Dear E. Jean: After my boyfriend’s dog passed away, he decided to get a tattoo in its memory. I personally don’t see the value in tattoos, but I was open to discussing with him some art and placement options that would make us both happy.
However, he went to the tattoo parlor and called me with “the final idea.” I hated it! I begged him beyond the limits of pride not to do it. But he got it anyway! It’s been a week now, and I can’t even look at the tattoo on the top of his shoulder—making intimacy a struggle. He won’t consider removing it. Instead, he’s offering to pay for couples therapy to help me “get over it.” I’m having trouble with what this means for other decisions we’ll make together in the future. Oh, and the tattoo is of a carrot. —Feeling He Doesn’t Carrot at All
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Miss Feeling: I love you, you charming half-wit, but every single little thing about your letter annoys Auntie Eeee. Your boyfriend—poor chap!—loses the only being on earth who would have loved him if he’d come home with a head of Bibb lettuce tattooed on his face. And you are unhappy because he didn’t heed your “placement options”? By God! The dog was more loyal to your boyfriend than you are! Stop wagging your tongue about “art and placement” and let the man mourn. His friend is dead!
As for the tattoo? Honey, that ink has dried. Cease bewailing vegetables beyond your control. Ask him either to ink his other shoulder in tribute to you—I suggest a cabbage—or to wear a T-shirt in bed. The carrot irks you because it reminds you that he loved a creature almost as much as he loves you, and that you picked the wrong fight.
You can’t tell a chap what—or what not—to put on his own body. (Just as a chap who tries to tell you to lose 10 pounds should receive a swift kick in his symbolisms.) So until you loosen up and let your imagination romp—until you learn to step into the shoes of another person and view the world from his perspective, all the couples therapy in the world won’t help you to understand the suffering of your fellow man.
This letter is from the Ask E. Jean Archive, 1993-2017. Send questions to E. Jean at E.Jean@AskEJean.com.