I recently met a wonderful woman, we had a couple of dates and one thing led to another. When we were undressed I was dismayed to see she has several tattoos, including angel wings across her lower back. She worked in Ibiza during the 1990s heyday of the ‘rave’ scene.
I don’t know why I find this so off-putting – it’s not at all her racy past, it’s just the tattoos. They have started to blur, and just don’t look great on a 50-year-old body. This would be such a petty reason for not leaning into the most promising relationship I’ve had for years; I wouldn’t dream of saying anything to her. But it’s bothering me on a visceral level, to the extent that I don’t think I am firing on all cylinders sexually. How can I get used to them?
— T, via email
Hmm. Tough one. I’m not sure what my overview is, so let’s take it point by point.
Firstly, I don’t think you should say anything to her about the way you feel. That’s not going to get rid of the tattoos, is it? You’ll only succeed in making her self-conscious and very possibly resentful. And the next time you’re in bed (assuming there is a next time), it’s going to be the (winged) elephant in the room.
On the other hand, in time it may be possible to gently initiate a casual discussion about her tattoos – without passing judgment. To her they will be stories, sketches of her life: ask about those stories, and maybe tease out how she feels about being reminded now of who she was, and what her (presumably more hedonistic) life was like, then.
Lots of people have tattoos removed once they begin to fade and blur, or when they simply grow tired of them. It may be that your girlfriend is independently moving towards the conclusion that it’s time to do something about hers, and will be open to a conversation about that. Or she may love them and deeply resent any suggestion that they’re past their sell-by. So you’re going to have to tread extremely carefully, my friend.
If she wants to keep them, I can only suggest you give yourself time. Regular exposure should desensitise you, at least to an extent. Meanwhile if you do initiate a conversation about this, remember: T is not just for ‘tattoo’ – it’s for ‘tact’ too.
You can find more of Richard Madeley’s advice here or submit your own dilemma below.