What a mess Cheryl Cole's latest tattoo is. I'm not commenting on the artistic merit or otherwise of the enormous "English rose" blooms covering the space between the singer's lower back and upper thighs, but the fuss. A few flowers are never going to rank on a horror tat chart that includes a battered female face (thanks for that, Chris Brown).
Following 15 hours' work over eight months, the California-based tattooist Nikko Hurtado, who charges £250 an hour, posted the image of his work/Cole's backside on Instagram over the weekend. Cue horror over the design, its size, what it means about Cole's state of mind (a cry for help?). By Sunday, it (the art/backside) was the Sun newspaper's splash with a strapline announcing: "Star's shocking new look". (We should leave to one side the thorny question of whether a pattern on your bum is a "look".) The former Girls Aloud singer reacted to the online criticism by saying: "People are entitled to their own opinion. Personally, I've never really concerned myself with other people's body parts!"
And she's right, tattoos do not turn bodies into public property even when they're female. I've never liked tattoos the permanence when life is anything but, the pain, the chance for misspelling but I have some sympathy with those who see tats as a feminist issue, a way of saying "it's my body and I'll do what I want to it". A post for Vagenda pointed out: "You can get a huge amount of stick for 'spoiling' your body with a tattoo or four because you have 'disfigured' something that is actually a public commodity DIDN'TCHA KNOW."
But if it is wrong for a tattoo to make a woman public property, what happens when that woman is a public figure OK, a celebrity? Websites such as popstartats.com discuss the artistic merit and meaning of a celebrity's tattoos. But are they simply pointing out that the Sanskrit prayer running down Rihanna's hip would have read "forgiveness, honesty, suppression, and control" before it was misspelt, or are they more popular for showing us revealing glimpses of her body? A bit of both, surely.
Cole is unlikely to be showing her latest tattoo that frequently. Yet now thousands of us, including the Guardian, are commenting on it. You see the mess it makes? Still, on the bright side some pink roses are going to cause less head-smacking anguish than inking "Mrs Cole" on your butt.