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What Makes a Good Role Model?

What makes a role model?

"Mundane" people tend to see us modified people as scary, or deviants, or psychologically warped, or any number of negative things. They look at the tattoos, or the piercings, or the scars, or the stretched holes, or the brands and think "Oh, what's wrong with that person that he has to make himself so ugly? I just don't get it!" Well, as a modified individual living with a very large and opinionated conservative and decidedly-unmodified family, I've heard it all. I have four tattoos, 12 piercings, and 00ga lobes. My aunts, uncles, grandparents, brothers and sister, and parents look at me and wonder why I feel that I have to change my body, why I have to make it different and unconventional. My mods look a little unnerving to a lot of them. I've been stretching my lobes for over two years and the older members of my family have just stopped talking about them. (Which I must admit is nice.)

But it's the reaction of my younger cousins that has prompted me to write this piece. I am the oldest of 17 grandkids, most of whom are at least 10 years my junior. Out of consideration for my aunts and uncles, I don't tend to bring up my mods to my younger cousins. Although the tattoos are not something I will bring up to them, my ears are in plain sight and always get me some fun comments from the kids. I have two or three cousins who will stick their fingers in my earlobes, and think it's the funniest thing. Ever. I was babysitting for two of them one night, and the back of my shirt happened to ride up enough so that the little girl could see the two tattoos on my lower back. Well, she was in awe and called her little brother over to see the ink (a Celtic design and a Skull-and-crossbones), at which he was totally excited. The skull-and-crossbones was kind of new at that point, and I hadn't said anything about it. But those kids were adorable asking me all their questions. Now here comes my "What makes a Role Model" question: When my young cousins ask me about any of my mods, be they piercing, tattoo, or stretch, I make a special effort on my part to tell them the truth. Truth meaning good or bad.

The kids have me as an opportunity to learn that these things are not bad. I tell them that these things caused me pain initially. They know that a tattoo, especially, is not something to enter into lightly. They know that a piercing can leave a scar or migrate. I don't let our discussions get overly serious, but I let the kids all know the basics of how to change your body, but how to do it safely.

I also happen to spend a lot of time traveling back and forth to Boston from my home about 45 minutes northeast of our capitol city, and I do this traveling on the train. I love the looks and the stares and the whispers that my pierced presence gathers behind me, be it on that train or just walking in a store. But the best thing is when a young child is courageous enough (and given parental permission) to come talk to me. When a kid comes to me and asks me why I have a pair of chains and enormous steel talons hanging out of me ears, I smile inwardly and tell him that I like having them there, and when I made the changes to my skin they made me feel like a better, happier person. "Plus, don't they look cool?" That removes the oft-seen slightly confused look and replaces it with a smile and a nod. The child runs back to his mom or dad, sometimes pointing at me or giggling, but always with a story to tell the parent. I smile at the parent, a nice big grin... and they never fail to start at the CBR hanging down from my frenum over my top teeth. The Smiley always catches people off guard... it's so unexpected, so seldom seen, and it looks strange.

Really though, what is a role model but someone who presents things especially to children in a calm, informative manner that they can understand? I see myself as a role model to my cousins because they feel like they can come to me and ask me a question pressing on their impressionable minds, and get an answer that is easy to wrap those minds around. Something to think about, maybe? And I know that many of these kids go back to their parents and ask about what I have done. The nice thing is that the kids get two different opinions about something that is a controversial subject. They have what I've given them, which is the basic facts, and then they get their parents' opinion, which usually ends up being a little negative. But my point of view is also educational. A friend's 14 year-old niece wanted to have her nostril pierced... and went and bought an ear-piercing gun from a drug store. I was horrified, and introduced her to the world of BME. I showed her the BMEShop site, and told her how a piercing needle works. Her mother had been very reluctant to let this girl put the hole in her nose, but when presented with this new information about how to be safe with the piercing by her daughter, she was much more receptive to the idea and a few weeks later, this girl had a brand-new hole in her nose. Which has healed very nicely and looks great. I feel a little smug about having initiated a new addict into the bod-mod world, but I also feel really good about her knowing that when it's time for a new hole, she'll go to a reputable shop instead of just jamming a safety pin through her face. She now has an industrial, in addition to many other ear-holes, and she and her mom are looking into getting her a labret.

So, all in all, maybe some modders aren't the best role models. But... then again, some 'mundanes' aren't the best role models either. I happen to think I'm a good role model.

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 11 March 2006
in Culture

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