Yeah, so, I trend toward looking like I fell into a tackle box and I collect tattoos, although at a very slow rate. You can take a piece of metal out of your head and not leave a trace, but tattoos are a commitment, and I am phobic about commitment. I have two plus a 3/4 sleeve in progress, and the sleeve has taken months of planning and saving. It's not the sort of thing one jumps into and can have done while drunk in an evening. I have to be able to look professional so my piercings are sort of strategic. I have a nostril piercing, which might be iffy, but where I live lots of nurses have them, so I don't really see it as an issue. I usually keep a thin loop in it. If I really need to be discreet, I replace the loop with the tiniest of pink studs, which at best looks like a sparkly zit. My septum piercing is easily hidden by flipping it up into my nose; problem solved. Tongue piercing: I'm one of those folks who does not have a tongue-bar lisp and no one notices it unless I go "nyahhhh look at my tongue bar." Ear piercings: I have stretched lobes (6-g), which bother no one when I wear glass plugs, which look like normal earrings. On one side I have a forward helix, and on the other I have a rook. That's only two per side. Again, lots of nurses have more than one earring per ear, so mine might have hurt a little worse, but they don't look too weird. Point being, I can look like I fell into a tackle box, or I can hide almost everything to where I look like a regular person with a nose stud. And I have a few that are always hidden under my clothes!
Recently someone told me piercings and tattoos were a sign of self-injury and suchlike. The lady who said this to me, I noted, did have her earlobes pierced.
I saved my breath at the time, but given that this is my blog and I can write what I want, I want to defend body modification. No doubt there are myriad reasons to do it. Teenagers might want to piss their parents off. S&M-ers might have their own reasons. Who knows. For me, I spent a lot of years hating my body. It wasn't thin enough. It wasn't this- or that-enough. I had some issues in the meantime, all of which would bore my audience. Suffice it to say I modify my body now as an adult according to what pleases me. I don't think it's particularly odd. People have gotten their ears pierced and worn makeup acceptably in this society for quite a while. I eschew makeup and favor inked skin. So what. I add a few holes to my face aside from my lobes. So what. Doesn't mean I'm engaged in war against myself.
In fact, in direct contradistinction to the self-injury theory, my mods make me feel happier inside my body. Piercings hurt, but it's not a self-punishment pain. It's a means to an end. They don't hurt that damn bad anyway. Tattoos...meh. I actually literally fell asleep for an hour during the first 6 hours of my sleeve. On my inner forearm. Which by all accounts is a sensitive area. Granted, I have a high pain tolerance and I sleep during the day, so I was groggy, but still. If it hurt that bad, you can bet I would have been wincing and acting girly. (I did get sent away for a coffee halfway through because I was freaking the artist out, but that's another story.) I spent months with the artist designing this sleeve. I spent months saving for it. It means something to me. How is this self-injury? You don't treat yourself and spend time and money on yourself if you are trying to hurt yourself.
And what of plastic surgery? If these proponents of "body modification as self injury" are to be believed, 75% of southern California should be in mental institutions. Seriously? Having a hole poked in the helix of my ear is worse than undergoing general anesthesia and having fat sucked out of my ass? Having an artistic design tattooed on my arm is worse than having permanent makeup tattooed? Or having all the hair lasered off my chin? Anything with "laser" in it sounds sort of drastic to me. But these opinions seem based on what people are used to, on what is "done," rather than on common sense or even thinking outside the box.
As for professional acceptance, I've written before about that. The elderly are supposed to be appalled by bod mods. In my experience, the elderly are the ones who say "I love your sparkly nose stud" or, when I had my eyebrow ring, "I love your eyebrow ring." They admire my cat tattoo. Many want to pet it. They range from not caring to actively liking the mods. The younger population...likes having a nurse with the same mods they have. I've triaged a fair number of piercing-related injuries and issues. Tell me those patients don't feel better talking to someone who doesn't think they're idiots. I'm sure this debate will rage until it's accepted that nose studs aren't going to kill anyone. And the "wear Band-Aids over your piercings" dictate that some hospitals use...spare me. Terrifying.
So please. If you number amongst those who think piercings and tattoos are an indication of self-hatred or self-destruction, reconsider. It's probably a sign of self-acceptance. If it helps, reiterate to yourself: it doesn't hurt that damn bad!