The Next Tattoo Chapter

Many years ago, as some of you know, I was in a relationship with someone who was bad news bears (thank you Ashley for teaching me my new favourite expression!!). I’m not going to go into too much detail – it was hands down the most difficult period of my entire life, and led to my darkest hour – a story to save for another day.  But during this relationship, in a fit of pre-deterioration, honeymoon period infatuation, we decided to get matching tattoos.  Smart cookies, no? Luckily we were slightly smarter than getting red hearts and lovebirds carrying scrolls bearing each other’s names forever branded on our skins, but we still went ahead pretty hardcore. We got a design comprised of our initials, superimposed on each other and stylised in a way that looked nothing like letters, but some sort of chunky tribal symbol.

The relationship declined, the heart was battered to a pulp, and eventually the memories disappeared into the archives of Life Experience, yet the mark on my back remained.  A constant reminder of the naivety of my younger self, the mistakes, the time I sometimes wish I could take back. But I constantly remind myself that life throws us these things to give us opportunities to learn and grow. Perhaps I was a stubborn girl back then. Perhaps, had I not gone through what I did, I never would have had any reason to push myself forward, and strive to reach the potential I hope I possess. We can become bitter about the past, or we can become better because of it. With everything, no matter how difficult, I try to stick to the latter.

But last week, I came to the realisation that I wanted this thing off my back more than I was scared of the pain it would undoubtedly cause. Many of you know about my back condition, and may remember my desperate attempt at relief a few months ago, involving dozens of injections along my spine… and promptly going into uncontrollable convulsions. (You can’t say I’m not a trooper!)

So the thought of getting this tattoo reworked into something I’m not ashamed of, though extremely tempting, is also extremely scary. I met with an artist this week who informed me that to get what I want (and effectively cover up what I have), will in all likelihood end up being half a back piece.  The size doesn’t scare me – I love tattoos, and I love the idea of having something meaningful on my body for the rest of my life – but the extreme pain does.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m HARDLY a wuss – I sat through this one in one sitting while heavy black shading was done over my SPINE – and I know if I didn’t have this problem with my back muscles, it would be a walk in the park (I have a second one on the nape of my neck, which is pain-free, and I didn’t blink an eye).  But this is in Prime Pain Area, which leaves me more than a little nervous.

Nervous, but determined. With less than 8 months to go until my wedding, I want to get this taken care of. Pronto.  Even if it means going every three weeks just for an hour at a time until November. The trouble now, is finding something that will work with what I already have.  I loved this one here – but it has too much white space to really go over the chunky black I already have.  I love Celtic style tattoos, too – but they have the same problem.  I’ve decided I really want to get a phoenix – I love the symbolism of continual growth and new beginnings. But I don’t want a big chunky tribal symbol taking over my whole back because it’s the only thing that works.  This is where I come to you guys. Do you have any idea what I could do to cover this thing up, in less than 7 total hours (I don’t think I could tolerate the pain for more than an hour at a time), that doesn’t involve a thick black MAN tattoo?

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50 comments

    1. Oh that sounds interesting – is it just kind of like foundation? I have some of her eye makeup and it’s AMAZING! I wonder if it would all get in my hair though – I’m wearing it down and I wouldn’t want it to rub off :S

  1. I was wondering recently if you were going to do that actually 🙂

    Maybe a “D” could be interpreted into the design in a similar style? Where the “t” is, a loop could be inserted on the right hand side in the same style, so it is then an “E” and a “D” entwined? The horizontal line in the middle is still a cross on the E and even though it would be across the vertical line on the D, it can symbolise how you are crossed over into one or something like that 🙂

    1. That’s a nice idea – though I really like the phoenix idea as it’s more symbolic of the old one dying and new beginnings etc. – I just have to figure out how to get it done!

  2. Wow, that’s a pretty big tattoo that you got there… isn’t there a way to use a laser to just get rid off the one that you have? (Excuse my naivety when it comes to tattoos, I never had one myself ;)).

  3. Emily!
    We appear, once again, to lead somewhat parallel lives.

    I, too, made the mistake in a bad news relationship-cum-short marriage, of getting a tattoo which was….drumroll….a stylistic take on the ex’s initials.

    Though not as large as yours, it was on my right hip and the only thing I could cover it with was a butterfly. Yes, a thick, opaque, black butterfly. My friends affectionately refer to it as my “trailer tattoo”.

    I looked into all of the options. Tattoo removal has come a long way and is expensive. That said, seven + hours of tattooing over an existing tattoo (which will likely be subject to cover-ups) is also an expensive endeavour of another kind.

    I love tattoos, I have 8 myself (including this beautiful butterfly…) and will probably continue to get them.

    I guess my advice to you is to go with your gut. Find something that speaks to you, whether that be a clean slate via removal or a tattoo which you love and doubles as a good cover for your existing one.

    I only go to New Tribe Tattoos & Piercings, right across the street from MuchMusic in Toronto. I’m sure if you cruised their website, you could find some helpful direction there.

    Best of luck. I know where you are right now and am proud to be on the other side of that.

    1. Oh my goodness! What a strange coincidence 🙂 I will definitely take a look at the website – I’ve talked to a couple of tattoo artists and they all seem to be leaning the same way in that it’ll have to be something quite large to cover it up. I think I’d rather have something to show for the pain it caused the first time around lol – something that says “I overcame this” as opposed to “this scarred me” – literally. Thanks so much for your tips and for stopping by 🙂

  4. Could you use something like this – where the one wing could cover up a good portion of your existing tattoo? I’m sure it’s not an ideal design, but the large wing might help.

    Did the artist say anything about other colors showing over it? Is that even possible?

    I was checking out tattoo forums and they mentioned that often times the RIGHT artist can lighten tattoos using white ink.

    What about a tree tattoo?
    Or the celtic tree of life??

  5. Oh, wow. This post hits me so close to home at the moment!! I am currently dealing with old tattoo issues/regret right now and this post hits a soft spot. 😛 Hmmmmmm. Well, one thing you MIGHT want to try is tattoo fading cream. I have heard mixed reviews on it, but it’s supposed to fade it a bunch so that it makes it easier to tattoo over. ALSO if you wanted to wait until after your wedding, when you will have more time to test your options, that stuff by Kat Von D at Sephora is supposed to be really good. From what I HEAR it’s supposed to dry really well and not rub off on stuff, and I highly doubt it would get in your hair. I don’t think it’s too expensive so it could be worth trying out in the meantime before you make any official decisions.

    Me…well I got a tatto on my lower stomach of a skull with butterflies at the prompting of my ex, when I was 19. I didn’t think about it, I just DID it, you know? Ughhh. And now I am stuck with a tattoo on my STOMACH!! I don’t mind the tattoo, the ink itself is actually kind of pretty, I just despise the location and I really want it gone. I am even considering getting it removed, though I plan on doing lots of research beforehand. I have been reading up on it a lot and there is a lot of new technology right now that is much less painful, and can remove the entire tattoo with minimal scarring. So, we’ll see. I’m not sure what I’m going to do but I really hate that the choices of my youth are affecting me now! Haha, I mean, it’s all good, I suppossssssssse. 😉 Hope you’re having a great week!

    1. Hey love, wow I had no idea you had a tattoo on your stomach! It’s funny how steadfast, determined and “invincible” we felt we were when we were younger… and then have to live with the mistakes we made. Oops. I really hope I can figure something out – maybe that Kat von D stuff really is worth trying 🙂 I hope you’re having a great week too! xx

  6. You have a very nice back, for what it’s worth… but I am a bit of a sucker for that whole region. The curves… aah… *sighs*

    Another stylised letter is probably the easiest/quickest, but probably not the best-looking. Could easily become a D, T, I, P, or perhaps something symbolic involving those letters. T = scales… judgment… etc…!

    Just going to stare at your back for a bit more!

    1. LOL well thank you 🙂 The scales idea is a good one but I don’t want to have anything to do with judgment on my body – even justice would make me feel like I got “revenge” when that’s not something I want to portray or feel. I’d feel a bit cheap getting it made into another letter I think too :S

  7. I’ll see if I can draw something up…. its been a long time since i’ve drawn, due to the crippliing arthritis my 14 hour artistic sessions have burdened me with, which is why i hung up my pencil in the first place, but the odd dabble would be nice, I designed my back piece…. 6 butterflies for 6 years of… well… you know the story, and a curvy road for wherever life takes me…

    Although my back is far from finished… I can fully relate to this, the first tattoo i got ‘he’ bought me… fully regret that! but i keep it to remind me to make my own decisions…

    And… i don’t know if its true, having never been in the position to need to get one removed but i read an article a few months ago about some thing they tattoo into your tattoo to drawn the ink out … as i say i don’t know if its true as i never looked into it any further as i didn’t need to… but it might be worth a once over

      1. i wouldn’t have offered if i didn’t want to do it 😀 i love tattoos… my next one is from right should to right hip and will be Kanji of shotokan karate-do… basically, Shotokan, way of the empty hand, so i can draw strength from it when I’m training and a permenant commitment to Karate 😀

  8. I can’t be of much help because I’ve never really been into tattoos, and I can’t see myself ever getting one, but I do wish you luck in transforming your current one into a design that better fits your life now. I can totally understand why you want to do it, esp. before your wedding, and I hope you come across something you really like that will work with what’s already there. 🙂 Share it with us when you decide!

  9. how do you feel about colour?

    i’m personally not a huge fan of black and white tattoos, unless they’re portraits. why not cover up a black tattoo of a dark time in your life with an explosive colour tattoo?

    the phoenix idea is great, especially if you’re looking for a fairly simple backpiece… i can find you some pretty awesome pictures, if you want.

    you’ll likely have to keep the body colours dark to actually cover the old tattoo, but make everything else pop with bright colours!

    in terms of the time (7 hours total), be sure to find a light-handed, fast artist with lots of experience with the type of tattoo you want. too bad you don’t live near me, i’d have so many artists to suggest 😦

    good luck honey, let me know if you need any help 🙂

    1. I’m undecided on how I feel about colour to be honest – I love the detailing you can get in black and white tattoos, plus black goes with everything lol! I REALLY like the idea of covering up the dark and turning into a burst of colour – would be very fitting for how life has panned out since then 🙂 I would love to see some pictures if you found any! Thank you so much! 🙂

  10. Hmm … this is a tough one. I understand your reason for wanting to transform your tattoo into something new rather than get it removed but I can’t come up with any good tattoo ideas. Sorry, lady!

  11. wow em I really like the phoenix idea. it seems perfect for you! best of luck, i know you’re a tough cookie so you can do it, and remember it’s worth it in the end… better to have something you love and are proud to show off than being stuck with something that represents such a dark time in your life. i love what elle said about covering up the dark and exploding into something bright and representative of your life now. which is bright, colourful and shining! please share with us whatever you decide!

  12. Okay so I don’t have much advice on the whole tattoo thing since I don’t have one, but I wanted to tell you that I think you are stunning. And although I don’t know exactly what happened in your past I think your attitude about all of it is incredible. The fact that you are/have completely turned your life around is inspiring. I hope that you figure something out for your tattoo because it would be great to have something to show you everyday how you’ve turned your life around (I like the idea of the Phoenix too!).

    Can’t wait to see what you post next. 😀
    Ashley
    awfulbeautifuldisarray.blogspot.com

    1. Oh my gosh! Thank you so much for your kind, sweet comment. It really made my day 🙂 I really hope I can figure something out for the tattoo too. I looked into laser removal today and though less expensive than a re-do, I’m drawn more to having something to show what I talked about. 🙂 Really looking forward to checking out your blog now too. Thank you so much for your kind words and for taking the time to stop by 🙂

    1. I’m glad you liked it – unfortunately I can’t take credit; it was something along those lines from The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren 🙂 It is so true!

    1. I think anywhere that’s not directly over the bone isn’t so bad. Don’t go for back or thigh or feet… neck isn’t so bad, honestly, or anywhere fleshy 🙂

  13. Wow! That is some tattoo, and some story. I’ve been in those bad news bears relationships and they are no good. Luckily I am too much of a whimp to get a tattoo, so I never did. I think a phoenix would be perfect. I don’t know how it would work though. I would consult a few tattoo artists. Good luck!

  14. You definitely should do the phoenix idea. You’re brave for tolerating that for HOURS! I have 2 small tattoos on my feet and it didn’t take any longer than 20 minutes, WHEW! I was sweating and ready to KICK the tattoo artist in the face. lol

    1. LOL foot tattoos make me squeamish at the thought – they look lovely (I’d love to see yours!) but they’re so bony I can’t imagine NOT flinching and kicking them in the face!!

  15. I was hoping to comment here with something helpful as I saw this yesterday and thought about it, but I’ve failed.

    I’m stuck on what tattoo I’m getting next though so maybe that’s why.

  16. wow, that phoenix would be gorgeous if there was a way to convert your existing tattoo. 🙂 is there a way to do some removal and a new tattoo?

  17. Mmmh, I am the wrong person when it comes to tattoo advice because I don’t have one myself.

    I agree with the above comment though. Maybe you should talk to a really really good tattoo artist about options and his/her ideas on covering up your existing tattoo with a new one. I think that would be great idea!

  18. I love the tree idea that Ashley mentioned. It would be fairly easy to design the trunk to cover the existing tattoo (and have the artist use white to lighten areas for bark if you want), and you could have a lot of freedom as far as the branches, leaves, flowers, birds, berries, whatever that goes on the top. 🙂 You could also just get the trunk/branches done before the wedding, and get the extra details added after so you don’t need to put as much time in.

    And trees are often seen as symbols of rebirth…

    If you want the phoenix, I think a colour one would probably “hide” the old tattoo better, especially if there’s a very detailed outline. Something to distract the eye from the “little” bits of black where colour should be so you see the whole image. Your best bet for this would be to talk to multiple artists and see what they say they can/can’t do and what they recommend.

    And while coloured tattoos may not “match”, I think only you and people who dislike tattoos will ever notice. :p A tattoo will speak for itself, regardless of what you’re wearing.

  19. as you know i recently covered up mine but it was extremely small and i stayed with the same theme. maybe you could take the design you have from the initials and make the phoenix out of that or have it coming through it? which ever artist you decide to go with they will be a lot of help and will design what ever you need. my advice is to pick where, and who, you will be having it done and then work from there. i’m afraid you will be looking at more than 7 hours unless you can work with what you already have! good luck and keep us posted!

  20. I, too, have a somewhat regrettable tattoo from an earlier time in my life. I’m glad it doesn’t have much emotional baggage, but it too, is solid black, so I’m stuck with figuring out how to change it and cover it up.

    I really like your idea of the phoenix or the idea of the Celtic tree of life, both of which could be incredibly symbolic for this time in your life.

    As to colour, I’m for it depending on what you get, but I think tribal and Celtic designs fare better in black. I just got a tattoo of a quill pen on the inside of my forearm, and it’s the first one I’ve done with colour. I like it, but I had a hard time figuring out if it was healing correctly at first. Maybe that’s just because I’m dumb. 🙂

  21. I don’t have any suggestions for you on what to get but I hope you find something beautiful to cover it with. Must admit I am glad I never got any tattoos because I somehow doubt my ability to pick something I’ll still like in 30 or 40 years.

  22. A thicker Phoenix! Like more coloured in?

    I love Phoenixes- I think it might be because I’m Asian, and Phoenixes are everywhere all the time, and it symbolizes everlasting love- or something towards that effect, but anyway, that’d be a great tattoo.

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