My tongue piercing (no geek, medical, or tech content)

I'm posting about another piercing because (a) it's my blog and I can do what I want, (b) people with piercings or potential piercings like to read about piercing experiences, and (c) mainly, it's my blog and I can do what I want. If you like such accounts, you'll read on anyway. If not, consider the following quotations (from Elayne Angel's book The Piercing Bible):

Piercing and other types of body modification are methods of changing the actual physical form, which is empowering in a way that may not be fully understood by those who have never participated in it.

Whether or not the piercing experience is consciously approached in a ritual manner, getting a piercing does effect a physical—and possibly an emotional or spiritual—transformation.

Getting a piercing can be an intensely altering experience that echoes the traditions of primitive societies. You should be aware that a piercing does change you. When you come out of a studio with a new piercing, you are a different person, with a different body, than when you entered.

Photo Mar 11 10 18 22 PMWhy the tongue? It heals fast. The concealment factor is high. I think they can look cool ("can" because the glow-in-the-dark beach ball ones...not so much). Almost everyone said, "Find something else to pierce. Tongue rings all look trashy. Tongue rings make you talk funny. Tongue rings make you look like a tramp." I was swayed for a while. Then I studied up on it and was swayed by potential dental complications (but the studies I found---the FEW studies I found---had some serious issues). At the finish, obviously, I decided to do it. It's a fairly low-risk piercing (notwithstanding the risks inherent in giving yourself ANY intentional wound) in that I could remove the bar and not have a giant visible scar. I tried to stop wanting it, but the idea of a hidden piece of metal in my mouth proved too alluring. I hear a lot of people say stuff like that about their tongue piercings ("it's my favorite piercing. I love it"). Why? "I can't explain it."

I talked to my piercer about my concerns, which were largely concealment, speech issues, and dental issues, most of which can be ameliorated by backward placement with a slant, but not so much of a slant that the bottom rubs against the back of your front teeth or the gums underneath. My piercer didn't want the top back as far as I did, but we worked it out. I just didn't want a clicky piercing that snapped against the backs of my teeth and made me talk funny. Problem is, the farther back they are, the worse the swelling is, but I didn't find that out until later.

I swished with mouthwash, and she marked my tongue, gave me a drape around my neck like the dentist, and handed me a paper towel to drool on. She pulled my tongue so far out of my head I had NO idea it was that long, and bloop, the needle was through. It was hard to hold still while she put the jewelry in. It took almost no time, but the reflex is strong to pull your tongue BACK into your mouth. I drooled. She screwed the balls on, tightened them, unclamped my tongue at some point, and had me swish/spit again. I'll spare you the post-piercing photos because they look gruesome and bloody. It bled for a few minutes just a little bit. People ask if it hurt. Well, yes, when you stick needles into yourself it hurts. How bad? It's subjective. I had my belly button done right before (minutes before) my tongue and didn't think either one hurt very bad. I maintain that after the rook, other piercings probably aren't so bad. At any rate it's by no means agonizing. The clamp was more of a pain than the needle.

The first bar was quite long, 3/4-inch, and that's a long piece of metal to have in your mouth. I had some trouble talking at first but adjusted to it pretty quickly. I never had "ess" issues, but "ell" was a problem particularly in "bl" combinations. I stocked up on popsicles, ice cream, yogurt, soup, and pudding. Even eating THAT stuff was a problem. Stuff you don't think of: your tongue is extremely inflexible from swelling, so you can't lick your lips (Chap Stick: don't leave home without it).

Some people don't have issues with their tongue piercings. I'm not one. My tongue got GIANT. It ballooned around the balls of the 3/4-inch bar and ached down to its roots (down my throat). Contributing factors: I had three 12-hour shifts on days 3 to 5 that involved a lot of talking, including LOUD talking, which really did not help (although there is an ice machine there, which DID help). Worst of all I came down with strep so between the sore throat and swollen tongue I was extremely unhappy. (No, I don't think the strep was related. It's going around and I've cared for a lot of sick children with it who cough in my face.)

Then...things just got better. I woke up one morning with at least half the bar sticking up from a flat tongue. I had been getting really depressed about it, actually, because I had really wanted this piercing and it was NOT GOING WELL. So that perked me up. Then the bottom of the bar started really hurting since it had room to wiggle around and bother the gums under my front bottom teeth. I went back to my piercer and she replaced the barbell with a labret, with instant relief of that pain. My tongue didn't seem to mind the bar change at all.

All this time I had to work super hard to eat with that long bar roaming around in my mouth (see dental fears, above). It took a long time and the bar would float between my teeth. I went back to the piercer on day 9 and asked for a shorter bar; I knew it was early, but there was consistently a LOT of bar showing and I was increasingly afraid I would bite down on the long one. She put a 5/8-inch bar in it, and it was again instantly much more comfortable. I could eat mostly without fear with that bar. In my nose I have a half-ball (dome), and I wanted those for my tongue, by this shop didn't carry the domes for barbells so I ordered a bar online with them and replaced the bar today with the dome ends. This is a very comfortable situation for me. The dome on the bottom eliminates any pressure on sublingual structures, and I have to work at it to click it against my teeth. The dome on the top makes the bar harder to spot (good for concealment) and its flatness makes it easier to eat and much less likely I'll bite down on the bar or domes. While I was at it I ordered a pink titanium dome to wear if I REALLY need to hide it, although even when my tongue was huge and I was totally miserable nobody noticed the piercing unless I went "AHHHHHHHHH I got my tongue pierced." The incidence of people going, "WTF is that in your mouth?" has been zero. And either my friends and coworkers are very polite, which would be new and different for them, or no one has thought I have talked funny or lisped.

The bar I just got with the domes instead of balls has internally threaded tips. I selected it because I felt it would be better for my freshly pierced tongue, and I'm sure it is, but screwing the dome into it was hair-raising. It was a low point in the last few months, featuring me hanging over the sink drooling, sweating, and hanging on to my tongue and the bottom dome so I didn't accidentally swallow the whole shebang (see instinct to pull tongue back in mouth, above). Those beads are freaking slippery. Next time I may just pay the $5 to have them replaced. Holy carp.

So that's my story. I love the piercing, it's a good piercing if you're not supposed to have many visible piercings, and I hope my dental checkups never show a problem that necessitates its removal. If you've just gotten one and are in the depression phase, it will pass. Just don't go into this piercing assuming it will be a breeze. The actual piercing was, but all in all it's been a pretty big pain in the ass. Worth it, but a pain in the ass!