I Gave My Tattoo Artist The Wrong Roman Numerals, And Have Been Suffering From Intense Tattoo Regret Ever Since

Of all people, I should have known better.
Publish date:
October 7, 2014
tattoos, regrets

I wish this was a story about regretting a terrible looking tattoo I got while drunk/high, and/or a teenager, done with a ballpoint pen in a friend's basement. While tattoo regret isn't very much fun no matter the circumstances, I wish I had an excuse for mine, or at least a cool story to go along with it.

Nope, unfortunately, my tattoo nightmare happened at the age of 29, after having been collecting tattoos for nearly 10 years, after selecting my artist carefully, and choosing a subject that was near and dear to my heart -- my rescue dog, Leo.

Of all people, I should have known better. Having dated a tattoo artist for the better part of 2 years in my early twenties, I'd seen and heard it all -- the horror stories of misspelled words, kanji symbols that meant something entirely different than the client intended, names of former lovers, and even just bad, crappy artwork in general.

In fact, my very first tattoo was covered up with something bigger and better after a few years, when someone mistook my tiny peacock feather for a pickle. While the end result was beautiful, the cover-up process was quite frustrating and a little stressful, as it involved a couple sessions of laser removal -- you would think I'd have learned my lesson then!

I'd been considering getting a tattoo for Leo for a while, but was holding out until I had the perfect idea. I adopted him from a Los Angeles animal shelter in 2010, and cheesy as it may sound, over the years he has become my absolute best friend. As far as I know, he's a purebred Tibetan Spaniel, and lives up to his name by sporting a lion haircut year-round. Leo has brought me so much joy in the time we've spent together, that it was a no-brainer to get a little something tattooed to represent him.

The first idea that really stood out to me was to get Leo's serial number from the shelter, A1137033, tattooed somewhere on my forearm. Although I'd been a canvas for a couple of large-scale, multi-session pieces, I had yet to get anything on either arm, and was dead set on making it happen with this one. I found an artist that was close to my work at a shop that was highly reviewed online, and had been recommended to me by some friends. I booked an appointment for a couple weeks out, and since my work schedule had been pretty hectic, I was looking forward to a little pick-me-up amidst the stress of working two part-time jobs.

A couple of days before my appointment, I mentioned my idea to several friends, and a couple people warned me that the tattoo I was considering might look reminiscent of the tattoos given to victims of the Holocaust. That hadn't really crossed my mind, but seeing as two unrelated people mentioned it, I began rethinking the whole thing.

After some last minute brainstorming the night before, I decided instead to get my dog's adoption date, August 8, 2010, in Roman numerals. This way, I could still get it on my arm, and it would have pretty much the same meaning. (Side note: this is the first tattoo I've gotten that was actually supposed to MEAN something...figures it's the one that got all messed up). I'd had a couple glasses of wine when I looked up the numerals for said date, and sleepily scrawled them on my arm with a sharpie. It looked cool enough to me, and I was ready to go for it!

The next afternoon, I arrived at my appointment, and my artist asked me to write down exactly what I wanted so he could draw it up. I referenced the photo I'd taken of the sharpie drawing on my arm from the night before, and quickly double checked the "2010" part on my phone. I briefly considered asking the artist to double check everything for me as well, but decided I didn't want to bother him (durrr), and sat myself down in the chair.

The whole thing was over in what seemed like minutes. The artist wrapped it in plastic wrap, so it was easy to show it off immediately.

The first person to see this new tattoo was my boyfriend. I proudly presented my arm for his review, and he said, "So it's...7...7...2010?"

I felt my stomach drop and my face turn white. Who said anything about sevens? They're obviously EIGHTS -- Oh. My. God.

"Uhh," I choked out, "It's supposed to be 8-8...."

Suddenly I had flashbacks of my college music theory classes, where we used Roman numerals for the numbers 1 through 7 on a daily basis. CLEARLY those were sevens, and I had majorly fucked up. It was a very strange and surreal moment in my life where I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, or pass out. I frantically looked up the numeral for 8 on my phone in an attempt to hopefully prove him wrong, but of course it was in vain. I had just gotten the WRONG freaking tattoo

I went back in to see my artist right away, who said we could easily add another stem to each VII once the initial healing was over. While that made me feel a little better, all I wanted was to take it back. This was a real rookie mistake, and a sorry one to make as an educated, smart young woman.

I was so paranoid about getting the 2010 part right that I didn't even think to double check the eights. When I'd looked it up the night before, I must have glanced at the numeral for 7 instead, and that's what I went with without a second thought.

This tattoo was supposed to a little token of my dog that I could carry with me always, as he's easily one of the best things to happen in my life so far. As 7-7-2010 is totally insignificant to me, it doesn't remind me of my dog at all, it reminds me of that time I didn't check and double check the tattoo that will supposedly be with me for life.

While I realize that I am human and have the capacity to make mistakes, this whole experience has left me feeling like a gigantic idiot. While the tattoo itself isn't all that bad looking (aside from a pretty epic line blowout on the first VII), at this point I just want it off of me.

I'm not sure what my plan will be going forward. Although it's healed now, I am hesitant to fix it, as I don't want to risk making it look worse, and end up hating it even more than I already do. A cover-up is probably out of the question without lightening it some first, unless I want like, a solid black rectangle. Laser removal sounds REALLY good right now, but god, what a painful and pricey prospect (my first consultation calculated a cost of $1500-1900, and a time frame of two years).

Thankfully, no one will ever know they aren't the numbers I intended (except for everyone who reads this article, and everyone I've told so far, which is pretty much everyone who has seen the tattoo...oops), but that's not good enough. I want to be proud of and love all of my tattoos, and whatever outcome I choose as far as this one is concerned, I've got a long way to go.