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My Odyssey

l started when I was ten years old. I find it hard to remember specific details from that long ago, but I do remember my aunt asking me if I wanted to get my ears pierced. I had never really thought about it previously, to be honest. You see, I live in the Midwest, and in 1980 piercing one's ears wasn't a big priority, even for females. My aunt had her ears pierced already. I thought it looked really pretty, so I agreed. The next step was to get approval from my grandfather, who was raising me at the time. He gave his approval, and off to the mall we went. It was a fairly quick process once we arrived, my aunt had to sign some papers, and then I got into the chair. The lady that was doing the piercing was probably in her thirties, and she looked like she had done this exact same procedure a thousand times previously. SNAP! The first one was in. It hurt terribly ... and I still had to get the other ear done! SNAP!! The other ear hurt even worse. I could feel tears coming to my eyes, but I didn't want to disappoint my aunt. All done. The lady put the evil-looking piercing gun away, and produced a mirror so I could see the results. The first thing that I noticed wasn't the earrings, it was the redness. Little did I know then that I had "sensitive ears," nor did I know that this would just be the beginning of my odyssey, and the inevitable problems that accompany gun piercings. A few months went by, and I still had in the starter earrings that I had been pierced with. One day, my aunt stopped by and casually asked if I was wanting to try different styles of earrings. Wow, I thought, now I can wear earrings like she does. A few days later, she returned with a couple different pairs that she had picked up from the department store. One pair was shaped like butterflies, and the other pair was shaped like flowers. I decided on the flower ones, and she helped me remove my starters and insert the new earrings. That's when the problems began. Within a few hours, my ears started burning terribly. The next day, they swelled up, and started to ooze. I called my aunt and asked her to come over and help me take the new earrings out. She arrived within a few minutes. Luckily, she only lived two houses down the street. She began the excruciatingly painful process of removing the earrings from my infected ears. It took her a good thirty minutes to complete the process, and by the time she was done, my ears were a swollen, bloody mess, and I was in tears. She told me that I would have to let the holes close up. I didn't really care at that point. She discreetly took all of my earrings with her, away from me. That way, I wouldn't have to see any reminders of what used to be ... and at that point in my life, my hair was long enough that it covered my ears easily. I didn't know it at the time, but my ears became infected because of the inferior materials in the earrings that I had attempted to wear. It took me a long time to realize that my ears were sensitive, and could not tolerate inferior materials. Jump to 1982, and for me, the beginning of junior high school. All of a sudden, appearance and conformity were everything. All of the girls had their ears pierced, and I felt a growing need to try my luck again at it as well. I called my aunt, and we went through the same procedure as we had two years previously. Strangely enough, however, it barely hurt this time, and I was rewarded with a pair of shiny gold studs. Not goldtone. Real gold. My aunt had wisely decided to have my ears pierced with quality jewelry this time. No problems arose from it this time, and I was satisfied ... or so I thought. The next year, in 1983, my father was released from prison, after having been incarcerated for seven years. He came to live with my grandfather and me. This was a man that I hardly knew, but I was drawn to him like a moth to a flame ... you see, he had TATTOOS. I found them strangely alluring, and would sneak peeks when I thought that no one else was looking. My grandfather, and everyone else had told me that tattoos were nasty and dirty, yet I saw nothing nasty or dirty about what I was looking at. They were beautiful. Especially the full arm Grim Reaper. Wow. After serving his parole time, my dad moved away again, back to California. He hated Indiana, and I didn't blame him. At the age of thirteen I was beginning to hate it too. Life went back to normal for everyone ... or so they thought. I was intrigued with the idea of getting a tattoo. Of course, I had to keep my desire secret. A couple of years later, and I saw the beginning of 1985, and my freshman year in high school. That was when I really first remember having conscious thoughts about body modification. The house next door to us was a rental, owned by a gentleman down the road. Hence, people were moving in and out all the time. It seemed that way, at least. A lady and her two young daughters moved in. She wasn't that much older than me. I was fifteen at the time. She couldn't have been more than 21 or 22, though I never did ask her actual age. That would have been rude. Remember, my grandfather was raising me, and he had instilled some very strong morals in me, most of which I still carry to this day. There's nothing wrong with treating people right! At any rate, I soon found out that she was an exotic dancer at our town's only gentleman's club. If my grandfather had known what she did for a living, he most likely would have prohibited me from visiting her. As it was, he never found out. She had the largest collection of earrings that I had ever seen, and she gladly let me borrow any that I wanted. One of my favorite pairs were the gold hoops that she had. Very heavy gold hoops, which had the side effect of stretching my earlobes. One day, I was messing around in the bathroom, and I noticed how large the holes in my earlobe were. So I stuck TWO pairs of earrings in each hole. They fit comfortably. Pretty soon, I was up to the point of wearing three or four pairs of earrings in the one set of holes. I could have easily worn a 10 or 12 gauge at that time, IF I had known what that was! That was when the other kids at school started calling me names like "weirdo," and "freak." I was naturally upset. I didn't think that I was a freak, I thought that I was making myself more beautiful. The name calling would continue all the way through high school ... it really undermined my self-esteem, but I couldn't go back to the way things were before. I WANTED to be different. Reluctantly, I accepted the taunts and got on with my life. Luckily, I had my music to fall back on. I was always involved with music at school, and I think that is the one thing that kept me sane during those long four years. I was in the orchestra, and I also took music theory classes. It was pretty funny, I thought, I loved making classical music on my violin, and writing original classical music for theory. But outside of school, I was a total metalhead. I was really into the hair bands of the 80's, like Scorpions, Ratt, etc. The next few years were a jumble of experiences and feelings. Suffice it to say that my grandfather died, and I moved around from relative to relative like a Ping-Pong ball. I lived in 16 different residences in three years. During that time, a new shop had opened up in the mall, that sold earrings and lingerie, and pierced ears. A friend and I went to the shop one day, and decided to get our ears double-pierced. She was eighteen, I wasn't. So, I did what any seventeen-year-old that wanted their ears pierced right then would do. I lied about my age. The lady behind the counter didn't question it, and so, ten minutes later, I had another set of gold studs in my ear. Amazingly, it didn't hurt like I had expected. And so began my obsession with getting my ears pierced. Two months later, when I turned eighteen, I got yet another set of gold studs in my earlobes, making them triple-pierced. One again, it didn't hurt at all. I was on a mission now, it seemed. I HAD to have more holes in my ears. It looked so beautiful. A week before my senior prom marked my fourth set of studs. The lady doing it said that I wouldn't be able to get anymore piercings, because my earlobe was full. At that time, no place within seventy-five miles would do a cartilage piercing, and so I was stuck with four sets of earrings. About the same time, I moved in with my then-boyfriend. He was a total jerk, but he did have one redeeming quality: an arm tattoo of a rose. It was beautiful, and once again aroused my interest in getting a tattoo. A year later, we broke up, but I still, to this day, can picture the tattoo in my mind. The next couple of years would see my desires put on hold. I graduated high school, got a job, and met my husband-to-be. A year later, I gave birth to our daughter. That was a very rewarding, albeit painful, experience. You see, I did not have any anesthetic while giving birth. At any rate, after the first few hectic months, I noticed that my fingernails had grown out quite considerably, probably as a result of all of the prenatal vitamins that I had been taking. for the first time, I actually looked at them. Wow, I thought, they're beautiful. I had never had long nails previous to then. I had always bitten them off, out of nervous habit. However, after seeing them long, I knew that I could never go back to short nails. I've had them long ever since. My husband takes great delight in assisting me decorate my nails. He loves my long nails. At this time, I was working for a well-known fast food chain. They had some of the dumbest rules on the books regarding appearance, and the managers constantly gave me grief about my long nails and multiple ear piercings. They never actually disciplined me, though, because I was the best cashier that they had, and we both knew it. After working there a few years, it was obvious that I was management material, and so they reluctantly sent me to management training. After I graduated from the course and became a manager, the real tormenting began. They insisted that I remove my earrings and cut my beautiful long nails for the job. Because I was supporting our entire family on my tiny income, I had no choice but to comply. It was a heart-wrenching decision, but yet, I knew that it would not be a permanent fixture. And I was right. Not quite a year went by when I finally had had "enough," so to speak. I asserted my individuality with a vengeance. Over the course of a month, I grew my beautiful fingernails back, and painted them. I submitted to the gun twice more at the mall, bringing my total piercings up to twelve. (Six on each side) That, in itself, was a liberating experience. My ears were finally starting to look like I had envisioned them in my mind. The top holes have 2 mm gold studs, the next holes 3 mm studs, and so forth, down to the bottom hole, which has 7 mm studs in it. That was 5 1/2 years ago, and I am still wearing the gold studs. Occasionally, I will substitute gold hoops in the bottom hole, but I usually stick with the studs. One day, on one of my days off, my husband, my daughter, and I were just sitting around at my mother-in-law's house. The subject of tattooing came up, and it was decided right then that we would drive to the city to visit one of the tattoo studios. I didn't say a whole lot during the hour drive. Actually, it took a little over an hour, because we got lost! We finally arrived, and I was immediately impressed with the facility. It was absolutely spotless. My mother-in-law busied herself with examining the facility, and my husband started grilling the staff. He really put them through the Spanish Inquisition. I am grateful for their diligence. My daughter and I sat down on one of the couches in the lobby and began looking through one of the many books that were on display. It jumped out at me as soon as I turned the page. I have always liked animals of all kinds. Some people would even call me a conservationalist. At any rate, the tiger stared back at me balefully, almost daring me to get him inked on my shoulder. Which is precisely what I did. I was led to a plain-looking chair in the back of the building, and the artist began his preparations. He asked me if I needed anything to drink. I asked for a Pepsi. His assistant fetched it for me gladly. Anything else, he wanted to know ... care for some music? I had barely nodded my head in agreement when his assistant had already cranked the CD player so loud it was blaring. I smiled broadly. Heavy-metal. Yes. My kind of place, I thought warmly, and relaxed in preparation for getting inked. A few moments later, he began. I thought that my skin was on fire. It hurt terribly, and I thought that I was going to faint. I willed myself to stay alert and concentrated on the actual process. I watched him go back and forth over my skin, slowly inking my beautiful tiger. I just kept thinking about how the finished product was going to look. My husband peeked in occasionally to check on my progress, and I believe, to offer encouragement. Soon enough, it was over. I still felt like the needle was buzzing on my arm, even though that wasn't the case. I received my aftercare instructions, paid, and made some small talk. I had finally done it! I had gotten a tattoo! And not one of those itty-bitty hearts or roses, either. I had a real tattoo, that took up over 1/3 of my upper arm. It could be covered by a short-sleeve shirt, but barely. The next day, I went back to work. My arm was still hurting. The general manager asked what was wrong. Defiantly, I told her the truth. She almost had a coronary right then and there. She told me that I was making myself ugly, and that no man would want me. She was so ignorant, and prejudiced. As of this writing, I've been married over nine years. Obviously, I AM wanted, and I know that my husband isn't the only person that likes the way I, or anyone else with body modifications, looks. I went home that night after work and told my husband what had transpired earlier. We agreed that it was time to me to try to find another job. In the meantime, though, I had decided that I was tired of constantly messing with my hair. It was a pain in the rear to constantly fuss with it. I did NOT want to turn out to be one of those aged ladies that have the bouffant hairdo. So I shaved it off. Actually, I had my husband shave it for me. He buzzed it all the way off with the clippers, without a guard on them. When he was finally done cleaning all of the hair off of me, I took a good look in the mirror. Wow ... was all I could think. It was beautiful. It really brought my pierced ears into focus. But the thing that I really noticed were my eyes. They were much sharper looking. I loved it. My boss didn't. She had another fit when she saw me the next day. Now, she gave me grief every day. Naturally, I began job-hunting in earnest. About three weeks later, I received an offer from a company that would pay me almost twice that what I was making at the restaurant. I gleefully gave my two weeks' notice and smugly watched as the general manager tried to woo me into staying with the company. No way, I thought, I'm outta here. Well, I have been at my current job for 4 1/2 years. I don't like it, BUT they do pay well, and my individuality is not frowned upon. There are many people at my current company that are modified. I can wear what I want, and modify myself however I want. Management there is very open to things like that. Once a year, I attend a Star Trek convention in a nearby city. Last year, I decided to dress up as one of my favorite species, the Rihannsu (Romulans). I had to grow my hair back out, which I did. I then cut in into the Rihannsu style, and dyed it jet black. I then shaved my eyebrows off so I could pencil them in with an upwards slant. This would be the real test, I thought. A few of the employees gave me strange looks, but management didn't bat an eye. As a matter of fact, one of the managers actually complimented me on the look. After taking first place at the costume contest and returning to my regular life, I shaved my head again, and grew my eyebrows back in. Recently, I have taken a fancy to wearing dresses that resemble Renaissance and Victorian styles. Lots of velvet and lace, sweeping the ground. That, combined with my modifications, has truly transformed me into the beautiful woman that I have become. And so my story ends ... for now.

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 21 Aug. 1999
in Ear Piercing

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Artist: Ray+Hughes+%28tattoo%29
Studio: Vision+World
Location: Midwest

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