I regret my tattoos… but I still tell my mates I love them

From symbols of love to losing bets – I’ve made all the bad decisions

First things first – tattoos are cool.

Sure, they can be art, they can be funny and meaningful. But what really matters is they make their bearers cooler than you.

Our generation has seen a boom in body art that was previously shunned as “working class” and “tacky”, mainly by my mother. But no more.

We now stand proudly, sleeves in the air, having taken back control of our skin from our parents by covering it in black ink. Which is, essentially, pretty damned radical.

But, whether a rebellion tactic, a drunken mistake, a ballsy move, or an artistic venture, it’s true there comes a morning when you wake up and try to remember exactly what it was you were thinking when you let someone permanently print something on your body.

Believe me, I would know.

I have four tattoos. All of which I love, but some of which I do now question.

My first I got in Paris. I was with my ex, we were recently engaged (don’t ask), and we were celebrating. By drinking.

I can’t remember whose idea it was to get tattoos but it seemed like a good one at the time.

Caught up in the romance of Paris, the rebellion of the engagement, and the hangover of the numerous bottles of wine, we walked into a tattoo parlour giggling like the naughty teenagers we were.


I had “Pont des Arts” tattooed on my hip, which is known to most as the Bridge of Locks, the site where couples attach their padlocks to ensure love forever. Or whatever. He also got the coordinates tattooed on his hip.

Quelle surprise, we split up, as most young couples do.

And the first thing everyone asked me was what I was going to do about the tat.

To be honest, it wasn’t the biggest thing on my mind. I had a future to sort out and figuring out what I was going to do with the three French words over my hipbone wasn’t at the top of my priorities.

Although thanks to the guy who asked what it meant mid-coitus for the brutal reminder.

Now I tell my mates I think it’s sexy and mysterious – but no, it wasn’t my best move. And I’m sure he feels the same. At least you can give back a ring.

My second I had inked in Wisconsin when visiting my ‘Murrican family.

I’d been out with my best friend the year before, and after endless drinks and hilarious story-telling, he slurred the phrase “You have to make your own rules in this game” over the final measure of whisky. I slurred back I was going to get it tattooed.


A year later I did so at a Harley Davidson convention on the Native American Reservation (yeah, pretty fucking cool). I love it because it’s my best mate’s words, and it’s a pretty good message to live by.

But no matter how many strangers come up to me in a bar to tell me how “fucking awesome” it is, the older I get the more aggressive the message seems.

It screams pretentious, hipster, teenage angst, even though it has nothing to do with shoving rebellious doctrine down the throat of whoever reads it aloud.

And I have to put up with my witty mates and their permanent markers more often than I’d like. I’m happy to laugh along with them but on a night out my shoulder blade gets more attention than I do.

My third is the one I’m still genuinely happy with.


But while I think it’s beautiful and meaningful, everyone else thinks it far more pertinent to discuss at length my crooked toes.

It normally takes a solid two minutes of “what’s up with your feet” before they notice the equality design.

And even then, they prefer to guess than ask. I’ve had every suggestion from train tracks to laces to slave shackles, at which point the funny guy laughed: “It’s like you’re a slave to equality.”

Once I even had to listen to someone tell me the artist had forgotten to join it up. Thankfully, this one is easy to hide when I don’t have the strength to justify it (or my toes) to yet another drunk pal at a party.

But in no way can I sugar coat my fourth – I lost a bet.

Stone cold sober in Aberdeen I was sitting with one of my best friends discussing tattoos, irony and penguins. Which resulted in her asking:

“Rach, would you ever get a tattoo of a flying penguin on you?”

“Yeah, if you gave me a tenner.”

She called me on it.

And I’m not one to stand down from a challenge.


12 hours later I was booked into a studio in Aberdeen with a picture of a flying penguin a friend at art school had drawn for me, and a concerned looking Polish man shaking his head at me.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a brilliant way to see off uni. But it only took a few weeks for the regret to sink in.

On holiday in France my best friends found me sitting outside, staring into the distance with a pained look on my face. When they asked what was wrong I pulled up my top and snapped: “I’ve got a flying penguin tattooed on me. A flying fucking penguin.” They still find it funny.

As did the bloke who tattooed it on me. It’s hard to stay in the lines when you’re laughing so hard.

This is the one my friends love more than I do because they know it’s for them, and that’s why I tell them I’m fine with it.

But truthfully I want to punch everyone who calls it “cute”. I’ve begrudgingly accepted Peter the Penguin as part of my life because I have to, and your approval makes jack-shit of difference.

I do love my tattoos, but my god I’m sick of getting your opinion on them.

You think raising your eyebrows is going to make me realise a tattoo of a penguin holding a balloon is as disastrous as it is permanent? Dude, I already know.