I Got A Tattoo In A Foreign Country & It Didn't Turn Out Like I Expected At All

Ariana Marsh

Three weeks ago, I Googled something that I (and my parents) hoped I would never have to: “tattoo removal cost.” I had a freshly-inked rose on my upper right arm and though I had approved of it before it was permanently needled into my skin two hours prior, my sentiments had changed. “Why the f*ck did I say yes to a design I wasn’t in love with?” I’d asked myself.

In the moment, I had been overcome with excitement at the prospect of getting a new piece. And to be honest, I hadn’t wanted to offend the artist who had drawn up three versions of the small flower I had asked for by ultimately saying no thank you to all of them and walking out. Wasting an hour of his time by deciding against something I didn’t love and would have on my body for life? Not a chance! Facepalm.

If you’ve ever gotten a tattoo you regretted then you know the sinking feeling of seeing it in its finished state and immediately wishing you could rewind the last one to four hours of your life. It slowly crystallizes in your brain that this new motif or phrase on your body is there forever, and if you’re not in love with it, it feels foreign, unwelcome, cringy. You obsess over it, looking at it in the mirror every two minutes and text your friends photos hoping they’ll respond by saying, “I actually love it!” rather than, “It’s not that bad.” I would know, because I’ve been through this super fun process twice now.

Ariana Marsh

I got the aforementioned rose in Buenos Aires, where I lived for a month. I’m traveling for the entirety of 2018 and the Argentinian capital was my first stop, so I wanted to commemorate it in some way. Naturally, I chose my body to house the memento. I already have a sunflower and poppy tattoo on my right wrist, so I decided to keep with the garden theme and get a small rose, which represents new beginnings, on my upper arm. I wanted it to be very small, very realistic, and very subtle. What I got instead was a tattoo about two inches in height that looks like a skilled doodler’s interpretation of a rose-like bloom. Not ugly, by any means, but certainly not the dainty thing I had fully intended on leaving the city with.

The rose is my sixth tattoo, though I only have five on my body. As I mentioned, I’ve had tattoo regret before. When I was in college I had wanted a dandelion on my wrist with a few of its seeds blowing off into the wind (CREATIVE), but had ended up with something that looked like a mix of shattered glass and spilled ink. It was awful. I left the shop with a feeling of contrite sheepishness for not having thought out the design further and for moving ahead with something I wasn’t in love with just for the exciting sake of getting a tattoo.

I had anguished over my new splotch for months, detesting it more each time I showered, wore short sleeves, or extended my hand out. I spent hours of my life scolding myself for having gotten it and wondering how long it would be before I could afford to get it lasered off. But eventually, it was on my mind less and less until one day, I simply stopped thinking about it. It had become part of my body, just another marking that I’d gotten used to seeing on myself. No, I still didn’t like it, but I’d come to realize I noticed it more than anyone else and that in the end, having an ugly splotch on your wrist is really quite a trivial issue. I hadn’t gotten something that was misspelled or vulgar or giant on my body so, quite simply, I got over it.

I did ultimately get the splotch covered up, but not until two years later, when I had decided to get a new piece in honor of my grandparents. The splotch fit perfectly as the center of the sunflower (my grandma’s favorite flower) and thanks to the genius that is New York-based tattoo artist Cheo Park (he’s done two of my tattoos and they are my favorites!) the ugly dandelion blossomed into a gorgeous bouquet.

Ariana Marsh

Remembering that first tattoo mishap has provided some consolation as I try not to over stress about my recent fluke. I know that over time I will grow to accept my rose as a part of my body. I am already on that track and have come to like it a little more each day, even loving how it looks with certain things I wear. Aesthetically, it’s not what I wanted, but it does represent the tattoo style that’s prevalent in Buenos Aires, which arguably makes it a more authentic souvenir?

Beyond that, it makes for a great story. When my grandkids ask their tatted up Grammie what the rose and all of her other tattoos mean one day, she will skyrocket in cool points. She will tell them about traveling the world, the importance of speaking up on your own behalf, and what happens when you have no impulse control. And she will still encourage them — behind their mother’s back, of course — to get a tattoo and wear a story of their own.