The Decorated Generation

My grandparents have a neighbour named Bob. He’s just your average guy, probably in his mid to late-seventies, keeps to himself most of the time. I don’t know that much about him, other than one aspect of his appearance which my nan considers to be something outrageously strange: he has an earring.

Surely that’s not much of a big deal? Evidence suggests that humans have been modifying their bodies for the last five millennia. That’s far longer than we’ve been wearing ripped jeans or coloured contact lenses – yet those things are perfectly acceptable, despite not having any more of a purpose than body modifications.

My grandmother’s main issue was that Bob had only recently acquired this shiny little addition to his earlobe, and, to her, that just didn’t seem right.

Granted, my nan has some questionable views about many things, but this is one that she seems to share with the majority of her generation.

Since the first discussion of Bob’s controversial piercing, I have undergone my own journey into the world of skin-deep accessories. I currently have thirteen piercings, including a gauge in one ear, and intentions to get at least one tattoo in the near future. You can imagine how my grandmother reacted to that.

“Just don’t get anymore,” she’ll say, “you’ll ruin your pretty face.” My aunt always has a similar reaction.

This comment seems to come up a lot, actually. Sometimes from relatives, which I can understand, but other times by complete strangers. I was one told by a hairdresser that my piercings “didn’t make me any prettier”. This was after she’d managed to rip one of my studs half way through my ear due to not brushing my hair very carefully. I was stunned by her audacity.

I’m not doing it to be “pretty”. I’m not doing it to get a reaction. I’m doing it for me. All those times I walked into a tattoo parlour and came out with a new puncture wound – that wasn’t for anybody other than me. It was for my self-confidence, my individuality, and my freedom of expression. Do people really think I pay upwards of £20 and endure a small amount pain so that I can have the pleasure of hearing them tut from a few feet away?

However, even though I feel so strongly about my rights to do whatever I want with my body, I find myself saying to my relatives, “Don’t worry. I won’t get any more piercings.” Which is true, for now.

It’s a little contradictory when I think about it, though, because the people who criticise me are the very same ones who told me to “be myself”, to strive for originality, and, the old classic, to never judge a book by its cover. Well, now my cover is decorated with little metal balls and rings, they seem to have forgotten that they used to say that.

For some reason, it’s still alright to call somebody out for their decision to alter their appearances. And in some instances, I’m inclined to agree (remember that guy with the facial tattoo on Jeremy Kyle?). But, overall, I believe that as long as a person’s tattoos or piercings aren’t offensive or threatening to others, we shouldn’t take issue with it.

We no longer live in a time when body modifications are associated with a particular culture or social group. Tattoos aren’t just for men, and earrings aren’t just for women. If you want a tasteful little nose stud, you go get it. If you desire nothing more than a life-size portrait of your favourite singer on your chest, you have the volition and the right to do that. As long as you have thoroughly considered the long-lasting effects of your actions, and deem them to be worthwhile, then you go ahead.

Don’t hold back your individuality because someone else doesn’t understand it.

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