Marked for Life

This might blow your mind, but sometimes getting a tattoo is a really, really bad idea.

It's a Friday, and you know what Friday means? Beers, bars and the banter bus. You know what the final destination of the banter bus is? Getting a tattoo that you'll massively regret for the rest of your life! Here are some stories of tattoos just like that.

Illustrations by Sam Taylor. Follow him on Twitter @sptsam or visit his website at samtaylorillustrator.com.


I was on holiday in Hanoi a couple of years ago with a bunch of friends and we were told about this snake village where you can kill and eat snakes. That wasn't what sold us on it because obviously that's fucking gross, but we thought we'd go and have a look anyway. Arriving there, we found out they had a challenge at the bar to down five vodka shots with snake heart chasers for each. I bet my friend that he couldn't complete the challenge, wagering a hand-designed tattoo by whoever won the bet for the loser to get.

He completed the challenge. Somehow. One of the hearts looked like it was still beating. It still makes me feel sick thinking about it. Anyway, because he won I had to get a tattoo of his design. His design was supposed to be a snake and took up the entire top half of my arm, but it didn't really look anything like a snake. In fact, it looked more like a snotty, crumpled handkerchief with eyes and a long flickering tongue.    

I didn't want to go back on my word, so we headed to a tattoo parlour and got the guy at the shop to tattoo straight over the penned design on my arm. I woke up the next morning with a smudged out, blurry mess of ink on my arm – something I still haven't covered up because it's literally impossible to do anything to it without making it look even worse. We walked back to the shop the next day to see if I could get some saline solution or antiseptic, or whatever you're supposed to put on fresh tattoos.  

The guy who'd done my tattoo was busy sweeping up outside the shop, which didn't strike me as particularly odd, but as soon as I began showing him the tattoo, his manager leapt up out of his chair and started screaming at the guy. Turns out he was just an assistant who'd never tattooed anyone before in his life. So I now have potentially the worst designed tattoo in the history of ink and needles tattooed on me by someone who'd never used a tattoo gun before. Moral of the story: don't drink snake hearts. 


I was at a party one night and my friend showed up a with a tattoo machine he'd just bought. Reading it back, that sentence might be the epitome of ominous. Anyway, we all drank loads and did a bunch of K and, I guess, thought it would be hilarious to draw all over each other with this machine, kind of like it was a biro or a paint brush. Obviously none of us had a clue what we were doing.

I woke up the next morning with "cunt" on one knee and "fuck" on the other and was, to tell the truth, a bit relieved. It wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been, right? Unfortunately I then felt an intense stinging on my tummy and reluctantly pulled up my shirt to reveal a very, very badly scrawled skull covering my entire stomach. My body was kind of ruined. Four hours later I also discovered an upside down crucifix tramp-stamp on my back. I don't take my shirt off in public any more.


One of my first tattoos was "Cherchez Le" on my forearm, after my favourite Ghostface song. It wasn't a fad teen thing, either – I grew up to become a proper music journalist with payment for my writing and everything. Then, amazingly, I got to interview Ghostface. I walked up, mumbled how much I'd "loved his music forever" and pulled down my sleeve to proudly display the tattoo.

Peering down, he immediately told me it was supposed to say "Cherchez La". Not only did I feel like I'd somehow let him down, I had to spend the entire interview tugging my sleeve down so it wouldn't suddenly reappear and cause further humiliation. Plus, I'm now one of those people with a grammatically incorrect tattoo on me forever. Put me on the internet and let people comment about what a dickhead I am.


There's a pub I always drink in called The Old Ship, which used to frequently have amazing lock-ins where you could hang out and drink for free. One night, this one guy who was in there by himself came over and started talking to me and my group of friends like we'd all been best friends for years. We got on pretty well (it would have been hard not to by that point), and hung out together until it was nearing 4AM.

At that point, he announced that he was going to leave to buy some more coke, but would be back before we knew it. The sun was coming up, the birds were coming out and we knew it. We also knew that this guy had been gone much longer than it takes to buy cocaine. Almost two and a half hours later, he came crashing through the doors thrusting his arm at us. While he'd been out, he'd figured it a good idea to go and get "The Old Ship: That's How we Roll" tattooed in huge script the whole way down his forearm and was desperate for us to all go out and get matching tattoos with him.

By this point we were all deathly sober and getting ourselves together for the working day that was approaching us couple hours down the line. The lingering image I have of him is closing the front door as he racked up three lines for himself with his cling-filmed arm glistening in the morning light.


I was in the army for four years, but – and this may surprise you – I'm still a relatively not-insane guy. The problem is, after I quit I became kind of obsessed with proving to people that I was still "chill", even though part of my job was firing a gun at people for extended periods of time. Anyway, I was on holiday last year and I met this guy who wouldn't stop going on about how all soldiers must be nuts and how he doesn't understand why anyone would ever sign up. For some reason, rather than getting furious, I got overly defensive and tried to prove myself by talking about Led Zeppelin and Moroccan hash.

After sharing a bottle of tequila, the matter was resolved by my announcement that I was going to get a picture of Saddam Hussein smoking a bong tattooed on my chest. I have no fucking idea what it means, but somehow the guy and me came to the conclusion that if I got this tattoo, all of my sins would be absolved. Finally I managed to escape back to my room, where I stared in wonder at the fucking monstrosity I'd just had permanently inked on my body. It remains the worst decision I've ever made, and I hope that stays the case for the duration of my life.

Illustrations by Sam Taylor. Follow him on Twitter @sptsam or visit his website at samtaylorillustrator.com.

More stories:

Drugs Can Also Be a Lot of Fun

Foolish Festival Follies

Home Town Heroes

The Best Worst Idea You've Ever Had