Looking in the Mirror

Well, I'm back and I must admit I did fall off the face of the planet...but I'll spare you the juicy details and get right to the topic I'd like to discuss...

I cannot believe I am finally 18 (as of May 4th) oh the possibilities, but so much ahead brings thoughts of what I've done thus far. I recently had something brought to light in my personal life that I feel merits discussing, as it seems to be an all too common occurrence.

I can't think of a better way to say it so I'll get as close as I can and say that we sometimes sacrifice individuality for the happiness of others, be they the society we barely know or the people we love the most. Well, you may say this doesn't fit you, that will never happen and I'm an idiot for letting it happen to me, but never say never, and a true adoration can produce some rather varied effects. I never thought I'd be one to give in to this sort of thing, but then I gained a real relationship with my sister, a bond siblings can share that only other siblings understand, closeness and caring that goes beyond everyone else. I put my sister before everything in my life. She has given me a solid foundation that I never had in childhood, and I greatly love, admire, respect, and appreciate her, but in a bid to gain acceptance (as it turns out, she loves me more for my individuality than a lack of) and "find myself", I took away all I knew to be -- well -- me, and ironically this experiment for progression reduced me to grass roots juvenile behavior, when all along I had been doing better by following my aesthetic impulses and what I felt belonged on and in me.

I reexamined my mods and tried to form a real opinion on why I had them and what they were to me, and whether or not I wanted them. I will admit, my septum ring isn't a constant accessory. I don't always like the look, it can be overwhelming because of simple relative size, small nose with a 10 or 12 ga horseshoe can be a bit much. I'd rather wear an 8, my favorite gauge, but then it would be entirely too cluttered with lip jewelry close by. My lip rings were as much a toy as an accessory, I generally just thought of them as another part. And the piercings through the tops of my ears really highlighted the natural elflike point. But I really thought I didn't want modifications anymore.

The reasons that motivated me when I'd had them done seemed so -- well -- totally stupid and irrelevant, to say the least. The piercer boyfriend that inspired the septum is long gone and has given way to a different person, one who makes me sick. The scar from my chest piercing is a constant reminder of a fight with a friend. But now after a few non-modified months, I see something: that's not what they represented and even if it was, that's not what they came to mean. It was a defiant pride, an air of self-confidence and self-love; it isn't easy to walk through crowded places with all eyes on you, some in amazement, some shock, and still others appearing slightly curious. Yes, everyone likes that sometimes, to an extent, but when you get it daily, everywhere you go, no matter who you happen to see, from the gas station attendant to the carhop at Sonic, the curator at the museum to the emo kids at the library. Some days we could really do without the extra stares. After all, rubbernecking causes more accidents, and seriously, it's offensive to stare, point or touch. Say something, look away, and if you must touch, ask permission and carry your own sanitizer!!! (Remember sterile conditions are always important, you wouldn't want to get a nasty surprise infection.)!!

It can be an extra handicap at times, but it is well worth it. There's a pride in knowing that you can make yourself whatever you want, be it a rock star lizard, a mysterious enigma, or a modified pin-up girl. Be what you want to be, what you feel, think or perceive as the best possible you. Make yourself into the image you wish was in the mirror.

Modifications give you that; make-up may cover something up or even create a dramatic effect, but a tattoo or piercing says so much more. I like silver eye shadow may be the only message my hard candy techno-quad gives, but a brazen horseshoe or 2 in otherwise "conventionally attractive" features says something else. It says that this isn't just for those with low self esteem; this isn't always a mask. Attractive people are modified; intelligent people are modified; talented people, church leaders, political figures. Modification is not just some "problem" in today's society, closer yet, today's society needs modification.

All in all, calling me a punk, degenerate, Nazi, Goth, dyke, or anything else for that matter, doesn't hurt much anymore when it once cut deep. For all in the community, learn to respect the established members and it will give you a stronger sense of self worth and dignity. They were young too, with the same hard decisions and chances. They have faced the same struggles to a certain point, at least on an internal level. These people have paved a way for us.

We don't have it easy, but they had it much harder. Jim Ward didn't have the legendary predecessors we have, he fought a fight people had never known before and he created something that we now barely acknowledge. Always know your roots and respect those who have fought the good fight.

The first tattooed women weren't exactly considered prizes either, they had some of the most offensive and disgusting portraits painted of them, discrediting their honor and virtue, and for what? So today we can admire a tribal butterfly and scowl at a Maori face piece?

Hate in our community is so much more crippling when the people who are supposed to understand the desire to change things condemn a change you want, for whatever reason it may be. Peer pressure is hell on a teen desperate to find where they belong, and that behavior can often destroy the only outlet they had. A lot of the teens around now won't be in 2, 5, 10 years, but some of us will. Some, like my friend Rob may be here because piercings are currently "in style", while some of us, such as myself, have very solid plans for much heavier modifications. But that's not the case here, if nothing else let the temporary modders spread the word that "Hey, yea they're a little different, but they're so helpful, a lot of nice and funny people, just like other groups, there are some unpleasant ones, but damn they throw a good party, and they don't judge at all."

I've personally developed my own statement that sums up how I've come to handle the less than hospitable treatment; it's become my official policy, so quote it if you want:

"Without suppression there would be no cause for riot, so every time you look down on me with disdain, I look up at you with hope"

Basically, stir us up, and the mob strikes back. We aren't uneducated, and it won't be unorganized, one day we will launch a full-on frontal assault against this behavior. We have the mediums; we just need the right cause. (I'm not suggesting a riot, just more unity.)

It may not be your idea of attractive, but that's the true beauty of it anyway. Be YOU and give others kudos for being them. Cutting down someone for being an individual is what's creating this society of depressive, confused teens who don't know any better. A trip to a mall or high school may shock you; it's as if they have no pride in themselves, so many walk with their heads down, or hair covering their faces. This is a style? Depression isn't a style! These kids look utterly crushed, and they have been.

Excuses can be made, denials can be submitted, but it is simply not good for these kids to feel this way. What has our society done? Are the schools and media so very concerned with the children's defiance that instead they teach them suppression and self loathing? Sadly, it seems this mentality is spreading like an infection.

Now more than ever they need a voice, a face, a leader, someone they can identify with that says "Condemnation only breeds hate, and in turn more condemnation! Take pride in yourself, and peacefully disregard the put-downs, and you make a real statement, you garner respect, and you help someone else to see that they too can be their own person, without hanging their heads. In turn, showing others that pride is not determined by what they think, but by who you are and how comfortable you are with that."

Other people may have preferences, but in all seriousness, you have to see you a lot more than they do, wouldn't you rather like what you see? As for me, I've learned my lesson and, long term, I have quite the gauntlet to run before I am what I want me to be, but for now, I'll just say this much for myself: I'm generally fun to hang out with, I'm more up-front than almost anyone else, I've made mistakes and I talk down to no one.

Yea, I think it's dumb the kids these days piercing themselves with safety pins and such, but for good reason: it IS dumb! You should always research anything that involves your health being compromised in the slightest way and always follow proper procedure. I may be preaching to the choir on this but if we're all honest sometimes we slip up, maybe get a bit too cocky, or just don't care, the monotony of each little sterilization step, gets to us and we just want to do it now. Maybe you're play-piercing or you think it's just a small one on your ear, so what's the big deal, ears are easy right? Well, I know proper sterilization, set-up, bedside manner, and aftercare just as well as anyone I've met and I've still just recently recovered from a tissue infection in my left cartilage with the severity of the infection being pretty moderate. I was running a risk of some very serious damage. A nurse told me that it was a valid possibility it could spread to my skull and eventually require some pretty serious surgery (like within a month) to remove a piece of the skull. These aren't things to take lightly. In case of infection, seek help immediately and follow instructions. Preventative medicine is the best. Luckily I wised up and saw a doctor about the pain and discoloration and was able to begin a couple rounds of antibiotics and it didn't become a life threatening or surgery requiring matter, but I think the key here is:

Yes, I had an infection, because I didn't follow proper sterilization.

Yes, it was just ear cartilage, but it could have just lead to brain damage, and sometimes death. I told the nurse what I'd done and when she commented on kids today just not knowing, I told her my usual procedural steps. She asked why, and my response was, well, as is prevalent in stubborn teens who are total experts on everything: I knew better and did it anyway.

But that isn't gonna stop me. I am me, so you be you, I'd love to hear from anyone reading this, about any similar situations, struggles, or lessons learned. I'm sure we'll get along famously, but if we don't, I won't expect you to change on my behalf. But, well, I like me, so we'll most likely be at an impasse, but that doesn't mean you can't wish me a happy belated birthday (or send me cool BME merch :]..)

Jess ([email protected])