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.