Tag Archives: piercings

Body Adornment

The other half to yesterday’s blog on camouflaging the true shape of our bodies is one of adornment. People are like crows. We have always been attracted to shiny and colorful objects. Ever since Grog the caveman noticed the bright blue stone, we’ve been collecting these things. The best way to store such objects, if you were an itinerant caveman, was to wear it. And look, that blue stone brought the sky back again or slowed the mammoth down so we could kill it.

Body adornment covers jewellery made of glass, metal, clay, wood, stone, feathers, bone, etc. strung or worn in many ways across different parts of the body. As well it has been stuck through and pierced into whatever piece of flesh could be pierced. From lip and nose discs to rings on fingers, toes, nipples, to pieces of wood or stone or metal punctured through chests, backs, arms and other fleshy bits–if it could be done, someone has done it.

Jewellery has as many uses as clothing does. In many cases such adornment started out as a ritualistic aspect with Grog, perhaps a dedication to a belief or god or path. As well, certain body markings indicated tribal/familial affiliations or ranks of authority. A pope would wear an amethyst ring that the faithful would kiss. A particular group in the jungle may have their noses pierced while their neighbors had their eyebrows be-ringed. Whether a fashion trend in that area or a mark of community, these regional differences served the purpose of identifying one group from another.

Facial and body makeup also came along, where applications may have been used for special occasions, rituals, power or to enhance characteristics, such as outlining the eyes to make them look bigger; but also the kohl liners worked to reduce sun-glare into the eyes. There have been practical applications for some body makeup and painting, such as coatings to keep sun off, or insects from biting.

Tattoos and scarification are other ways in which the body has been marked for centuries. Piercings can be temporary, as in the sundance done by some plains nations in North America, where the man’s chest is pierced for the (up to) four-day sundance. But permanent marks are part of identification, authority or belonging to a particular group. Scarring the skin with ridges and whorls, along with embedding items under the skin have been done in some areas for quite a while. Sailors were long known to pick up tattoos on their travels. I’m not sure of the reason why and that would take a bit more research. Some I believe had to do with visiting foreign countries where some of these practices were more common.

Tattoos are big now in parts of modern tribal culture as well as the resurgence of the burlesque dance style. Dancers often have designs that are reminiscent of the 50′s and the earliest North American white tattoos (I say white because I’m not sure if any First Nation groups did tattooing like the Maori have done). Maori tattoos served several purposes including looking fierce in battle, along with the facial gurning.

But last and probably the most popular reason for adorning one’s body, whether with rings, earrings, necklaces, piercings, makeup, tattoos or scarification is for the sheer enjoyment of decoration. We have not traveled that far since Grog started smearing red clay handprints onto his chest, tying a blue stone about his neck and piercing his ears. Though he may have decorated some for superstitious reasons or protection from spiritual or real elements, there came a time that it was just cool and fun to decorate himself. And let’s not forget the status symbol of having the brightest colored rocks or the largest gems in the whole tribe. That hasn’t changed much. If it had, we wouldn’t pay through the nose (does that term come from jewellery?) for precious gems and gold. As long as there are humans we will be given to adorning ourselves and structures around us. If you don’t like a particular fashion of body decoration, be assured that within a hundred years it will change again.

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Piercing Situations

Somehow yesterday I got thinking about my piercings. When I was sixteen I had my ears pierced. What might have been unusual about this was that my family doctor did it. I doubt anyone would think of going to their GP these days or even that one might consider piercing someone’s ears, but when I had mine done it was only the nasty piercing guns that blasted away some of the flesh on the way through. I went in and my doctor put a bit of freezing on my lobes, then poked a needle through.

I walked around with loops of surgical thread (thick surgical thread) through my ears for weeks. When I finally put earrings in I had these little diamond (quartz/rhinestone really) studs. And then I suffered as the cheap earrings flaked off into my ears and if I didn’t already have it I developed a nickel allergy. My ears puffed up and turned red and crusty. Pretty icky. I eventually bought some silver rings and put those in.

This first piercing experience and the loops of thread reminded me of being in Nepal, seeing the young girls (as early as four) walking around with small pieces of wood keeping their earholes open. Since many people are poor I presumed that they couldn’t yet afford rings for their girl’s ears but pierced ears were so much part of Nepalese culture.

And that’s just it. Poking things into or through our skin, or decorating it has been something we’ve been doing since humanity first grabbed that shiny or bright object and started designing. Other cultures have laced things through their noses and lips and chests and genitalia. North American counter culture picked up the piercing traditions of many tribal and African countries. So no matter how trendy, on the edge, neo-goth, punk, burlesque, tribal we’ve made ourselves here, there was someone else who did it first, probably centuries earlier.

The second time I had one ear pierced, I was not the first, not even in Calgary. I was one of the very few though, especially in Calgary. And that piercing was done with a gun. Ouch. Took a year to heal. Then I went to India where I entertained having my nose pierced, not with the stud through the nostril flesh, but a ring through the septum. I didn’t get that done but when I came back I ended up having my other ear pierced again. So I have two holes, close together on the left ear. The right ear has two holes but the second is right before the upper curve.

About three or four years ago I saw a friend in the States who I hadn’t seen in a while. She had this really cute diamond stud above her lip, like a beauty mark. It looked great on her and on a spur of the moment kind of thing (with a bit of research on studios) I went in and had a Monroe piercing done. Of all the piercings this one was the most irritating and if I had known the nuisance it would be, I probably wouldn’t have had it done. It’s also a bad one for wearing at teeth though I haven’t had that problem yet.

The piercing itself did not hurt but I kept catching the back on my teeth and pulling it through the flesh. It seems I have an especially thin lip and went in for downsizing three times while it healed. Again the piercing didn’t hurt but my gums were so sore for the first week or two, from the stud back (a flat piece) rubbing up and down any time I talked or moved my mouth. Before I finally had the final size (and mine is shorter than most other people’s) I would still catch the stud on my teeth. A very disconcerting feeling.

The other annoyance was that any time you have a piercing right on the front of your face, your fingers get in the way and you can’t see what you’re doing if you have to put in a new piercing. The stud goes through the flesh and the screw is the head/jewel of the piercing and it is incredibly tiny and hard to hold with the wee screw part sticking out. Couple that with trying to get something through the inside of your lip that isn’t made for turning inside out to the mirror and you have frustration city. This might not be a big deal but a lot of talking or kissing seems to unscrew the thing.

The first nine months of having the Monroe it seemed to unscrew itself a lot. And where did it do this? In restaurants in the dark about 90% of the time. Amazingly, I’ve found the head every single time. I carry a spare for the time that I don’t find it. I need a few more though. The worst was when it dropped out in a restaurant at lunch and I couldn’t get the head back on. A half hour later I tried to get a friend to do it but I couldn’t get the stud through the flesh. The hole had already started to close up and I had to go down to the studio three hours later. That hurt like a damn when they had to thread the stud through again, and that was nine months after the piercing.

So yes, it was a pain in the ass. I could go to the flatter nose screw that my friend used in hers, but once I downsize I can’t use the bigger pieces again. I need to decide that before I spend more money. Since I went through all the effort to heal, there was no way I was going to get the thing taken out…not until it starts damaging my teeth. I have friends who have had all sorts of body parts pierced: brows, tongues, lips, septums, bridges, backs, necks, nipples, navels, labia, hoods, scrotum, penis…you name it. I think I’m done. But then I thought that before the Monroe.

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