Monday, July 19, 2010

Pins and Needles. Monday, July 19, 2010.

“If I was having a bad day, or if something was really getting me down – boy troubles, whatever – I wanted to go out and get a new piercing.” – Christina Aguilera

I was at the grocery store yesterday, and she was behind the cash register. I did a double-, and then a triple-take. I’d never seen anything quite like it. She was a plain girl, dirty-blonde hair, wearing a plain T-shirt. But she was a human pin cushion. I’ve seen plenty of piercings before, but this was – well, amazing. There was not a part of her face that was without piercings. Her lips alone had a dozen rings – six on top, six below.

“How many?” I asked her, simply.

“Thirty-seven,” she answered, with a big smile.

I know how much a cartilage piercing hurts, because I had one for five years. I finally took it out because I wanted to be able to sleep on my left side. A fellow I used to work with, in a moment of TMI, informed me that he had his tongue, his ear cartilage and his private organ pierced, and the ear cartilage was the most painful. And this girl behind the counter had several thick barbells in each ear.

Since the beginning of time, people have had both piercings and tattoos. I’d like a little tattoo, but my religion forbids it. I have four ear piercings in my left ear and I guess that’s enough. For a while I wanted to get my eyebrow pierced, but both my husband and my mom talked me out of it.

These days, piercings and tattoos are certainly fashionable, especially among certain social groups. But they provide more than a fashion statement. They say, “I AM WILLING TO UNDERGO PAIN.” Some schools of thought consider multiple piercings and tattoos to be a kind of body mutilation, not unlike “cutting.” Some people go so far as to burn symbols into their flesh; body branding definitely seems like a form of mutilation to me.

I’m not sure exactly where to draw the line between “fashionable” and “pathological.” At some point (again, like cutting), tattooing and piercing become addictive; the injuries to the skin release endorphins. People are willing to spend a great deal of money and time having needles put into their flesh. The want to “make a statement.” And they do – but what statement are they making?

I wanted to ask the girl behind the counter why she had covered her face with rings, studs and barbells. I wanted to ask about the pain. I wanted to know why she felt the need to appear so brave. I wanted to know what her family thought. I wanted to know what “statement” she was making. I wanted to hear her story.

Instead, I took my change and told her to have a nice day.


  1. I'm 56 and try to understand peoples motivation for covering their body in tattoo's and sticking sharp objects through their face and, ackkk, lips.

    I see very few tattoo's that really look good to me, but I do like some.

    But I KNOW if I was 26 or 23, I'd have some bad ass tat's, man!

    (barbells through the ears! Uh-uh.)

  2. I don't quite follow how a religion can forbid tattoos...

  3. Anonymous - Judaism, and some forms of Christianity, forbid tatoos citing Leviticus, "Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD." Leviticus 19:28.

    Peace/Love, Alizah.

  4. hmmmm....i find this interesting ! i am 46 years old. i always wanted a tatoo but thought it was too painful. i have a very, very , very low tolerance for pain...i will almost pass out if someone else is in pain ! I got my first piercing in 1996..then another...and another. I now have 9. i noticed that about the time i had a new piercing something really stressful was going my ex-husband (my kids father) committed grandmother passed away...i turned 40 (lol). I did finally get that tatoo...for my 40th birthday..LOL. I got another the day i buried my son, Lucas, and one a couple of months ago in memory of my sister that i lost 5 months before i lost my son. People have asked me if it hurt and i'll tell them "hell yeah it hurt...but only for a few seconds"