Dealbreaker: Horrendous Tattoos

I’ll admit it, I think tattoos are dead sexy. There is no better conversation starter than that little sliver of ink peeking out from under a shirt sleeve or some surprise artwork on a half-naked dude, but like many women I’m less inclined to get all hot and bothered when the ink in question is, say, a thicket of barbed wire or that little dragon from Mariokart. Truly, tattoos are a mixed bag, and the most heinous of offenders was a dude I recently used for some June-to-August lovin’. Like any good summer fling, he was hot and adventurous, but he also majored in art, worked at the local coffee joint, and fiddled on his guitar in closeted hopes of someday making it big with his band buddies. In retrospect, I don’t know why I tolerated dating a living stereotype, but despite his attempted depth, I managed to keep things light – which meant ignoring a trio of terrible tats across his back and shoulders.

He explained to me one balmy morning in his king-size bed that he had drawn them all himself, which, I thought privately, was a pretty poor testament to his art training. I took note: drawing lessons do not an artist make, especially when he had hard proof of his handiwork in the form of a stunted red phoenix, his zodiac sign in hot green, and what I can best describe as a silvery-metal saw blade. His excuse? “I thought it looked cool”. All the free lattes in the world couldn’t keep our summer fun afloat after that one.

For anyone who’s gone under the needle, the rule is pretty simple: forever really means forever. So unless a guy is in a motorcycle gang, he should probably cover up any flaming skulls or bleeding hearts, and he better have a family tree that points directly to a salient reason for that tribal tattoo. A man should also be sensible enough to know that a few years down the line it will be pretty hard to explain why he gave up prime skin real estate to his scrappy but spotty sports team’s logo.

I’m not saying bad tattoos are always a black mark. Many a man- and woman-is branded with a sign of stupider times. I love all of my tattoos, except some regrettable ink I put on my wrist a few years ago. While it reminds me of the hard times I was going through, and how much I have grown since, if I could go back in time I wouldn’t have done it. My summer lover, however, took every advantage of showing off his hand drawn monstrosities, which told me all I needed to know about what he thought of himself, and how he chose to express it. While I would never want to stamp on the dreams of a budding artist, I was embarrassed by the tokens of his life, and I couldn’t get over the fact that he wasn’t embarrassed, too.

The great thing about most of my bad decisions is that they’re invisible, and if I’m lucky, they (like summer flings) usually go away. A bad decision on the skin, as I’m learning, lasts a lifetime. So before I dive into another tryst with a tattooed stranger, I’ll have to ask, does he still stand behind having his college frat’s letters on his ass, or does he look upon them as a lesson learned the hard way?