Monday, December 24, 2007


I wonder. What would the opposite action of piercing be? Piercing is so decisive and immediate. It can be reclamation or destruction. Rite of passage or passing whim. Piercing is an act of invasion but also of willing acceptance. Vulnerability and toughness both come into play. It is intense. Whether it's disfiguring or decorative - it is intense.

Tattooing is completely different. It's more permanent for one thing. For another it takes longer in the moment but heals much more quickly afterwards. The intensity of acquiring a tattoo is drawn out, flattened. The experience of having a tattoo (once it's healed) is mostly visual.

Not that I mean to attach comparative value or to impose any hierarchy on body modification attempts. Whether you're into putting on or taking off weight, cinching your waist or wearing pointy shoes, painting your toenails or getting your eyeballs lasered, collecting ink or showing off metal spikes - to each his own, right? They are all valid attempts to change our bodies in certain ways for reasons that make sense to us (at the time).

I just wonder why I can't unpierce with the same satisfaction as I pierced. To change a tattoo - you have to get a cover-up tattoo or go have the ink painfully burned/sucked out of your skin. To take off weight you've put on or to put on weight you've taken off - you pretty much just reverse direction. But it's hard to unpierce. (In fact, my stupid spell check program keeps underlining it in red to inform me there is no such word, even.) Sure, you can take out the jewelry. You can wait for the hole to heal, but besides that not being what I mean by unpiercing is the fact that you can't count on that. Depending on how long you've been pierced (and where), it may or may not heal over. You might simply end up with an empty piercing. That is hardly the reversal of either process or result that I'm looking for. Maybe the issue is that I'm not seeking an about face. I knew going into the piercer's room that it was a permanent-ish line to cross.

No, I realize now as I write all this, what I'm looking for is a step as bold going out as I took going in. Piercing (for me) has an element of symbolic grief, a dash of decoration, a bit of intuitive fun and a liberal dose of "don't you fucking judge me" to it. Those are the ingredients that my piercings have in common - but they each have their own place on the spectrum too. I have a couple of piercings I'll never, ever even think about taking out. My earlobes - because I love earrings but also because not having pierced ears is really more of a statement than having them is in this day and age. My lip - because it signals my commitment to intentionality about what I say, what I eat (and about it staying down once it passes my lips), whom I kiss and also because unlike other piercings, it remains an intense experience after it's completely healed. The other piercings, though, cover the range from "Already took it out because what the HELL was I thinking when I got that pierced?!" to "Meh. Why bother taking it out? It's done, it's fine. It's no big deal." Somewhere in the middle of that range is "Hmmm. That was exactly what I needed to do at the time but not so much what works for me now. In fact, I need something completely different." It's that one in the middle (or rather two, since they're a matched set, if you get my drift) that I'm wondering about today. Where is the bold step? The next action that affirms the experience of the piercing but also affirms the validity of being done - done with the decoration and the sensitivity.

It is much the same way I didn't have a good ritual for the divorce. Yay - I wasn't married any more. This little (expensive) piece of paper said so. It even said that I'd been done being married ten days ago. The precise act of a judge saying (or stamping really) "I now pronounce your marriage sundered" had passed with no way for me to mark it in the moment. Discovering the embossed and official petition in the mail was anticlimactic. I could have thrown a party, but I didn't. (The rotting corpse of my marriage had sat around stinking up the place until I'd buried it long before the judge got around to engraving the tombstone. A memorial service after the fact might be just the thing for some folks but for me, it was too little too late.) Yet... tiny step by tiny step I began to feel whole in a new way. My ringless left hand stopped looking stripped and in need of covering up. Celebrating the daily achievements (like continuing to breathe in and out) helped. I may have even toasted my "single mother" status a time or two with a fabulous red wine - but on the whole, I had no definitive liturgy for "that was then and this is now". I leapt into that marriage much more decisively than I emerged from of it.

This is a much (much!) smaller curve in my life path - this impulse to unpierce. But it's got the same angle to the curve no matter the scale. I have no step, no act of demarcation to propel me utterly from "pierced to unpierced". The jewelry is out and sterilized. (Useless, but still pretty.) The sites are clean and healing even after four years of being pierced. (Bare, but still pretty - if I do say so myself.) Does this mean I am officially unpierced? This I wonder.

Maybe the answer is, I am if I want to be. The forest being easier to see when you're out of the trees and all that. Maybe the other answer is - who the hell cares, woman? No one* would know one way or the other if you didn't blab and blather all angsty to the internet about it. We all go around piercing and unpiercing ourselves (metaphorically) every day. You get to decide if you want it to be marked by the equivalent of the society pages or a few quiet words in front of the JOP** or somewhere in between. So, y'all (and especially St. Ann who was my confidante for the step in) - Guess what I got unpierced today?
Peace. And happy holidays!

*"No one" in this case meaning technically "only two people" who wouldn't have said a thing to anyone so the point is the same but I had to make a note of it because (on the off chance either of the two read this entry) I didn't want them to think I thought they were "no one's". Phew - cya'ing is torturous. And probably unnecessary. The word probably being the tricky part.

**Justice of the Peace. Isn't that the coolest job title ever? Sounds right up my alley - peace and justice all in one. Too bad, it's a mis-named side job usually performed by old, white men who spend their other days presiding over juvenile court and the like. Still, someday I'd like to meet a really cool JOP. If you know one, tell me!


St. Ann said...

So, does that now leave you with more pierceable real estate? Or is that piece of land now like an abandoned house, awaiting further development or an intervention from the local historical society?

Congratulations, either way!

Anonymous said...

Interesting post.I have gotten unpierced, too - and some of the piercings have healed, some haven't. Still want to get my nose done, but so far can't find jewellery that I really love - seen way too many nose-bits that look like ZITS!