You awake in a yellowed and peeling ruin of a hotel somewhere in Kuta. The last few days are a blur of swamp ass, day drinking, and strange blended cocktails of Cherry Fanta and dried native fungal growths. You give yourself a nod of approval. Your holiday in Bali is unfolding as planned.

Then something stirs in the back of your mind. The last thing you remember is following the whispering pixie lights into a dank and musty cellar filled with dentist chairs and tattooing equipment. And that’s when you notice the stabbing pain across your back and rush to the (of course) broken hall mirror to discover that there’s something new on you.

Immediately, you cycle through the following stages of grief.

1. Denial and Isolation

No. This cannot be. Your friends are going to be knocking on your door and heading down to breakfast any minute now. They must be avoided at all costs. No one can be allowed to see this. Your shame will live in song and memory for generations to come.

2. Anger

How dare that unscrupulous flesh decal vendor brand you with a (rather good, now that you get a closer look) tribal dragon (look how the claws flex when you move your arm like that). Didn’t he know what kind of a state you were in? Have they no concept of public health codes in Indonesia?

Oh, yeah…

3. Bargaining

It’s ok. This can all be fixed. You don’t have to go through life being that douche with the dragon tattoo. You can still redeem yourself. Don’t they say not to get in any swimming pools for a week or two after getting ink? Well let’s just march right out the door, order a breakfast cocktail, and jump on into that bad boy.

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Problem solved.

4. Depression

You’ve just checked your wallet and found out how much your new artwork cost you (why did you pay in American dollars?) and Googled some photos of tattoo removal failures. Good lord, that woman looks like she got melted with two-face acid. The ground seems to open up under your feet, and a rushing tide of darkness reaches up to take you into its dreadful bosom.

There is no escape from this.

5. Acceptance

Only one course of action remains open to you now. You must face this head on and grasp it by the horns. Only through total commitment to this new life can you salvage some small part of your once infinite potential. You must steel yourself and lean into the wretchedness: you are now that guy with the Balinese dragon on his shoulder blade.

Donning your Ed Hardy print shorts and singlet, you march forth into the world. Behold, you are become Chad, destroyer of your parents’ hopes and dreams.

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