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Is Love Skin Deep?


WebMD Commentary from "Marie Claire" Magazine

By Sarah Robbins
Marie Claire magazine logo
One guy's scary body art puts his girlfriend to the test.


I met the man I love on the dance floor of a Bulgarian disco in New York City. It was the beginning of December; he wore a knit cap, a black sweater. We drank beer, boogied the way we thought Bulgarians might, and shared a taxi back to Brooklyn.

A couple of weeks later, on our third date, he made me dinner at his place. By then, I was really liking what I saw: a handsome, short-haired, glasses-wearing guy who owned his own business and attended the ballet with his mom. I was admiring the way he decorated his apartment with both framed photos and living plants when suddenly his lips were on mine. Kissing him was even more warm and wonderful than I'd imagined. Then he pulled off his sweater, and something came between us.

Technically, it was someone: a tattoo on his upper left arm of a vibrant, crazy, and most unmistakably skinless man. Not a skeleton, mind you; a man with no skin — just organs, graphically rendered in sickly red, orange, and yellow swirls. I was shocked by the aggressiveness of it. He'd seemed so ... normal. Gentle, even.

"What is that?" I blurted.

I regretted it right away. With those three words, our makeout session came to an abrupt end, as he pulled back, giving me the chance to sneak another look at that thing on his arm. Yes, there was no getting around it: a man made entirely of muscles and guts, with piercing green eyes.

"What, this?" he asked. "It's a tattoo."

Uh, yeah. It was actually the biggest, brightest, scariest piece of body art I'd ever seen close up. "But what ... is it?" I inquired, a little more gently this time. "What does it mean?"

He tried to explain: It had something to do with his interest in the medieval artist Hieronymus Bosch. And there was a mention of total respect for the tattoo artist. Oh, and, "These designs are exactly what brain synapses look like..."

I wanted to like it — to dig the anatomical accuracy and artistry — because I liked him. But the truth is, it was a turnoff. Skeletons and synapses? No thanks. While my mind reeled, he kept talking.

"...And I can't wait to finish it."

Turned out, he hadn't had time yet to complete his masterpiece.

When my friends heard the story, they reminded me that not only are tattoos totally common (more than a third of 20-somethings have at least one), but ink is, for many, a big turn-on. Bottom line, they said: A tattoo, no matter how weird, should not be a deal-breaker. The guy had too many other great qualities. Plus, it was still winter — there were plenty of months of sweater weather ahead of us.

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