It seems like a good idea at the time. You are in love, you get those butterflies in your tummy when you see him, her or them and you are sure this is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.
So you ink their name on your body, as a permanent way of showing your love.
And then you break up and you are left with a tattoo reminder of your biggest mistake.
It's happened to ordinary South Africans and celebrities alike. Some have learnt this lesson the hard way and Siphokazi Nzimande* is one of them.
At 19, Siphokazi was ready to have those imaginary kids with her boyfriend and wanted nothing more than to have a tattoo of his name on her body. But she comes from a very religious family and her mother would have probably wanted to peel her skin off to get rid of the tattoo, so young Siphokazi thought the best place to get this tattoo on her private parts in the groin area, seven months into the relationship.
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“Getting the tattoo there was so convenient. I thought it was a brilliant idea, I could express my love and my mom would never find out. I was so excited, I shaved and got ready for the big day, and I did not even tell my boyfriend what I planned to do.
“The tattoo artist asked me if I was sure and I said I was so he did it. I mean this guy was my first real functional boyfriend, I was certain he was my forever, and I was wrong.”
Siphokazi says she can laugh about it now but it was not funny when it happened 10 years ago. The boyfriend cheated on her about three or four months after she got his initials tattooed on.
“I went back to the tattoo artist, and he covered it up with a heart and musical signs,” she laughs.
Now as an adult, the Johannesburg woman says she realizes that it wasn’t the best idea but at the time she was young and in love and it made sense to her. She says the initial tattoo was not painful but she experienced a bit of pain with the cover-up because of the shading on the heart.
“I was not excruciating pain, it was bearable. I then got another tattoo on my ribs but that is not anybody’s name, it says love conquers. I would like to get more tattoos in the future.”
Now as a mother of two, she says she would never even get her children’s names tattooed on her body, saying that she will leave that to their partners when they have grown up.
She's not the only one who went through such an experience. Vocal powerhouse Kelly Khumalo had a matching tattoo with her ex, Chad, which she tattooed over.
Tattoo artist Miranda Bester says she has had to do many cover-up tattoos in her studio and often asks how long people have been together and whether they are sure about inking their partners' names on before doing it.
“Sometimes girls come in with new relationships that are two months old and if they say they are sure then I proceed. I have tattooed a lady who was crying when I was halfway through because she said she wasn’t sure if the relationship was going to last. She never came back so I hope they are alright.
“I do the cover-up based on the person’s personality. There is a lady who once needed a cover-up of her ex-partner’s name and I turned that into a tree because she was an adventure and outdoorsy kind of person. I know a guy who had a portrait of his wife on his arm, and they divorced because she cheated. The tattoo was too big to cover up so he got another tattoo of a dog pissing and so it looks like the dog is pissing on her head,” she says.
Miranda says depending on the type of tattoo someone wants, it can cost R1 000 per hour to do and a laser tattoo removal can cost R1000 every 10 minutes. According to Miranda, the laser is more painful than the actual tattoos.
She also has a tattoo of her husband’s initials on her wedding ring finger and has a tattoo of a poem she wrote for him on her right leg.
The Pretoria-based artist says her husband of four years is a part of her love and even if they parted ways, she would not remove his initials, unless she was getting married again. They have been together for ten years.
“As an artist, the cover-up is a creative challenge, so I enjoy doing them because you have to be smart about it. What has become popular nowadays are couple tattoos which are when they both tattoo the same symbol on the same part of their bodies,” she adds.
*not her real name.