I got my first non-earlobe body piercing, my tongue, when I was 17. I had recently moved into University Halls in a new city and six months before this I made the decision to have my long hair shaved off. On reflection, several years later, I do not think these events were unrelated.
When I got my tongue pierced it was part of a group activity with my new flatmates, we all descended on the piercing studio together. A tongue piercing is significant modification that can have complications and in my case leaves you temporarily unable to eat or speak over the coming days. Despite this I still wanted to get it done and in hindsight I think it was largely because it was a hidden piercing that could be revealed to others in situations I decided on. Which in my first year at university was every time a camera was in the remote vicinity. Perhaps less so in front of my parents, although I did tell them beforehand, it was no secret just disapproved of. To me piercings were an exciting and fun act, we were not trying to be cool or rebellious. Every time I saved up a little bit of money I could go treat myself and would spend my time thinking of which one I could get done next, revelling in the possibilities and creativity that it allowed me in terms of my appearance.
I no longer felt boring, combining the new haircut and piercings made me feel interesting and different. It allowed me to create a new identity for myself that I was more comfortable with, for the first time I felt like I was free to look however I wanted. It symbolised my move from teenager living at home to independent adult making new friends in a new place. I see it as part of the overhaul of my image in that important year of my life.
The next piercing that I experimented with was the tragus on both ears. I no longer needed a group to go to studios but was confident enough to go on my own. I definitely had the bug for piercings and knew I would get more. The fact that getting piercings in both ears at the same time meant I couldn’t sleep lying on either of those sides due to the swelling didn’t put me off. Neither did the months of cleaning and maintenance. Taking care of the piercings means you have to be serious about them and you become more aware of the reality of having them and what that entails, if you neglect them they will reject. Piercings for me are not a phase or a fashion because you have to invest time and effort into them.
Over the next year I pierced my nose, got scaffolding, a helix, both anti tragus, a conch and both rooks. My ears were more visible due to my short haircut and so everyone could clearly see my piercings, I think this was quite deliberate. I wanted my piercings to define me. Perhaps showing defiance that I was not girly or cute, I guess I didn’t want to be defined as feminine, I had been a tomboy my whole life and this was important to me. I enjoyed having control over people’s perceptions. In this way I think piercings allow people to be playful with their image. I like to defy expectations because I am not as often is assumed, a Goth or into heavy metal or have lots of tattoos. I think there is a common misconception about people with piercings so I enjoy that new people consider me a certain way then find I am not like that at all.
My more recent piercings have been attempts to try new things, a septum piercing, 4mm tunnels which I got punched straight out instead of stretched over time, two micro dermals on the bottom of my back and my tongue web. Some of these are hidden as the process has become less about showing people my choices but more about enjoyment for myself. I have grew my hair out so some of my ear piercings are no longer visible but this does not render them pointless for me, I still enjoy having them and intend to keep them. I think the decision to get my septum pierced, the partition between the nostrils, was a big one. I had to seriously consider whether to get it done or not because it is so obvious in the middle of my face and often the thing people focus on when they speak to me. But in some ways it is my favourite piercing because it divides people, some have told me it is ugly while others tell me it’s cute. It marks me out as a pierced person and that is a vital part of my identity.
Would anybody else like to share their body piercing stories?
Do you think piercings contribute significantly to identity?
Hope to start a discussion!
Anyone interested in reading more about this topic should check out…
“Body Piercing and Identity Construction: A Comparative Perspective – New York, New Orleans, Wroclaw” by Lisiunia A. Romanienko, published by Palgrave Macmillan of in Basingstoke 2011.
My Tongue Piercing
Different Ear Piercings