Tattoos: Names can be an ‘iffy’ choice

Name tattoos are sometimes considered “iffy” choices due to the unpredictability of a relationship. Certainly, there have been individuals left with an ex’s name on their skin and memories that go deeper still. “Tattoos typically outlast the relationship,” says James Zehna of Sailor Jim’s Electric Tattoo in Logan. “I’ve only seen a few cases where the marriage has outlasted the tattoo, which takes about 30 to 40 years to fade.” For thousands of years, humans have been inserting ink into skin tissue to enhance beauty, show status, disclose religious beliefs, appear rebellious or proclaim love. “The reasons people do things are as unique as the people themselves,” Zehna says as he tattoos a client’s shoulder using his own tattoo-cloaked hands and arms. “I see my tattoos as a scrapbook of my life.” Tattoos can be seen as a permanent personal timeline or biography, displaying an individual’s life, priorities, joys, relationships, losses and sorrows. For USU student Shilah Morley and her friend Sally Hutcherson, identical tattoos behind their right ears preserve the memory of a late friend from Salt Lake. Inked in 2005, the words “Rest In Peace, Ed” written in Old English script pay tribute to Ed’s own artistic writing as well as his memory, said Morley, adding that she has no desire to get the tattoo removed. “He was an angel. The mark that he left needed to stick around.” In 2007, Pew Research Center found that 36 percent of people ages 18-25 and 40 percent of people ages 26-40 had tattoos. So with more than one-third of the population sporting ink, and more dermatologists advertising tattoo removal, are more people feeling regret? A 2003 online poll by Harris Interactive said 17 percent of people regretted having a tattoo. Of that percentage, most had tattoo remorse because it bore someone’s name. “The main thing is location, you have got to plan for the future,” says Zehna. Women usually put names on the ankle or shoulder blade, he says, while men typically reserve the chest area for names. “The chest is where you put the personal things. It’s the whole ‘close to your heart’ thing.” Zehna says tattooing a name or initial on the ring finger is a growing trend, but the name tattoos clients request most at Sailor Jim’s are those of their children or family surnames. “I have my last name because it’s obviously a big part of who I am,” said Jami Markovsky, a former USU student. The subtle white ink tattoo is in the arch of her right foot, a discreet location that she says keeps it more personal. “Any person on the street wouldn’t be able to notice it.” A name on someone’s wrist could serve as a declaration of undying love, or be a constant reminder of that unpleasant break-up five years ago. Markovsky says the pain, scarring and expense of tattoo removal is reason enough for never getting certain name tattoos in the first place. “I think it’s stupid,” Markovsky said. “If it’s your family, that’s one thing. But for a boyfriend or even a husband, I think it’s absolutely ridiculous because you don’t know what the future will hold or where that relationship is going to go.” An alternative to removal is to tattoo right over the top of an old one. “It’s kind of funny to cover up a name that you tattooed the year before, and told [a client] not to get,” says Zehna. But what if one is aching to have a moniker indelibly inked? “Do it small with thin script. Nothing big and bulky,” Zehna advises. “Get things that signify positive things in your life. You want a constant reminder of what’s positive.” And hope it remains so.

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