I steeled myself in advance for the pain I thought was sure to come. My tattoo, on my left wrist, was a red heart outline with my then-husband’s initials in the middle in black. With our divorce imminent, there was no way I could live the rest of my life with that man’s initials on my body, so I decided to keep the red heart outline and fill it in with black ink.
When I got the original tattoo (my third) a few years earlier as a spontaneous birthday gift for the husband, it hurt like hell. I didn’t cry, but it took effort for me not to ask for a break. Having all of that space filled in with ink on my fragile little wrist would be nothing less than torture. But in my writerly head I had decided that I could get through it because whatever physical pain was to come would be no match for the emotional/psychological pain of divorce.
When I got to the tattoo shop and told the tattoo artist what I wanted, he asked me what inspired the cover-up, so I told him about the impending divorce. “Men ain’t shit,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone. We chatted a bit about the ain’t-shitness of men and the importance of staying positive as he worked his way from the edges of the heart inward. The dull buzz of the needle has always been a soothing sound for me and as it hummed away in the background, I barely registered any pain.
Finally he got to the actual initials in the middle and he asked if I was ready. I nodded “yes” and looked away as my ex’s initials were swallowed up into a heart of blackness. The whole ordeal was much less painful than getting the original tattoo. I attribute that to the mind being a powerful and magical thing. I had already decided that getting the cover-up was a necessary part of my personal journey rather than some insurmountable blob of pain blocking my happiness.
All of my tattoos have something to do with love and this filled-in heart is my hands down favorite. It’s bold, it’s badass and it’s meaningful. I’m very happy with the end result, but some of my friends asked if I regretted getting the original tattoo since I ended up covering it. The answer to that is an emphatic “No.”
I was madly in love when I got that tattoo. It was a genuine expression of the depth of my affection and devotion to him and our partnership. That whole partner thing ended up not working out obviously, but that does not at all diminish my earnestness and passion at the time. I appreciate that I love hard.
Someone said to me that it was appropriate to get a black fill-in for my heart tattoo because that’s probably how I felt about love after the whole divorce thing. Nope. Clearly that person was associating the color black with something negative.
Again, my writer's brain comes to the rescue. For me, the red outline represents the rawness on the edge of my heart that whatever suitor would have to carefully and gently navigate before diving into the depthless leagues of my love. The black ink is not negative space, it’s infinite space. I’ll take it back to the 1960s and say “Black is beautiful.”
Have you ever had to get a tattoo modified? Did you like the end result? Do tell!