How rebellious, in a conformist sort of way. — Lisa Simpson, commenting on Bart’s earring.
If a girl’s got a pierced tongue, she’ll probably suck your dick. It a guy’s got a pierced tongue, he’ll probably suck your dick. — Chris Rock
I’ve never understood the appeal of body piercing. One of my newer friends was recently telling me about her new tongue piercing, to which I naturally asked why she had it done. She said that after getting her ears and her nose done, it was the next logical step. She went on to describe body piercing as an addiction, and that after one, she couldn’t help but get another. To which I still have to ask why? Eyebrows. Tongues. Lips. Belly buttons. Noses. Nipples. Even (wince of pain) genitals. Why would you want holes stuck in these things?
Let’s look at how it all started: earrings. It used to be a right of passage for a little girl when her parents finally allowed her to get her ears pierced so she could start looking ever the more womanly. Then, in a case of sexual equality run amok, it also became a right of passage for little boys to sneak out of the house one night and come home with their ears pierced. (Here, we must specify only the left ears. We’ll explore why in a moment.) Again, here’s where those feminism courses come back to haunt me. If we look at it like that, then it appears that little girls go through this self-inflicted pain only to maintain the traditional, male-established standards of physical beauty. But when a man does it, he does it to show his non-conformity to society, and his physical endurance by inflicting this pain upon himself. (Here, we should point out that men point out how tough they are by getting only ONE ear pierced, whereas women constantly get both pierced and no one so much as raises an eyebrow.)
So, how come men only go for the left ear? As it was pointed out to me oh-so-long ago, the left side indicates that you a real man; a pure man; a man’s man. It’s a true sign of that elusive teen characteristic known as “cool.” If the piercing is in the right ear, it is a sign of homosexuality. If a man gets both ears pierced, it is a sign of homosexuality. Basically, as I was taught in junior high, if a man is pierced anywhere but his left ear, it is a sign of homosexuality. That seems strange doesn’t it? On the one hand, we’ve got, “I’m a big, strong, tough man because I’ve had the courage to drive a sharp metal thing through my left ear.” On the other hand, we’ve got, “I’m a week, little, girly man who dreams of running off with Prince Charming because I’ve had the courage to drive a sharp metal thing through my eyebrows, tongue, lips, nose, balls, and both ears.” (Note: I don’t think of all gay men as ‘week, little girly men who dream of running off with Prince Charming.’ This is just the way my redneck ancestors taught it to me.) But then, I guess this system is pretty much arbitrary. In junior high, I was just about branded gay because I didn’t get anything pierced. Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay, to quote Jerry Seinfeld.
But still, you have to give a lot of credit to the person who invented body piercing. I wonder who it was who was the first to look at his/her earlobes and say to him/herself, “Hey! If I poke a hole through this, I’ll be able to dangle things from it!” Perhaps the whole body piercing craze grew out of one-upmanship. One day, a person showed up at a party with pierced ears. This led that person’s greatest rival to go home and get a nose piercing. Then, our originator saw this, went home, and got pierced eyebrows. The rival saw this, and got pierced lips. The originator saw this, and got a pierced tongue. The rival saw this, and got pierced nipples. The originator saw this (how, we don’t want to know), and got a belly button ring. The rival saw this and…well, it just went lower and lower until both could walk around naked, and look like they were wearing chain mail.
Ear piercings have been around long enough now that they have lost their shock value. But seriously, you’ve got to ask who started piercing other things? The nose was probably the next logical choice. If cartoons have taught us anything, it’s that we’ve been giving nose rings to bulls for quite a long time. I wonder if any child has ever looked at a person with a nose ring and said, “Mamma! That man thinks he’s a cow!” After the nose, I guess it wasn’t that much a leap to do lips. And from lips, it wouldn’t take that much to do a tongue. It’s all a domino effect of self-mutilation, I guess. What it all boils down to is there are three kinds of piercings I just don’t understand: belly buttons, nipples, and genitals.
Let’s look at the belly button. The belly button has got to be the most childlike and innocent of all features on the human body. When we are children, it sits there as an object of curiosity. We sort of played with it, stuck our fingers in it, and wondered what exactly it was for. Later, we grow up, and we learn that it is just a remnant of our time in the womb. But it remains there, a biological reminder of a childhood long past. When we long lose our inner children, all we have to do is look at our belly buttons, and it all comes back to us. So what do we do? Jab a sharp metal thing through it. Perhaps we do it out of a subconscious desire to symbolize the end of innocense. Or, we do it just so we can stuff a piece of cubic zirconium in it.
Then, we’ve got the nipples. We remove our shirts, and there they are, standing out like two pink little headlights. On women, they serve quite the noble purpose of nourishing our young. On men, their purpose is still being debated. But here, on our rough, weathered chests, we’ve got this one area that is just a little softer and a little more delicate than the rest of us. Perhaps God placed them there as a symbol that we’ve all got those soft spots that we all protect, and only when we’re with people we love do show those soft spots. So, what kind of compulsion makes a person look at their soft spots and go, “I just gotta poke something in this!” Perhaps we do it out of a subconscious desire to find some way to armor our sensitive parts from the harsh realities of the real world. Or, we do it just because we really, really like pain.
And finally, we arrive at the genitals. I’m not sure I can romanticize this very much, but I’ll try. All I know is, for somewhat obvious reasons, the genitals are a lot more sensitive than the rest of the body. I think I’m starting to see a trend here. The more sensitive something is, the greater the compulsion to stick a stud through it. So, piercing the genitals has got to be some sort of final achievement for the avid body piercer. We pierce the genitals our of the subconscious desire to go the whole nine yards. Or, we do it because they are there.
This is just one of those things where I’ll never understand why my friends do it. I’m just thankful that they aren’t the type to try and push it on me. I ask them why they do it, and they just say something along the lines of “because.” Frankly, though, I’m not sure why anyone would want to mutilate their body like that. And all my friends are young. This is something that they’ll have to live with for the rest of their lives. A moment’s indiscretion simply to stand out in a crowd will be something difficult to explain to your children when you hit 40. So, I’m sorry, as much as I love my friends, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do what they do.
But tatoos, on the other hand, those are cool!
[One final note: OK, I’ve got to admit it. The only reason why I wrote this is for the last year or so, I’ve been dying to figure out how to work that Chris Rock quote into a column just to embarrass Chuck, my tongue pierced friend.]