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Once . . . Twice . . . Three Times a Piercee

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I think some of the most meaningful body modification results from someone choosing to mark life achievement with piercing or tattoos. To commemorate a life turning point or celebration with body-art is so much more significant than wandering into a downtown ink shop on a Friday night and picking some flash off the wall on a whim. There's nothing wrong with an impulsive modification, but it seems more special to me if there's a reason behind the mod.

I got my eyebrow pierced between my first and second semesters in college, at age 18. I went to a tattoo shop near my dorm (the first licensed tattoo shop in Texas, just for a historical note) and got my left eyebrow done. This was my first real body modification; I had double-pierced lobes and a cartilage stud at the time, but nothing more than that.

Body modification is more mundane now than in days past; I can imagine hard-core modfreaks reading this with a yawn and shrugging. But the change was significant for me. I got my eyebrow done a few months after ending a serious relationship with a control-freak. He hated me dyeing my hair, he hated my cartilage stud, he hated anything about me that was contrary to the mainstream. In short, I had given up a lot of myself to make the relationship work. Yet he still cheated on me with my best friend, and I got a really rough jolt into the real world.

But after the breakup, I was able to finally express myself as I chose, without worrying about the ire of my significant other. With that liberation came my eyebrow ring. I don't remember much about the experience, except that it was quick and painless. Oh, and I saw "Scream 2" right afterwards, with endorphins cruising through my body.

A few days later, I went back to the same shop to get my tongue pierced. This was to be my first big decision of 1998, which was the first new year for me since I'd lost the deadwood that was my ex-boyfriend. It needed commemoration.

I was nervous; having a friend with me didn't help. The piercer, the same one who did my eyebrow, was very curt with me, bordering on being downright rude. He did all the proper preparation, but when he clamped my tongue into the forceps, he asked me to hold my tongue out myself. Me? Was he kidding? Regrettably, no. With my tongue protruding, I mumbled a concern that I'd yank my tongue back when I felt the needle. He responded by telling me that I'd end up with a forked tongue.

It hurt. It hurt like hell. Afterwards, my tongue was swollen and painful. I got some ice, but it didn't help at all. And I was oozing blood and saliva for the better part of the afternoon. (I went furniture shopping with my friend that day. I couldn't talk, couldn't open my mouth, and was walking around drooling into a paper towel. It looked like I'd gotten my teeth knocked out by Oscar de la Hoya.) I subsisted on Slim-Fast for about 48 hours; I couldn't even suck it through a straw, my tongue hurt so much.

A few days passed and I could eat mush and milkshakes. I still couldn't stick my tongue out for about a week, and I talked strangely the entire time. The worst was when I was introducing myself to my 80 new coworkers; my "interesting fact" during the get-to-know-each-other session was something along the lines of, "I don'th alwayth talk like thith."

But eventually it healed fine. I switched to a shorter bar three weeks later and have been perfectly happy with the pierce ever since. I generally don't notice it, even though it's fairly close to the end of my tongue (my tongue is short, so it had to be). I haven't even ever taken it out; I brush it with my toothbrush three times a day. And yes, the people I date like it.

About five months after that, my eyebrow piercing rejected. I was immensely disappointed, but realized the flat plane would reject again if I got it repierced. By that time all I had was my tongue and one cartilage stud. I went to get my navel pierced, but two different shops told me my stomach is too flat and my navel is too shallow.

After this came a piercing hiatus for a year.

It was a tough year, especially the fall and winter. My father had cancer, and I had to leave my college-area apartment and go to live with my family. This was hard on me, but by February things were looking up. I had a lead role in a play, I was thrilled with my new major (philosophy), and my father's health had improved dramatically.

I decided to get my nose pierced, partially because my character in the play would've been great with one, but also because I wanted to commemorate that time when everything was going great.

In Austin, there's one body-art salon with a great reputation: Forbidden Fruit. I had heard of Bear from reading the paper, whose earlobes were stretched to his shoulders. Actually, I got to talking with a woman in a grocery store line, and she recommended him highly. So I decided to go to Forbidden Fruit after talking to some more people; all their piercers were commended.

I took my friend Anita with me; it was the day before Valentine's day, and I was throwing a party that night. Downtown there was a Mardi Gras celebration going on, and the day's mood was festive and bright. I knew this was a good idea.

I filled out all the forms and chose my nose ring. The counter girl was incredibly helpful and patient as I considered my options. I chose a standard silver captive-bead ring with a blue faceted bead; they gave me a silver bead and a purple faceted one, too, for free. I paid, and sat down to wait. The shop was a bit crowded, but only one person was ahead of me to be pierced.

Anita was feeling sick from something she'd eaten, but I was fine. After a few minutes, they called my name. I was thrilled to learn that Bear himself would pierce me! It was an adrenaline rush just to see him; he has his stretched earlobes, tattoos on his face, numerous piercings, and implants in his arms. He was intelligent and articulate, and had I been nervous, he would have made me relax instantly. Anyone who has negative stereotypes about modified people needs to meet Bear.

Bear led us to the private piercing room, and began to prep. There were pictures of suspensions he'd done in the room, which made me think of the "chair of nails" at the museum when I was a kid. He washed his hands, put on the gloves, and got the materials ready. I told him about my bad experiences at the other shop, and he said he'd seen a lot of bad piercings as a result of them.

Bear walked me through every step of the sterilization and quizzed me on aftercare; I was to use antibacterial soap twice a day, rotating it through the piercing and then rinsing. He also suggested taking zinc supplements to speed healing. His sterilization of the materials was downright meticulous. We agreed on the placement of the pierce, and I laid on the table while he changed his gloves again and explained the piercing process.

Bear told me to inhale and exhale steadily three times; he'd put the needle through as I exhaled the third time. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale and he did it. It didn't hurt a bit, and he talked to me softly as he slid the ring in. The result was beautiful and I was simply elated. Part of it was my joy with the piercing, but another part was the happiness I felt from having such a wonderful, wonderful piercer. Bear was a million times better than the man who did my eyebrow and tongue. If you don't have a good rapport with your piercer or tattoo artist, caveat emptor! The experience itself is better when a great person does it.

Walking down the street, I could feel that heightened awareness that comes with a piercing. It seemed like wind was whistling through the new hole! I couldn't stop looking at it in windows and in my rear-view mirror, it was so wonderful!

[If you live anywhere in central Texas, do not go anywhere but Forbidden Fruit in Austin for your body modification! They are simply the best! Now I intend to go back to Bear someday for a cutting and to the shop for a tattoo this summer. I'm still considering nipple rings and maybe a pierce in my upper lip. But for the love of god, don't tell my mother. She's upset enough with the nose ring!]

I had some trouble with aftercare, in that I have very dry skin, and my skin around the piercing got sort of red and flaky. I wasn't using lotion for fear of contaminating the piercing, but started using it again after the first few days. But the piercing itself only got red and icky once, about two weeks after the pierce. I used a blend of vitamin E oil and ti-tree oil and lavender on it, and it cleared right up. The piercing healed completely in about three weeks, and I haven't had a moment's trouble with it.

Unfortunately, I had a disagreement with my director and I lost my part in the play that I'd been so happy about. My father also got sick again. But I have my ring to remind me that things have gotten better before, and they will get better again. C'est la vie and so it goes.

People tell me now that my piercings are "mainstream." They don't carry as much shock value as they would have a few years ago; even Girl Scouts think the metal in my tongue is neat-o. But I don't care. I like them, I think they're attractive, and they have meaning for me.

And if I'm happy, then the purpose has been achieved.

Meghan May 1999

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 15 June 1999
in Tongue Piercing

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