Is It Okay To Tell Your Significant Other You Don’t Like Their Tattoos?

So, I was talking to a friend the other night about the subject of his significant other’s tattoos. Specifically: the shittiness of said tattoos. Apparently, his girlfriend has a patchwork of random crap on her arm that is the visual equivalent of noise pollution. There’s an especially dumb one on her back that stares up at him each time they do it doggy style, as if to say, “which is more permanent? Our love or this shitty tattoo?” He asked me, a tattooed person, if there was anything he could say without offending his beloved, who is otherwise wonderful and perfect in every way. This gave me pause.

Normally, my answer would be no. Tattoos are personal, people get what they like, yada yada. What’s she going to do, have them all lasered off? But there are some things that could be done. The lightest among them could easily be covered up with something better. And elements could be added to the currently random hodgepodge on her arm to help unify it into a sleeve of sorts.

With this in mind, is it okay to offer constructive criticism? I’m pretty sure it varies from relationship to relationship. How attached is your lover to his stupid tattoos? Is he open to criticism on other topics? Do you have any authority whatsoever on the topics of art, design, or body modification? Who usually wins when you have a fight? Can he be coerced into doing something merely because you want him to, or must you threaten him with society’s judgments? I’m not just talking about mainstream society, either. Tattoo artists are probably the harshest critics of poorly planned out work, especially if you were super drunk when you stumbled into that shady shop on St. Mark’s Place. (No self-respecting artist will tattoo a visibly drunk person.)

Then again, some shitty tattoos are great. What begins as an inside joke can become a lifelong memento of the night you and your friend laughed so hard you almost peed your pants. They’re not for me personally, but I think the general public underestimates the capacity of someone to love a terrible tattoo for the duration of his or her life.

I guess I haven’t really answered my friend’s question, except to say to tread carefully. That wonky little Tasmanian devil might mean more to her than you think. You knew what you were getting into when you fell for her, and trying to change her appearance likely won’t win you any points, unless you live inside a production of My Fair Lady. Which, for the record, would be awesome. Can I visit you there? I think I would like that very much.

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    • Cassieleigh

      Ha! My husband says that my tattoo isn’t a tattoo at all: that I merely drew something on my arm with a gel pen. I got it after we were married though. All things in this scenario are permanent.

    • Eileen

      I think it depends on why he doesn’t like it. Is it racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive? Bring it up. Is it just ugly? Leave it alone.

      On the off chance she has a face tattooed on her back that he feels is looking at him during sex, maybe don’t criticize, but suggest that she cover it while they’re doing doggy style, because that would be kind of disconcerting.

    • Lindsey

      I think it would be rude to mention it. It’s not like too-loud makeup or a stupid hat. She can’t choose to suddenly not have that it. And even if it could be covered up, it could be quite expensive. You wouldn’t say, “Your nose is ugly, get plastic surgery!”

      Maybe he should find the reasoning behind her tattoos? That way, if he chooses to criticize her tattoos he’s not accidentally making fun of her dead cousin or something.

      • Lindsey

        Then again, if it is just ugly maybe he could offer to help pay for a touch-up/cover-up for her birthday or something?

    • Daisy

      As a tattooed person myself, I think I really wouldn’t like criticism on any choices that I made for life. Commenting on it in a negative way would kind of imply that you question if he or she actually THOUGHT about getting something permanently written on his or her body. Unless she has mentioned herself that she got something without giving much thought to it (and hopefully being able to laugh about it), they probably mean something to her. And if she’s not talking about getting them removed or altered or covered up, she’s probably still happy with them.
      I believe it would be a difficult thing to be casual about or just brush off, since, as was said before, she can’t exactly do anything about it now. The problem isn’t going to solve itself by him commenting on those tattoos, it’s only going to create more issues. So why go there? Suck it up, I’d say.

      • Esau

        I think an embarrassingly stupid tattoo prominent on a girl’s back (say, a misspelled word) would be one of the biggest boner killers imaginable. It would suggest not just bad taste, but a sort of careless, unabashed overall stupidity. Girls, please think twice about what the guys mounting you are going to have to stare at. Every single time. For the rest of both your lives (or at least the duration of your relationship).

        I don’t know what the guy in the post can do about this situation, other than playfully suggest she wear really hot, strategically concealing lingerie, every single time. Or boink in the dark. Or close his eyes and think of England.

    • Meghan Sara

      NO NO NO UNEQUIVOCALLY NO it is never okay. It’s part of their body. Like a nose, or a forehead, or a bald spot, or uneven breasts. If you tell them you hate their tattoos, or their cankles, what are they supposed to do? Undergo expensive and painful surgery to alter their appearance for your approval? NO.