to get a septum
My septum piercing came as a bit of a surprise, even for myself. It just acts as further proof of how one changes in the course of a few years. Basically, my piercer and friend John Wayne had suggested that I look into getting my septum done shortly after I met him, and I had found the idea rather uninspiring. At that stage I was focusing on my ear projects and was not interested in getting any other piercings at all. However, three years later the same friend announced he and his fiancé; were moving far away, and this was dismaying to me as we had all become quite close. I associated them both strongly with their septum piercings, as my piercer had personal “criteria” for performing them. Oh, he would do them for the average customers without complaint, but if you were in his friend circle you needed to “earn” them. To him, septum piercings were symbolic of some rite of passage, perhaps because of their tribal significance. He told me that although the piercing does not pass through any cartilage, there is a sensitive bundle of nerves running right through the spot where the piercing has to be performed, which can make it quite painful. Perhaps he also felt that the pain one endured during the process was important and signified some kind of personal fire. I remember asking him if he thought I deserved one. He said, “You did a flesh-pulling; so sure.” I just nodded complacently and forgot about it. In the interim I was told by a few people that the piercing would “suit” me, because of the shape of my nose. Eventually I began looking at myself more critically and began thinking that it might indeed fit my features, but I still did not seriously consider getting one.
Then when I found my friends were leaving I remembered these musings and actually gave it some consideration. I began wanting to get it done, as a memory to my friends who had been fairly influential in my life. The placement itself also kind of suited my general personality with regards to my aesthetic; I enjoy body modification greatly but am rather subtle about it; I only had eleven piercings at that point due to patient selectiveness and all but one of these were in my ears hidden by hair. Even my oral piercing was discreet; I opted for the sub-lingual web rather than a standard tongue. The septum, if fitted with tiny horseshoe jewellery, was understated and could be invisible when flipped up. And if it were to be removed at a later stage, well, what of it? I scar very badly but there is almost no chance of it ever being seen in that area. The idea began to grow on me but my plan was to wait until just before my friends left, and then get it done as homage to their weight in my life. However, one evening it just seemed “right” that I go get it done the next day. It was not quite an impulse decision, for as I walked to the studio I came across a mutual friend who also lamented that they were leaving, and felt doubly assured that I was doing what was right. Not to get overly esoterical over matters of nasal ornamentation, but with all my piercings I will wait until I feel justified in having them done, rather than just get pierced because I want it and have the money. Twice I have been offered free piercings because the piercer was “bored” or it was my birthday; and I have turned both offers down.
So I entered the studio and asked if John Wayne would pierce me. He was pleased that I had finally decided to get it done, but it took a while for him to actually get around to it because the shop had just opened and things were still being set up. He had to run some errands before the workday started so I went with him to the store and got a bar of chocolate to raise my blood-sugar. He saw me browsing and remarked that I’d probably need it. When we got back to the shop I sat outside for a little while with John Wayne’s apprentice. She asked what I wanted and exclaimed that the piercing would look lovely on me; then said “Are you nervous?” I told her that I wasn’t yet but that I would probably cry little a little girl anyway. My presumption was based on being hit in the nose, how it hurt and how one’s eyes would involuntarily water. I still wasn’t nervous as I lay on the piercing bed. Only when my nose was being marked I began to feel the slight waver of anticipation, somewhat intensified when I saw the needle. Normally I am fairly complacent with regards to such things but there is a bit of lore about the painful nature of septum piercings and I was a little worried. This was not much assuaged by John Wayne’s advice to “hold on” I gently gripped the massage bed in readiness, breathed in and out; the area was clamped, in again and on the exhale the needle slid through quickly, smoothly, easily with no more than the “usual” pain. A bit of heat, a feeling of sharpness and then the area was both numb and tingly. John Wayne told me to look in the mirror. The needle stuck out on both sides of my septum, making me look quite tribal. A large curved barbell was threaded in and as the ball was screwed on I was pleased at how I did not cry out or tear up. I think I might have blinked. The pain was so swift and far less intense than I expected.
I ate my chocolate meditatively while looking into the mirror. The new addition to my face was quite striking; my original desire to have the tiny horseshoe was obviously impractical for a fresh piercing, but I figured I could always flip the larger one up anyway. I did so. John Wayne instantly yelled “Don’t do that!!”
“Risks of cross-contamination! The boogers! THE BOOGERS!”
So we flipped it back (an endeavour which required tweezers) and I was mildly disappointed; as previously noted, I do like to keep things fairly understated and having a large ring hanging right in the centre of my face needed quite an adjustment. Despite my shyness I did get some positive reactions so it wasn’t bad. I was also glad about the timing because, had I waited as per my original plan, I would have had to go on holiday with my parents sporting a decidedly obvious piece of new metal.
As for aftercare, I stocked up on Ibuprofen and took two or three spread over the course of the day. Some saltwater solution mixed with a tiny amount of anti-bacterial liquid was all I used for cleaning, applied with cotton buds two or three times daily. I tried not to bump or touch it (naturally) and upped my dosage of vitamin C. Adjusting to the piercing was a little interesting at first, as in certain cases (when eating an apple, for example) my top lip would touch the barbell and displace the crusties, causing it to either bleed or leak clear lymph. Sometimes when I leaned over the jewellery itself would start to move forward a little, causing the same reaction. Having fluid form drips in your nostrils is never particularly pleasant, but it was quite interesting to be so intimately exposed to the abjection of the healing process. Fortunately, the occasional bleeding stopped after the first day. By day four I could push the curved barbell forward and backwards without pain. I had also stopped taking Ibuprofen; the swelling I had expected never came, and the pain was minimal. After ten days I found I could actually push the jewellery against my septum (the anatomy) without pain. A little past the two-week mark I changed the jewellery to a slightly smaller horseshoe (not quite my intended size, but close). The piercing had more or less stopped giving me pain, and the only troublesome aspect was the lymph which crusted on the surface of the barbell, preventing me from easily adjusting the jewellery so that it was correctly centred.
The jewellery change made quite a difference in my perception of the piercing; I felt a lot happier with the aesthetic once there was no longer an enormous dangling bit of metal hanging in the centre of my face. It also made hiding the piercing a lot more comfortable, as once it is flipped straight up into the nose it is completely invisible but feels rather odd.
Two months after I got it done my septum is “pretty much” healed; ie, it moves freely and is no longer painful but does occasionally collect a little crust around the jewellery. I have again changed the jewellery and have received more positive than negative reactions about it. It makes an excellent first facial piercing due to its potential for discretion; however in these cases it will still take a while to get used to the way it looks in your face.
submitted by: -K
on: 03 July 2012
in Septum Piercings
Artist: John Wayne Stevens
Studio: Full Sails Tattoos
Location: Grahamstown, South Africa