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Piercings in the larger community.

Piercings are a very important part of my life. They help me express myself, my interests. As my friend Jason always says, "Your body is your vessel for life, why not decorate it?"

Well, this seems all well and good in the supposedly liberal world of the west. Despite our complaints that "people just don`t get us man" piercings are generally accepted as fine. The problem arises when I consider my other main interest; Travel. Travel is a hugely important part of my life too and for a long time I believed, and probably still believe, piercings and travel just do not mix.

When I travelled to India I found my piercings a real hinderance. I began to hate them. They made me stand out. Standing out in London is what I love most. Standing out in India was something I hated. I`d never had this when Id been away before but then Id never had piercings before. My piercings became comedy value-there was the sense that I was hilarious. Its totally understandable, anything different is often considered stupid, its the same in London. I was very different and therefore totally and utterly, undeniably stupid. In London people may just stare in India they stared and stared and stared. On a 5 hour bus journey one man stared at me the whole time. This may not seem like a big deal but it became annoying and quite freightening.

The concept of a piercing other than a nasal or lobe piercing could not be explained. In Philip Sidneys "The Defence of Poetry" he says that poetry of the orient is "like those Indians not content to wear earings in the fit and natural place of the ears, but they will thrust jewels through their nose." Sidneys Renaissance attitude that the natural place for piercings is in the ears is the same as the modern Indians view that the natural places are only the nose and lobes. To explain to Sidney or to modern India (and I dont mean Goa) that there is no natural place for piercings, that it is perfectly normal to have a piercing in your septum is not plausable. It isnt their fault, it is cultural. They equally do not understand other cultural differences in the same way we do not often undertand their cultural view point.

What travel made me realise is I didnt want to stand out. I wanted to become imersed in a cultural experience; being white hindered that, I couldnt change my colour but having piercings was something I could change. In one of my home stays the woman of the household, Prianka said she found me odd and didnt want to look at me. I felt rude for offending her in such a way. I didnt want to be a moral crusader-to spread the word that piercings are fine, I just wanted to get along without too much hassle.

When I flew back to India last time I removed some of my piercings and hid others with retainers. On show I only had my nose piercing. My experience changed; I was still a funny white girl but I wasnt someone who totally stood out, others stood out far more. By the time I got to Goa, where all the hippys were I felt positively plain but that was fine by me. Some people can travel with piercings and feel fine, for me, in India it didn`t work and for a long time I totally felt that piercings and travel would not mix however, before I get slated for saying such a thing Id like to point out this may not be the case for everyone. I just wish I personally hadnt had my piercings the first time I went to India.

I`m intending to travel to China in four months to teach English. On the TEFL course I went to recently I asked about piercings and how they would be accepted. The lady teaching said the children would love them. The importance of them learning English would way out way the importance of my apperance. She said that I was bringing Western culture to them and they would be enthralled by it, not disgusted. Confused yes, but willing to learn. I have yet to find out whether this is the case but I have a feeling children, as they are anywhere in the world will be much more open to difference.

If however I find my piercings do make me stand out too much I probably will decide to take them out once and for all. I have realised that in some situations my piercings dont mean enough. Id probably never take my piercings out for an office job but for travel I feel Id have to reconsider. Its too important to me and, as depressing as it seems, I realised my piercings just werent that important.

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 06 Feb. 2002
in Ritual

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