It's been a long time since we had a tattoo story here, but this is one I'd really prefer hadn't happened.
Remember Kimberley Vlaeminck? She was the Belgian teenager who claimed to have peacefully slept through the process of having a major facial tattoo.
Her initial assertion that she had only asked for three small stars near one eye but woke to find 56 of them covering half her face made international headlines, and the resulting furore made things so uncomfortable in Belgium for the tattoo artist, Rouslan Toumaniantz, that he decamped to Russia.
Now he's in the news again, having decorated the face of his (very) new girlfriend with his own name in four-inch black gothic script, making Kimberley's constellation look positively tame by comparison.
Objectively speaking, it's a fine piece of artwork; the trouble is that something like this never can be viewed purely objectively. Leaving aside the obvious question of what happens if - or when - the relationship ends, this girls has now been permanently and irrevocably marked as part of the tattooing sub-culture.
What I find most disturbing about this story is the weasel word that creeps into the reporting; 'persuaded'. The girl - Lesya - was already interested in tattoos (her sister is a tattoo artist) before she met Toumaniantz on the internet but had never had one done.
Within 24 hours of meeting him, she had agreed to have his name permanently emblazoned across her face and a few days later, she had taken his surname and was planning a career working alongside him in the expectation that he would tattoo the rest of her body in due course.
It raises interesting questions about the Belgian case; one the one hand, we have an inexperienced teenager and, on the other, a man who appears to combine a liking for spectacular facial tattoos with extraordinary powers of persuasion.
There's something very odd about his involvement in the disfigurement (as most people would see it) of these two young women and the current story is a salutary reminder of the internet's potential role in uniting perpetrator and victim, of which this is, at least, a relatively benign, if startling, example.
Kimberley Vlaeminck was, it seems, brought to her senses by her father's reaction to what she had done; it is to be hoped that Lesya does not experience similar regrets when she escapes from Toumaniantz' sphere of influence.
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