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Crossing over

ebsite has been an excellent source of information for me. I've been thinking about body modification for a LONG time, but hadn't had the fortitude to go through with it until a week ago. That's when I got all my hair cut off, and my right nostril pierced. This sounds really tame compared to many of the stories I've read on BME, but that day was really a milestone for me. I had always been a borderline wild child, but never did anything that I would consider terribly outrageous, even though I wanted to really badly. In high school, I had the traditional single ear piercing in both ears, but for Punk Day (during Spirit Week, before Homecoming) in my sophomore year, I added three piercings to my left ear, right about the conventional one in my lobe -- and I did them myself, in front of my vanity mirror with a kidney hook earring and a pair of needlenosed pliers. Mind you, this was 1984 and I was living in my very conservative hometown in northern Michigan, so this was extremely interesting to my friends. But it was a National Geographic magazine cover photo which first prompted me to consider a nostril piercing. I don't know the date of the magazine (although I intend to find out, it's at least 10 years old) and I don't even know the nationality of the woman on the cover, but the photo is gorgeous and the woman is beautiful. The entire cover is taken up with a closeup photo of her face. Her eyes are closed and her face is turned up toward the sky, and it's raining on her. Her skin is dappled with raindrops, and the single piece of jewelry in sight is a cone-shaped nostril stud. I showed it to my mother, and expected her to appreciate the woman's beauty and the incredible impact of that one (brass?) stud in the woman's nose, but instead my mother said "Yes, she's beautiful, but I hope you're not going to get any ideas about getting your OWN nose pierced--you're not Indian and it wouldn't look like that on you." Sigh. Okay, Ma, just burst my bubble, why don't you? There was no place up north where I could have gotten my nose pierced, anyway, and I'd always worked at jobs where conservative appearance was very important; I'd toyed around with hair colour (purple and burgundy washes and one particular colour called Black Cat) but never had the guts to look into having my nostril pierced. Flash forward to the present: I work for the coolest software company on the face of the earth where it doesn't matter what I look like, and my best friend Dawnn has just gotten her newly-regrown hair (lost during a successful chemotherapy treatment) styled into the sharpest style by a guy named Robert. In a moment of clarity, I realized I wanted Dawnn's hairstyle and I also want my nose pierced. Last Saturday, in the space of about 4 hours, I got both. We started with the hair. I have been growing my hair for 5 years, and it was long enough to hang below my shoulderblades, all one length. Robert the Hairstylist asked me repeatedly if I was certain I wanted to do it, and I replied honestly that I wanted it all gone. He said okay, asked if he could send my ponytail to the American Cancer Society (they accept donated hair to make hair pieces for children undergoing chemotherapy), and then proceeded to cut off better than 10 inches of hair. When he finished, my hair was shorter than my fiancee, Rick's hair, and I felt the back of my head to be freer than I ever have before. Next, the nose. Dawnn was very matter-of-fact about it, and she's had her bellybutton pierced, so I figured that if she could go through with having that done (she's a terrible wussy about needles) then I could get my nose done. We drove to Bluz Tattoos, and walked in. I was gradually losing my nerve, finally considering all the different implications that I should have been thinking about for the past 10 years...when I have my nose pierced, I won't be on the conservative side of the fence any longer. I won't be able to hide it for a job interview, like I used to hide my purple hair with a black rinse...if I get stopped for speeding, it's more than likely that the officer who stops me is going to look at my nose and figure me to be a bad sort, a marginal hard case who is more than likely to end up 'deserving' a ticket rather than a warning...I've seen discrimination based on appearance before, and I hate seeing it. I'd never done anything about it before, though...so maybe this piercing is partially political as well as decorative. "Be true to yourself," I always tell Dawnn. "Don't alter your appearance or your beliefs based on what you think other people expect." So she turned that on me while we were standing there waiting for Dan, the man who would be piercing me, to get done putting a tattoo stencil on someone else's arm. "You always tell me to be true to myself, so why don't you be true to YOURself?" she asked me. "You've talked about getting this done for as long as I've known you. Besides, you can always take it out if you don't like it." Take it out? If I've gone to the trouble of getting the piercing? Riiiight. As if I'd do that. But I'm still getting more and more antsy while we wait, and although it only takes a few minutes for Dan to get his tattoo subject set up, it feels like forever. We finally get to step into the room, and Dan gathers all the tools and materials he needs, chatting all the while about wound care and piercing experiences, including Dawnn's bellybutton ring, which she had to have removed during her lymphoma treatment, which just ended a week ago. Dawnn plans to get her bellybutton redone as soon as possible. I'm just sitting there kind of zoning out during all the chit-chat, and to break the ice, Dan pulls out a 00-gauge CBR and jokes "This is what we'll start you out on!" After he sees my eyes widen, though, he produces the jewelry he'll put in my nose, a little 18-gauge ring. Okay, that's better, but still! A CBR? I had an image of a tasteful little nostril screw, a little bead or maybe a cone showing on the outside of my nose. I'm not so certain I want to have a RING in my nose. While he sets out all the sterile equipment and single-use needle, Dan explains that the CBR will allow for better healing, as well as more thorough cleaning. I toy with the idea of changing my mind, even now, when I'm sitting here and Dawnn is just across the room...but Dan already has all these sterile items unwrapped, including my jewelry (my jewelry!!) and it would really be crappy of me to back out now. He adjusts the light and his gloves, and has me sit down with my right shoulder nearest him. He has me close my eyes while he cleans the skin of my right nostril with alcohol. I chose the right one to balance with all the earrings in my left ear. Then he studies my nose and face, and with a marker puts a dot on my nose. "Take a look at that and tell me if it's what you expected," he says, gesturing to a mirror out in the hall. I step through the door, feeling very Alice-Down-the-Rabbit-Hole, and check out the mark on my nostril. Because it's Saturday evening, there are lots of people considering body mods and the waiting area of the shop is crowded with people checking out the tattoo posters. I tell myself that this is a relatively small body mod, and that I can take this out if I don't care for it. And I can taylor it to whatever situation I'm in. Once it heals and I can change the jewelry, I can wear a small bead in the case of a job interview or a formal situation, or a more visible CBR or spike during other times. I have this wierd, out-of-body feeling, as though it's not me turning the door knob and going back into the room. I wonder if I'm not too old to have this done, if others will think me ridiculous for having this done, and then decide not to worry about that because I want this so badly. I sit back down in the chair, anxious and quiet and pale, and wonder exactly how much this will hurt. I've read different accounts of nostril piercing on BME, accounts which ranged from 'very little pain and a little bit of eye-watering' to 'incredible, burning pain and tear-streaming eyes.' We talk about the adrenalin rush that accompanies piercings, and Dan agrees, says it's a great feeling to have it done. I think about how the human body reacts to an accidental traumatic amputation--the reason so many people live after traumatic amputation of a limb, during a car accident, for example, is that the blood vessels around the limb constrict so completely as a reaction that they shut off the blood flow even from a severed artery. What a lovely thought to have at this particular moment, yup yup yup... Dan applies a clamp to my nostril, and fetches the needle from a small puddle of generic K-Y jelly where it's been resting along with the ring. I've no desire to watch this, so I close my eyes and tilt my head to the left. He tells me to take three deep breaths, and all of a sudden the needle is through my nostril. Is this IT? I wondered. It literally didn't even sting. I've had blood draws at the doctor's office that hurt worse than this, especially considering that this was a hollow 18-gauge needle that probably took a little cookie-cutter piece of skin and cartilage out of my nose. I was a little dazed, and somewhat disappointed that there wasn't any pain, and then I remembered that several piercings didn't hurt until the jewelry was inserted, so I closed my eyes and tilted my head to the left again, centering myself and readying for the pain, which I imagined would be similar to a stabbing where the wound wouldn't hurt until it was exposed to the open air. But still, nothing! My CBR was in place, and Dan was carefully swabbing the extra K-Y from around the outside, and I hadn't even shed a drop of blood. I was amazed, and felt extremely calm but invincible. While we were on our way out of the room, Dan mentioned not pulling on the ring or hitting it, and I joked that I felt like I could pull a truck with it, which earned a chuckle from everyone in the waiting room. While I'm signing my credit card form, it occurs to me that I had a greater adrenalin rush from getting my hair cut off! Or maybe I just spent it all on that experience, and my poor adrenal glands hadn't had a chance to recharge from that trauma yet. We stopped at Wal-Mart immediately afterward for Bactine, and Dawnn pointed out that several little old ladies in the store had pointedly stared at my nose. I was shocked but not really surprised at this, and thought again at how I had just crossed over from the ranks of the tame to the brother and sisterhood of body modifiers. This was no pretend nose stud that I could take out by separating the magnet backing from the little gold stud on the outside of my nostril. This was for real, an actual hole, no backing away from this. I will be able to take it out if necessary, but the hole will always be there as a testiment to my determination and belief in freedom of expression. I hope I won't ever have to remove it in order to keep a job or avoid criminal predjudice or prosecution, but that's always possible. And it's sad that there are still people in the world who think that this little metal ring in my nose, and my ability to go through with putting it there, changes the type or quality of person that I am. I am still intelligent, articulate, sensitive, but there is a large portion of society which is struggling to keep up with changing attitudes toward religion, race, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and things like body modification. I wish that this hole in my nose, which for me is another place to put jewelry, would be just that and only that, but until society catches up and I can go to a job interview with a stud in my nose that matches the five in my ears, it will have to be a political statement as well.


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 16 June 2000
in Nose Piercing

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Artist: Dan+Collins
Studio: Bl%FCz+Tattooz+%26+Body+Piercing
Location: Waterford%2C+Michigan

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