Don’t Get a Matching Tattoo

matching tattoo

Don’t get a matching tattoo. With anyone. Ever. Seems like solid advice, right? It’s advice I’ve rolled my own eyes at in the past. I unfortunately have three matching tattoos. Well, two, if you don’t count the one that I eventually had covered with a new tattoo.

I can only barely make out the shadow of where it used to be. Now it’s covered up with a beautiful arrangement of succulents and a camera. The camera because I was covering up a thick black outline of the ЛOMO logo. Lomo was the Russian-made camera brand that sparked the Lomography movement decades later.

My first matching tattoo was with my future ex wife. If you’re new here the the TL;DR version is that we were long distance our whole relationship. She lived in the United States and I lived in Canada. She’d just flown up to visit me in person for the first time. Five months prior we’d first started talking online. You heard that right, folks, I got a matching tattoo with basically a stranger from the internet. Yikes.

Matching Tattoo Regret

It wasn’t until years and years later that I regretted it. Over time I let a casual remark from a coworker get to me. “Oh, that’s not what I thought that said”. I’d shown her my fresh tattoo and she mistook the cyrillic Л for an H. It wasn’t that comment that ruined it, though. Although, it sure stuck with me. At first I loved having a matching tattoo with her. Of course you don’t regret stuff like that when things are good.

It was six years later after our bitter divorce was over. All I could think about was her whenever I saw that tattoo. It felt like an ugly brand and I hated looking at it. Every time I would see it I would be reminded of my trauma surrounding her. I wanted nothing more than to never have to look at it again so I could finally forget about her. (Pro tip: don’t avoid your feelings y’all, go to therapy.)

Crushed Fingers

The first laser tattoo removal session was brutal. I was sitting in the back of a remodelled ambulance that had been turned into a mobile tattoo removal business. It was no fault of his, I was just ill prepared and hadn’t used any type of numbing cream beforehand. Bad idea. Removing a tattoo sucks way worse than getting one. I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Each zap of the laser felt like a white hot rubber band snapping at my skin. The air filling with the smell of singed flesh. I crushed Shawn’s fingers in the other hand and turned away until he finally told me he was done. When I looked back the tattoo looked lighter. I knew that was just the raised and singed skin that covered my tattoo. It would take months and several more sessions to actually begin to lighten it.

After one of these sessions I went into the bathroom to put some ointment on the wound. For some reason that day the tattoo bothered me more than it ever had before. I couldn’t even look at it. The constant reminder of the traumatic relationship from only a few years before felt like a lot to deal with. My healing journey hadn’t started yet and just looking at the tattoo threw me into a spiral.

A Painful Reminder

I sat on the edge of the bathtub and sobbed. I probably sat there for a few minutes. Teardrops rained down my face so heavily that it was all I could do to stumble out of the bathroom. Shawn was in the kitchen and I stood in the doorway with my wrist held out and the ointment in the other hand. Shawn knew exactly how much that tattoo bothered me. So, in an instant I was sat down on the side of the tub again with my eyes closed, crying. Shawn washed his hands in the sink and then put the ointment on my wrist for me.

“Ok, all done!” I opened my eyes and looked at my wrist before immediately bursting into laughter. He’d completely covered it up to the point that I couldn’t see it anymore. I was expecting only a thin layer as I’d done before. I laughed as I blinked the tears out of my eyes. My tears changed to the ones that happen when you laugh too hard.

Cover Up

I went for three more painful laser sessions. Even with numbing cream it sucked, y’all. A talented tattoo artist took one look at my barely faded tattoo and said “hell yeah I can do that”. The amount of relief I felt the first time I looked at my wrist after it was done is immeasurable. Now it was something that didn’t re-traumatize me every time I looked at it. I could finally start to really heal.

So, should you get that matching tattoo with someone? I suppose you always have to consider the context. I’m not going to say whether you should or not, that’s for you to decide. Would I get another matching tattoo with someone, given the opportunity? I don’t think that I would.

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