Slice of Life: When ink is more than skin deep

The composition was clumsy. The placement was unflattering. 

Simply put, the design was just boring. I tried to convince her to consider other designs. She held firm.

“Please can we put it somewhere else?”

But she wouldn’t budge. She wanted it just above her ankle. The placement was poor and didn’t complement her.

The real issue was not skin deep, however.

A family member had recently died and this was her moment to memorialise him. It was a generic and bulky symbol with some script next to it. I did my best to steer her towards something more elegant. Something I believed she would be proud to have as a tribute.

Looking back now, with years of experience, I would never be pressured into going through with such a piece if I knew better. But back then, I didn’t know I could do that. I didn’t have the same level of confidence. I was yet to learn that my opinion was as important as my clients’.

She chatted constantly while in the chair. Clearly emotional, it soon became clear that she had come to see me more as a psychologist than an artist. She was pleased with the outcome. I was not.

When she walked into the shop a few months later for a touch-up, I was terrified. Was she going to complain about the tattoo I should probably never have agreed to make?

During the following session, I was extremely nervous.

My doubts and anxiety about the piece had never faded away and I was terrified that she, too, had adopted them. My trepidation revealed itself as silence. My lack of counsel and unusually reticent attitude did not go down well with her. Soon after, my boss got a complaint in his inbox about me. Not about the bad design, but my “unprofessional” and shitty attitude!

Reflecting on the private details she shared, it became clear that
the first time I saw her wasn’t meant to be a tattoo appointment but a therapy session, and there was no need to be apprehensive about the piece I’d given her; that was never her real concern. — Lauren Peachfish, as told to Luke Feltham

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham

Luke Feltham runs the Mail & Guardian's sports desk. He was previously the online day editor.


Border walls don’t stop viruses, but a blanket amnesty might

Why South Africa should consider amnesty for undocumented migrants in the time of the coronavirus outbreak.

Mail & Guardian needs your help

Our job is to help give you the information we all need to participate in building this country, while holding those in power to account. But now the power to help us keep doing that is in your hands

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories