Dear Father Tony,
Last week, I did something I have wanted to do for years. I did it while my partner was away on business for a week. I got my first tattoo. It's a really sensuous green serpent that winds around my shoulder and ends with its forked tongue flicking my nipple. I decided that I would do this as a surprise for my partner, "J", but when I came home and revealed it, "J" went through the roof.
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Furious that I did this secretly without sharing the idea. We had a huge fight. It's not over. I think I have a right to my own body and what goes on it. I had always pictured my lover's hands moving over my body following the serpent down to my nipple. Well I don't think that's ever going to happen and the whole thing is ruined. Was I wrong to do this? I don't think so, but what do I do to fix this mess?
Oh my. You've really gone and done something that is rather irreversible, haven't you? Although it is my understanding that ink can be removed, I think there is always some palimpsest of the scrubbed image. Plus, you are right to suspect that the memory of the argument may always deflate the shared enjoyment you had envisioned.
What is most interesting to me is that nowhere in your letter do I receive any indication of your sex, your age or the length of your partnership. Did you conceal those things on purpose? Nevermind. Only one of those three, the length of your partnership, is important.
I think you made a big mistake by not involving your partner in the process of getting this tattoo. I also think that claiming to have rights over your own body is not an applicable argument in this case.
If your partner had demanded that you get a tattoo, you would certainly have the right to refuse on the grounds that your body is indeed your own, but you should have enlisted your partner in the excitement you felt in planning this.
I think you should have said "Honey, you know I've always wanted a tattoo. I want to get one in the week that you are gone. I have a design in mind but I want it to be a surprise. OK?"
Or, you could have gotten you partner's complete participation in the design/selection and execution of the art. That certainly would have eliminated any possible argument.
Don't you just hate it when you think your partner is going to be thrilled with something you did and it turns out that they are just totally not? That seems to be what happened here, or did you know your partner would protest the tattoo and did you deliberately keep it a secret because of that?
You and your partner now have to come to terms with something that is not going away. This will take work. Apologize profusely. Show your regret. Talk it out. Give it time. And someday, with luck, when you are making love, you will place your partner's hand on the serpent and move those fingers along the image all the way to your nipple. Your partner should get the idea and the heat of the moment should prevail. With work, you'll be able to turn a bad memory into a shared delight.
And for the record, I'm guessing you both are a fairly new couple. If you can survive this unfortunate turn of events, I hope you will use it to understand each other more deeply so that you don't repeat the same mistake again. And whatever you do, don't try to make amends by surprising your partner with an "I love you, J" tattoo.