It isn’t true that we regret our tattoos – well, not all of them, anyway. I'm very fond of the tasteful one on my left arm, but the big one on my right arm was a mistake. I think I knew it several years ago - on the day I got it, in fact.
About 10cm long, a Celtic design in which a dog and a bird entwine, it was originally all in black, but the lines leached into each other after a couple of years, and it became an unsightly black blob. The solution? Oh, add some more ink to it, of course! Some glorious living colour! Silly cow, that was Mistake #2!** (see below)
And the result? A muddy, multi-coloured blob. Bugger. Even worse, a muddy, multi-coloured blob that I would carry with me forever. I could kiss sleeveless shirts goodbye at work. Teaching is a fairly conservative profession, us being role models and all for the yoof of today. Young, hip, tattooed bloke teachers seem to get away with it. Middle-aged ex-Navy men get away with it. Middle-aged lady teachers - even 'big bad biker' ones - raise eyebrows, and, I suspect, sympathy levels. The fact that I wasn't middle-aged when I got it is now completely irrelevant.
Every trip to buy something nice to wear to a special occasion involves a certain amount of embarrassment as shop ladies, especially those under 25, look askance at my upper arm - sometimes horrified, sometimes curious, sometimes smugly superior. I can hear their thoughts:
What the hell is THAT supposed to be?
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear...
I've tried to make myself feel better by telling myself no woman over 50 should wear sleeveless things anyway. I shouldn’t inflict my bingo wings, nanna flaps, tuckshop arms (and my personal favourite, although I couldn’t find its spelling anywhere- fladoobidas) – on anybody.
And then I had an epiphany, and used my friend Google to find Laser X Tattoo Removals. They come down to Canberra every month –and there’s no shortage of people keen to remove bits of ink from their flesh.
My journey began yesterday. Realistically, with one treatment every 8 weeks, it could take a couple of years. I may be seriously old before it's gone. So, is it worth it? It remains to be seen, but I'll give it a go. If there's no appreciable difference in 6 months, I may abandon the idea.
It hurt my hip pocket - it's going to cost about 10 times what the original work did. It also hurt my arm more than the original tattooing. The laser makes a crackly noise, and stings like mad, but there's no smell of singed flesh or anything horrible like that, and it's really quick. One treatment took less than about 3 minutes. The swelling will take a few days to go down, and the area still feels hot, 18 hours later.
**On the downside - if you can possibly consider pain, swelling and potential bankruptcy an 'up'side, that is - there’s no guarantee that the blues and greens will actually come out. Red and black respond well to the laser, but blues and greens don't - something about colour wavelength. Anyway, watch this space… Perhaps they'll develop a new laser that can get those tricky blues and greens out one day. In the meantime, if the best I can hope for is something faded enough to cover easily with that make-up people use on birthmarks, well...