Ice and soup, my friend... ice and soup.
For a long time I've been planning on getting a lot of piercings - at least twenty - and I knew the placements and types of jewelry and such for every piercing I wanted. Now that I'm an active customer at my favorite local shop, the real challenge is trying to work my way around my boss's "no more jewelry!" policy. After I exhausted my visible possibilities (three in each lobe, 10ga, 12ga, and 14ga, and my left cartilage), I began moving to less visible piercings. It started with a set of nipples, though I was unhappy with them... the piercer didn't bother to check placement first, and I ended up with extremely crooked piercings. After discussing it with my new piercer, she advised me to take them out, let them heal, then come in to get them re-pierced for a discount. After that, I got my septum pierced with my friend Amanda, who got her lip done the same day. I began running out of options at that point, and even though I wanted so many, there were few my boss would approve
Well, Saturday morning, I woke up determined to get my tongue pierced. It was Labor Day weekend, and I had about three days off. I quickly called up Twisted Images, Inc., and asked them both how late they were open that day and if the swelling in my piercing would be down enough for me to speak clearly on the phone at work Tuesday evening. They assured me it should be, and I gladly told them I'd be in to get pierced soon. At this point I rolled out of bed, got dressed, and hunted down a meal in my kitchen. The pickings were slim, but I whipped up what I considered to be a decent breakfast (microwave breakfast bowls are absolute yum), had a few pieces of chocolate to bring up my blood sugar, and stepped outside.
Now I'd never actually driven to Twisted Images myself before. I'd always rode shotgun with a friend, but this time, I was by myself. Everyone I'd asked to go with me were busy or had other plans; I grudgingly understood, because it was such short notice. I don't like to get pierced alone, but I decided to go anyways. Just when I was about to call my friend Amanda for directions (to my favorite piercer... a little sad, right?), I recognized where I was and pulled off Bardstown Road to park. I slipped my driver's license and my debit card into my back pocket for ease of access, locked my car, and walked back past a few shops to head inside.
There were a couple of people getting tattoos at the time, one of whom I recognized as someone I might have gone to high school with. Trevor, their floor person, was busy with one of the tattoo artists named Karl, and Amy was leaning over the counter, watching her son play with a woman in the corner. "Hey girlie, how are you today?" she greeted me. Amy is co-owner of Twisted Images, and an excellent piercer. She trained with Fakir Musafar, father of the Modern Primitive movement, and has been piercing since 1995. She has the innate ability to get customers to relax, and is very knowledgeable about the human body in general, and always has the patience to answer the questions I inevitably come up with. Ever since my botched first few piercings, I've been going to her, and have been referring friends to her as much as possible.
We traded greetings and such, and she asked me what I was in for. I told her my tongue, and she nodded to the other piercer, Natalie. "Is it okay if Nat-Nat does you today?" Natalie finished her apprenticeship under Amy in August of 2007, and I was fine with it. Amy herself was about to head out and take her son, Alan, to his first birthday party with a 'blow-up bouncy thing,' so she couldn't pierce me. After I filled out my paperwork and got my license back, and Amy reminded Natalie I was a "repeat offender" (that's what they call someone who's a repeat customer), Natalie led me up the familiar stairs to the equally familiar piercing room, where I hopped up on the table.
After talking for a bit about our respective hospital jobs (I work at Baptist East as a tech, she works at Suburban as a phlebotomist), I asked her if I could possibly get venoms. At first she was enthusiastic, but then she looked at my tongue. "Your veins are wicked crazy," she said. Apparently the veins on the underside of my tongue branched out several times, and she said she'd be more comfortable if Amy did them. "I'd love to see her technique on these," and I agreed just to get the singular, center piercing first. I can always get venoms at a later date. Also, even though she assured me the swelling on my tongue would be under control by Tuesday, she said since venoms are pierced through the muscle on either side of the tongue, the swelling would be double, and last twice as long. In the end, I decided the center piercing would be better for that day anyways.
She began to prep both her workstation and me, and handed me a little cup of what my friend Amanda and I called the "ass-wash." When Amanda had gotten her lip pierced, she almost gagged. I made a face when Natalie handed it to me, and even told her what we called it. This seemed to amuse her, and as I reluctantly threw my head back and emptied the cup, I realized it tasted a lot worse than it had smelled. As I swished the foul stuff around in my mouth, I realized my tongue was going numb, and after I spit, I told her. She just nodded, saying, "That's one of the benefits of the ass-wash, I guess," and I laughed a bit about that.
When I sat back down on the table in the middle of the room, and she began showing me all the packages, and how the little black lines were indicators on that every package had been autoclaved. She measured my tongue with an instrument whose name I don't know, and had me tighten my tongue as much in the middle as possible, and measured again. She brought out a longer barbell for my tongue, and I asked if I would need a longer barbell for swelling, or if I should come get it changed in a week. "Since your tongue is a muscle, it shouldn't swell as much as a skin piercing or cartilage piercing would," she informed me, reminding me that regardless I was free to call or come back if I ever had any issues. Satisfied, I then asked if I could lay down to get pierced, and she accomodated me. As much as I'd love to pretend I'm a badass, I don't trust myself not to yank back when I'm pierced, so I try to lay down if possible. By this time, she'd already marked my tongue where I wanted t o get pierced, changed gloves, checked my tongue for stray veins, and had the clamps in place (on which she used rubber bands instead of the locking mechanism, which thankfully made them not nearly as painful), she positioned herself to pierce me and told me to let her know when I was ready.
Again, I admit I'm a bit of a pansy sometimes. Piercing hurts a little or a lot, depending on the placement and your own personal pain tolerance, and my personal tolerance isn't excellent. So I gripped the edges of the bed-table-thing tightly, thinking, "God, this is gonna suck for like, five seconds," utterly prepared for the worse. With my tongue clamped, I couldn't exactly tell her "go right ahead," so I grunted my approval and closed my eyes tight. I heard, "Take a deep breath in..." When she was sure I was on the exhale, I felt the needle go through my tongue. After a few seconds, my eyes popped open and I looked up at her, just saying, "Huh?" Natalie laughed. "Adrenaline kick in yet? There's always that moment where it sucks, then all of a sudden, you're like, 'damn, that was a good piercing!'" Granted, the adrenaline kicked in soon after, but the actual piercing hadn't hurt. It wasn't comfortable, but I felt no actual pain.
As my mouth began to fill with saliva (that part was kind of weird, especially since I still couldn't close my mouth), she warned me she was going to slip the jewelry in and attach the beads. A lot of places refuse to use externally-threaded jewelry on any fresh piercing, and earlier, Natalie showed me how they fit the jewelry in. The hollow needle they used had a little black insert on the end with threads. She screwed the intended barbell onto this, and it became one solid, seamless needle/jewelry thing. She explained this was easier on fresh piercings because it was an easy follow-through, instead of piercing, then removing the needle, then putting in the jewelry. Even still, this part always felt really weird to me, and had me resisting the urge to squirm. Finally, she announced, "There!" and helped me slowly lift the jewelry over my teeth and into my mouth (my first instinct was to suck it back in... I wasn't nearly used to the feeling of it, yet).
It most definitely felt odd. I'd read a previous experience on BME where the author described it as feeling like you had a tic-tac on your tongue all the time. This felt like an accurate description to me, although it was a LARGE tic-tac, really, and then the added sensation of another one under your tongue. She wiped me up and showed me the paper towel - a tiiiiny little drop of blood! This made me feel better, as I had yet to bleed a a lot on any piercing, and she said when I was ready, I could hop down. I waited a minute or so to be sure I wouldn't get dizzy (that's happened before, and it SUCKED), I slid carefully off the table. She explained aftercare to me, and handed me a printed out sheet even though their entire aftercare advice is easily accessible on their website. We discussed other kinds of things as she tallied up my total price. I even asked her on shop etiquette regarding getting pierced; I'm probably the most modded of my friends, and as I'd really never been inside a real shop before Twisted, I had no idea really how to go about this. Luckily she explained to me that it actually made most piercers feel good when their customers cared enough to set up an appointment with them the way a person would with their tattoo artist, so I decided to call back in a month or so to arrange an appointment to get my nipples re-done. As I left the room and she began to clean-up, she smiled, saying, "It was nice meeting you!" I assured her I'd be back a lot, and headed downstairs to pay.
I must say I am extremely grateful for the fact that they have a card reader downstairs, as my only real method of payment is debit card. I handed Trevor my marked-up sheet with my final price (complete with 'repeat offender' discount and a copy of my license), and my debit card. After my tip, the whole total came to fifty bucks, and he handed me a small bottle of alcohol-free mouthwash to use whenever I put anything in my mouth that wasn't ice or water, including cigarettes.
As I was leaving, I was sure to swing by McDonald's to grab a cup of ice (those people are really not happy when you order free crap), and blissfully let a few pieces melt on my tongue. I went to the mall and a local Walgreens, shopping for birthday presents and some birthday cards for a couple of relatives for Labor Day, and headed home. As of yet, my grandma took it better than my mom, which is the complete reverse of how it has been; Mom just looked at me saying, "What's going on with you? You just keep getting more and more!" and Grandma just laughed it off, so I even showed her my septum. My grandpa is still completely oblivious (though I know he'll find out eventually, I just don't want him to until it's thoroughly healed), and I actually haven't lisped much at all until a few hours ago, even though I got pierced yesterday afternoon. I find the longer I go without speaking, the stiffer my tongue is when I finally DO speak... however, the more I speak, the more sore the
underside of my tongue becomes. Ice has become my best friend, and Tylenol is its hot older brother. I've managed the swelling well, I think, it's just the stiffness that bothers me sometimes.
A few words of advice for the freshly pierced and those considering it:
-Solid foods suck. They suck really hard. So when you go to eat, keep in mind you will have to re-learn everything. My advice is to basically stick to the 'baby-diet' way; mashed potatoes, applesauce, and other mushy goodies. Soup is an added bonus, though when I fixed chicken noodle from a can, my taste buds revolted a little at the liquid (damn you, Campbell's!). I'm unsure if this is related to the piercing, of if it's just because I haven't had any in a while.
-Ice. Ice. Ice. Ice. Ice. Ice. Ice.
-Tylenol or any sort of generic ibuprofen works wonders. Anti-inflammatories keep the swelling down to a manageable size, and even make it easier to talk - for me, at least. When they kicked in, I noticed the pain was almost completely dulled to the point I could talk perfectly normal. Be careful not to take more than the recommended dose, no matter how tempting it is or how quickly it wears off. Alternate a little medicine and lots of... ice.
-When you do feel comfortable with more solid foods (I graduated to noodles!), keep your tongue pressed to the roof of your mouth as much as possible, to help your mouth get used to this new jewelry. Added bonus: When I did this, I never bit the barbell (and the one time I forgot, I did).
-Chew on one side of your mouth. Use your fork to place tiny, tiny bits of food to one side or the other, and resist rotating food throughout your mouth using your tongue as you normally would. The more food you keep off your fresh 'wound', the better.
-Don't wait until you're really, really hungry to eat. You need to eat slowly, otherwise you risk biting yourself really, really hard. Don't believe me? Chew REALLY FAST like you usually would, and then figure it out yourself. As such, if you wait until you're practically starved, the urge to eat fast and the frustration at eating slowly will piss you off. Snack throughout the day a little bit at a time if you need to, and plan extra time for meals.
-Go to the store, and get the softest toothbrush you can find. Also, get a LARGE bottle of alcohol-free, anti-bacterial or anti-germicidal mouthwash. Twice a day and after you eat, brush the top of your tongue and around the underside of your piercing with the brush to remove any kind of mucus or plaque that may form. I also brush the roof of my mouth sometimes, just to be extra-thorough. After you eat or drink anything that isn't ice or water, rinse your mouth with a combination of half-mouthwash, half-water, for as long as you like. If you can't use mouthwash for various reasons, stick to the sea-salt solution most piercers recommend, and use that like you would mouthwash. Brush your teeth like normal, but keep as much paste away from the piercing as possible. Flossing is awesome, keep doing it.
-I don't care how often you regularly swap bodily-fluids with your partner(s), don't kiss or put any body parts in your mouth for a month. This doubles the risk for infection. So, if you or your significant other can't wait that long, don't get an oral piercing right now. Wait until you HAVE to be apart for several weeks (business trip, family vacation, whatever), and surprise them or something when they get back.
-Also, I've heard people complain they can't clean their oral piercing because it's too sore. Well, if you really think about it... it's probably getting MORE sore, because it's on its way to getting a horrible infection. If you think it's sore now, wait a week or two and don't take care of it. Nasty. So, tough it out, and brush that sucker. It'll heal quicker and you'll be in pain for a shorter amount of time.
Amy and Natalie are cool people, yo. Even if they didn't pierce you, they are always up for answering your questions regarding piercing and aftercare and the like. Similarly, if you have tattoo questions, you can always contact them for advice, and they'll get back to you as soon as possible. If you're ever in the Louisville area and would like to get some work done (be it tats, piercing, ritual piercing, suspension, and so on), I highly recommend Twisted Images; their people are always friendly, their shop is always clean and inviting, their prices are reasonable, and it's sure to be a great experience every time.
submitted by: grandmelody
on: 28 Sept. 2008
in Tongue Piercing