Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Holding Up My Hands In Self-Defense

So I'm thinking about body art. I appear to be the only person left on the planet without any piercings or tattoos. Though pierced ears were a commonplace when I was growing up, I've always recoiled at the idea. And now the radical self-adornment business seems to have taken off in an epidemic sort of way. A woman without tattoos might as well be a cyclops. Ears are now pierced multiple times, and when one is privileged to catch a glimpse of other fleshy things they are likely to show glittering signs of adorned ritual puncturing as well. Hell, any bikini'd woman photographed without a belly button piercing is practically held up for ridicule.

What's next? Discs in the lower lip? Earlobes aboriginally-stretched? (Oops, too late!) Facial tattoos? (Too late again.) Decorative scarring?

(I had a nightmare-inducing photo here, chosen from among a zillion on the web, but it was actually making me sick. You should all thank me for removing it.)

So what am I missing? It all seems positively barbaric to me. I just can't see a meaningful line between the little earlobe piercing and the circus monstrosity. But more than my physical revulsion, I'm struck that it suggests a certain desperation to make statements (often immediately upon reaching adulthood) that either cannot be unmade, or at least not without substantial pain and / or effort and / or time. From whence this urgency? (Sorry, I'm reading Pride and Prejudice!) Now, I'm as grateful as any guy that the woman with a prominently displayed ass tattoo is basically giving carte blanche to look and admire (as a confirmed breast man, perhaps I'm simply wishing for the wrong things). But nose piercings? I just absolutely can't get on board with these. What are we, cattle? They're actively repulsive. Why pierce a place that makes a waste product? What's next, anal piercings? (God, don't tell me...)

Is foresight an endangered species? Can we not see that the things which we need so passionately in our youth to make a statement about may not strike us in the same way a few years from now? Or am I assuming that society will not simply change to accommodate the trend? Maybe kids of the generation of my grandkids (if I had any kids to produce them) would find grandma's ass tattoo while she was weeding her garden to be quaint and cool, just like MY grandpa's WW2 tat.

Or it may just look pathetic.

Please, somebody straighten me out!


Joshua said...

Though I am sans peircings, and have been for some time, I do have three tattoos. I also, for about three years, was considered a tattoo artist (that is to say, I gave people tattoos and they paid me for it).

It seems this post is mostly about obnoxious peircings (and I agree), but I thought I would take up the cause, anyway.

For me, quite literally, the tattoos were a form of self expression. That is to say I gave them to myself, for myself. The first, I did when I was 15 years old, and it is Mickey Mouse. Miskey has always been an icon of the woman I admire most, so getting that tattoo seemed smart to me. She was like a mother to me, still is, and will be taking the place of my birth mother at my upcoming wedding.

The second was (I guess it still is) two geckos, in the shape of a yin-yang. I wish I could attach some deep meaning to them, but I was drawing one day, thought it was very cool, and decided to put it on myself. I regret it, now.

The third is the most important to me. It is a picture of a refridgerator, with a roll of toilet paper on top. I will post, tomorrow, on my website, what that all means. It is quite along story, and not for your message board.

But honestly, I advise people against them. It turns out they are permanant, who knew! Seriously, had I to do it again, I would be without at least one. Of course, once you have one...

And I think that is both the problem and the beauty of it all. They are sort of addictive, but are they even as bad as smoking? In fact, if carefully picked and placed, they can also be classy, and tell a lot about you. The third one, of which I am speaking later, allows me to retell a story that needs to be told, and for that I would not trade it in, even with the stigma attached to it.

NOw, I exclude peircings for that selfsame reason. I cannot see how they are expression. They are like flash tattoos: mass produced and without charm or dedication. They just sort of say, "I was bored." or worse, "I wanted people to look RIGHT HERE"

That being said, how cool would it be to go George Carlin and get dotted lines on all your joints, with folding instructions? C'mon, that's good stuff.


wunelle said...

I'm glad for the input.

Yes, I'm referring to obnoxious piercings, but I guess my point is that they all kind of seem that way to me--even innocent ear piercings--especially if I take a second to dwell on them.

I get the whole self-expression aspect of it, I think, but it's the extremity of it that baffles me. (I'm reminded of a buddy of mine who once hot-glued hideously garish clothes to a clothesline by his house to discourage people from moving into a housing development that was going up next door. I was grateful that he did not go so far as to slash his own face so that "people moving in here would have to live next door to an ogre!")

None of us (in America, anyway) goes thru life without a need to mark our territory, to stamp ourselves as something apart from everyone else; this celebration of the individual is somehow intrinsic to our country and culture, maybe seminally so.

But that explains our clothes and our hairstyle and our eyeglasses and our choice of car and so on. I suppose this is all a logical extension of this, end of story. But I can't quite let go of it! Why choose (sorry for the phrase) irrevokable self-mutilation as an appropriate means of setting ourselves apart from the crowd? And especially when, as is the case with every movement like this, we then seek out the company of similarly-inclined people, people among whom we do not stand out? I guess self-expression just seems a pretty narrow pillar behind which to attempt to hide a rather large creature.

Your giving them "to yourself, for yourself" I can more understand, though I wonder at how large a segment of the movement is encircled with such a net?

I await the fridge / toilet paper story with bated breath!

(PS Did George Carlin get tattooed in that way?)

Maglet said...

I know a couple of people with a couple of different piercings. None of them are gross or showy, but still intriguing, nonetheless. I agree with you about the ass tattoos. Although, I have been entertaining the though of getting one near my pubic bone. That would definitely hurt like hell...

wunelle said...

I actually think that would be one of the least painful places to get one.

But don't do it! Just have a patch sewn onto your jeans saying "It's OK to look at my ass!" Lecherous, 43-year-old guys will oblige and there will be little pain or expense! ;-)

At least blog about it later!

Esbee said...

I have pierced ears. That's it. I rarely wear earrings, though I should.

My husband has two tattoos. He's had both for ages, since long before we met. One is a fleur-de-lis for the NO Saints. The other one is a sort of shield thingie on the inside of his arm. I'm so used to them I don't even really notice them anymore.

They're fading, though. I expect by the time he's old, they will largely have faded away.

Joshua said...

The pubic bone tattoo would hurt more that you can care to imagine. Any tattoo near nerve endings or bones pretty much sucks. That's why so many folks get them on the bicep, or the fleshy patch of their stomach...by the way women really ought stay away from those around the belly button tattoos. Honestly, folks, you aren't always going to have washboard abs.

Anyway, my sister was largely my canvas as I learned my craft. She has one on the small of her back, and one on her foot, to tell you two hurtful spots. The small of your back (and anywhere along the spine) has a lot of pain sensors, and the foot, JEEZ! You should have seen her throw things, scream, and go on. In her defense, she never moved her foot. In my defense, the tattoo looks awesome (it is an aztec relief of a gecko)


wunelle said...

Pubic bone. Hmmm. For some reason I read "pubic bone" and thought "coccyx." What does it say about my state of sexual awareness that I would confuse the two terms?

And now Joshua informs me that even the lowly coccyx is not a pleasant place to be tattooed.

Elbow. Maybe I was thinking of the elbow...

Kate said...

I'm a rebel like Esbee. I just have two holes in my earlobes.

Last night I got aggravated at the Girls Gone Wild commercials. I was trying to watch the Comedy Central game show Distraction and after 11pm CST every commercial is GGW. I haven't found my remote control yet so this was a problem. I was so upset at these girls debasing themselves to get on film (You may have a different view of it. ;-) ) and then I saw two people get tattoos to win money on the game show. I had to wonder what was worse. It's one thing to give tattoos to yourself but to get them because the game show says so is wrong.

wunelle said...

Even I, male that I am, cannot debase my sex so far as to endorse Girls Gone Wild. It's like Hooters: the textbook definition of crass.

With my intense loathing of TV (for which I take constant flak from my wife for making what she deems to be unworthy or arbitrary exceptions) I am especially mortified to see people mutilating themselves to impress a TV audience (however worthy and fabulous may be some among that audience! ;-)

They need a beeper button on the TV that locates the remote, like your cordless phone!

Kate said...

Well, I have to admit that I love game shows but that was too much. I'm not into watching people be humiliated. I'll stick to Jeopardy and such.

woolf said...

I have a total of seven piercings: nose and three on each ear. My first piercing--the first set on my ears--came at an emotionally delicate time in my life: the age of 13. EVERYONE had them. So, of course, I had to too. My mum made me wait till I was 13, though, so I was one of the last in my class.

My second was my ears again sometime in high school. I suppose it was because people in the mid-90s were doing it, I don't remember. The third was during my sophomore year in college. It was mostly on a whim (isn't everything in your sophomore year--isn't that why they say stupid things are "sophomoric"?). I was at the mall with my roommate, and we passed by a piercing booth. I went in and wallah.

My nose ring was more a personal thing. I'd just gone through a brain tumor surgery and two months of radiation treatment. And I think I was just getting the idea that I could've died or been a lifelong vegetable during my surgery. I decided I was going to do some of the things I'd always wanted to do (that I had any control over) because you only live once: namely, get my nose pierced and dye my hair red. I've now had my nose ring two years and I have had my hair dyed various shades of red since. I've had a hankering to get my ears pierced again, but I'm job searching and i figure I should wait until I get one. I'm also considering a stud for my nose, too.

Why did I feel this was somehow a way to prove my life or something? Honestly, I don't know. I just know I'd always admired nose and ear piercings--especially on Indian women--and I like dangly earrings and I'd always wanted to just try it.

I do think some piercings are weird: nipple piercing for one--or any genital--yuck--but if people want to do it...

BrianAlt said...

I'm with you. I just don't get it!

We're pretty close to the same age. I'm 39.