daddy-O at 2:06 PM on September 14 [1 favorite]

« Older What is this mystery machine?   |   Memorable Meals in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments