I love terrible tattoos. I really love them. Show me a crudely inked peanut distorted by the bulging calf of a man who is old enough to know better, and I will like him at least 37% more than I should.

I love a motivational saying in wonky Gothic script, or a Chinese word that doesn’t actually mean anything at all, or a famous cartoon character that looks like it was drawn with someone’s feet. I will swoon at the sight of a patchy, misspelled band name the skin owner stopped listening to as soon as they got their first full-time job.

Celebrities with bad tattoos, photographed and publicised across the world, often bring out an army of vocal anti-ink warriors, who use words like “branded”, “mutilation” or “disgusting”.

Jennifer Lawrence has been taking heat this week for having “H2O” tattooed on her hand in deep pink, which makes it look like a scar. People have scoffed that the 2is in the wrong place, and that it is rubbish. But she knows it is rubbish, and says she got it on a whim, thinking: “Well, I’m always going to need to be hydrated.” And it made me laugh. And perhaps every time she looks at her hands and sees it, it makes her laugh too.

Cara Delevigne has “bacon” tattooed on her foot, which at least means she will never lack an idea for breakfast. Amanda Seyfried has the word “minge” on hers, because Colin Firth said it a lot when they were filming Mamma Mia!, and it amused her, which seems to be as good a reason as any to get something etched on to your skin.

If I see a person proudly displaying their bad body art, without a sleeve pulled down over it in embarrassment, then it makes me think they can laugh at themselves – that they are happy to have once been young, and an idiot.

I want to know their stories. I want to know who they were when they wanted nothing more than to look like Mel C. My friend recently told me the tale of her own rubbish tattoo. Years ago, she had just got out of a bad relationship and got drunk in the middle of the day with her friend, who had also just got out of a bad relationship. She tottered off to get the Latin word for “light” tattooed on a prominent part of her body because, y’know, light at the end of the tunnel and all that.

She tells this story with a weary acknowledgement of her own stupidity. There’s a popular TV programme called Tattoo Fixers, which films people with regrets as they go and get their mistakes covered up: the names of exes, that time they got Magaluf ‘04 in Comic Sans on their backside. They emerge with something fresh, new and more elegant – but more often than not, I think it’s a shame, that these signposts of life’s more frivolous times are plastered over and made sombre with “taste”.

I have a bad tattoo. It’s a basic outline of a mountain, and there’s a swallow near it, and it looks like someone shoved a marker pen into Blue Ivy’s hand and said “Draw”.

Sometimes people assume it’s an eagle crashing into a hill. People often ask what the meaning is, because we are inclined to think that the permanence of tattoos must equal sincerity, and that therefore there is a serious story lurking in the depths of my soul.

The story behind it is not a great story. I didn’t get it because Colin Firth once said something hilarious about mountains. I’d just had a nice holiday in Iceland, and there were mountains there. That’s it. But it reminds me that, once, I decided to get a tattoo for no better reason than that I had had a nice holiday. And that lack of foresight makes me feel oddly calm, because it is a reminder of a moment in which I just thought: sod it – why not?

People who don’t like tattoos often say, “Think about what it will look like when you’re old.” But truly terrible tattoos stand as a reminder that it may be far more soothing to decide not to think about a future that may exist at the cost of a present that does. Even if that bad tattoo is a peanut with a smiley face.

Source: The Guardian