Beware of the Tatt-oops

By Bryan Van Gorder

Originally published on Advocate.com May 09 2014 4:00 AM ET

I’m 40 and, for the first time ever, I’m under the needle at Los Angeles’s Life Art Creations, getting a tattoo from owner Jayson Ponce. This may scream midlife crisis — the Camaro in my driveway is just circumstantial evidence — but the truth is that I’ve wanted to get some ink for a long time, I just couldn’t figure out what kind of design meant enough to me to commit to for life. At least I always imagined that was the idea.
 
It’s not always, though. Sometimes, Ponce says, the tattooed experience buyer’s remorse. “When someone does, it’s usually for reasons like aged designs, ugly art, or bad work from an artist with a questionable skill set,” he explains.
 
According to a recent Harris Poll, more than one-fifth of adults in the United States, roughly 65 million, have at least one tattoo, up 7% from 2008. Of those, about 14% regret getting it. I decided to investigate further. You know, just in case.
 
Rene Cordero, a gay tattoo artist at Denver’s Kitchen’s Ink, confirmed Ponce’s list, adding, “Tribal is starting to look dated, as are tattoos on the sides of fingers. They fade quickly. Instead of something trendy, try a timeless design like a rose or lettering — just not your boyfriend’s name.”
 
“We call that the kiss of death,” concurs lesbian tattoo artist Toni Kotar (a.k.a. Tone Deaf) from Screamin’ Ink Tattoo (ScreaminInkTattoo.com) in Fair Lawn, N.J. “We try to warn them, of course, but more often than not they go through with getting a lover’s name anyway.”
 
“I had a client with ‘Sean’s Cum Dump’ scrawled across his ass in Olde English font,” recalls Cordero. “He came in during one of their breakups to see what he could do to get rid of it. My only suggestion was to tattoo black underpants on over it. Obviously that’s not ideal.”
 
Adds Tone Deaf, “Cover-ups typically consist of roses, flowers, dragons, koi fish, or anything else that can both conceal the old [design] and draw attention away from the fact it’s a cover-up.”
 
“Anyone looking to update or cover up a tattoo needs to know that the new design will have to be more prominent than what we’re replacing,” notes Ponce. The tattoo artist will have to use a darker, heavier ink, and cover a large area. Ponce advises, “Make sure any artist you pick, for new ink or to freshen up old ink, is seasoned in not just one style, but several. And, if possible, choose a design that is visually pleasing with some kind of long-term sentimental value.”
 
As he finished filling in the last bit of the design, I looked down at my new ink. Nothing to worry about here; I’m certain Miley Cyrus is going to have a very long and above-reproach career.