It’s Not A Competition

There was a point in my life when the number of metal bits in my  pierced into my flesh were more important than why I even had the piercings.  However, this was not something that I did with intent, but rather something that just happened subconsciously as more and more people asked exactly how many piercings I had.  Of course there is no fault in knowing the answer, and I can admit that there was perhaps even a small amount of pride in my reply, especially when the following inquiry was concerning the placement.    While I have had about forty holes put in my body, currently only nine of those still have jewelry in them – the lobes are left naked when I sleep, shower or am at home relaxing.

Once upon a time I had said that I would never remove those precious pieces of steel – without good reason.

Six surface piercings, two sets of nipple piercings, a set of eyebrow and a set of anti-eyebrow piercings are on the “retired” list.  There are still scars that remain, some more obvious than others, and I used to have some photos of the failed facial piercings, but feel it is better that I do not.  The forearm piercings are archived on BME, as is the story that went along with the photos; I have my own documentation of this particular modification and have pretty much left it at that, even though I will always have scars to remind me of them.  My mentality towards preserving them has certainly changed, and for the most part I am just happy that people don’t really ask about the scars.

The obvious question is, what changed?

The importance of the number of piercings only mattered so long as I allowed it to, and having been caught up in wanting to obtain a substantially impressive amount, I had almost forgotten about the pleasure of the piercing’s aesthetics.

There are plenty of people who enjoy proclaiming the number of piercings or tattoos they have, but was is that number really?  One can be recognized for having the most or the biggest, but then where does it end?

Body modification is supposed to be about personal expression, whether it is something done for spiritual reasons, or just because you want to piss your parents off.  However, there is a frightening trend of individuals who seem motivated to out-do one another.  Why does it really matter if he has more metal in my face than I do, or if she is heavily tattooed with scarification and implants?  As indicated in my previous editorial, everyone has their own stopping point on the body modification spectrum, and none should ever feel shame for making the choice of where that is.

When I sat down and asked myself exactly why I had been so intent on achieving a certain number of piercings, I could no longer give myself an honest answer.  Sure, I had a lot of nice photos that captured the collection of metal, and maybe the smile on my face was there because I would be the one in the room that had the most.  It did not make me better than anyone else, and in reality, the attitude I had was one that I disliked in others.

There were a lot of issues with many of the piercings that led to their eventual removal.  For instance, I developed serious hypertrophic scars on my helixes that were painful,  gross and even slightly embarrassing.  Taking the jewelry out was the best solution, and they have healed to be quite healthy.  Having my conches punched [at a 4g] was certainly a great experience, but being allergic to O-rings made wearing large gauge jewelry awkward, though I did try to balance all sorts of things in the holes.  Some shapes just don’t fit with particular piercings, and I prefer function – and comfort over fashion.  In the end, it was just better to give up the punches for the sake of my ears.  At present, one set remains at a 12g while the other set has healed completely, though marks still remain.

It never ceases to make me groan when I hear or read about those who want to stretch “as fast as I can”.  Blame the influence on media pop idols or whatever else you want, but the fact of the matter is that improper stretching can be a dangerous practice.  There are serious injuries that can occur from stretching too far too fast.  Some bodies can handle it; some cannot.  Do you really want to be That Guy who finds out the hard way?  Going to a professional is obviously the best route, but if attempting such things by yourself, listen to your body.  There are also people who are always willing to help, and in return, giving advice should be educational as opposed to scathing criticism.  Learning is an experience that takes time and requires practice from both the teacher and the student.

There is no reason to be in a rush to modify my body.  pLans for the future should be carefully considered, and entrusted to someone who will do it right the first time.  Always remember that modifications are there for life, even if you decided that you do not want them any more.  The art of modifying one’s body is continually changing, and with it the wants and desires will change too.  One should be absolutely sure that it is something wanted.

Body modification should not be a field of competition, as making an attempt to have the most or bigger and better is putting the body at risk.   Effects of choices made now might not even appear until years down the line, such as the fact that many transdermals are now being removed.  Even the popular choice of microdermals need care and attention for longevity.  Anyone with a shred of respect for their body will know that bragging rights are not worth the risk.  Changing one’s appearance is ap powerful statement that will certainly fall on deaf ears should it be one that echoes many others and has no real basis other than “it’s cool”.  Which is all fine and well for maybe the hottest new trends in fashion, but personally, I feel it is one of the wrong reasons to make a permanent change to the physical body.  It does not matter what Billy Joe down the street has tattooed across his chest, or how big that piercing is, how large that scarification is or playing connect-the-dots with marks from suspension hooks.   The minute that “anything you can do, I can do better” attitude arises, all measures of personalization are lost.  Tattoos, piercings, scarification and other physical means of transforming the body have been used for centuries as ornamental embellishments, and perhaps should be kept that way.

This article originally appeared in Issue 1 of Aesthetic Evolution.  
It has been slightly edited for grammar and spelling.

Photo credit: 2 – Scott Xavier

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