(Anna Seward)—Piercings have changed a lot since I got my ears pierced at Claire’s nearly 15 years ago. Stigma, for one. It’s pretty traditional for girls to get lobe piercings, sure, but even so my dad gave my mom some flack for agreeing to get my ears pierced on a random mall outing. My hippy elementary school was generally against it in the same way they discouraged our parents from allowing us to watch TV or own blatantly gendered toys. Of course, if you look at my grade now we’ve basically all got surgical-grade steel through some cartilage, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
After I got my lobes done, I was content to sit all the other piercings out. I could already change my earrings to whatever mood I was in; I didn’t see the point in getting any more holes. In my tweens my friends were going back to Claire’s for second lobe piercings, then in our early teens everyone went for the helix and belly button and at 16 everyone suddenly had nose rings. I didn’t hold back because I didn’t like how they looked or had any issues about “permanence,” it really came down to the simple fact that piercings hurt, ok. Every time anyone describes the pain as a “pinprick” my eyes inadvertently roll. I’ll admit I have a pretty low pain tolerance, but am I the only one who sees a sizeable difference? A pinprick may puncture the skin a little, but a piercing needle goes through. Those are not equivalent pain levels. I’m just saying that now.
The transformation a lot of my friends were going through began to migrate into popular culture. There are the usual ‘90s examples (Britney anyone?) but once everyone from Miley Cyrus to Evan Rachel Wood has their nose pierced, you have to acknowledge a trend. A new piercing parlor has started to crop up, like New York Adorned that focuses more on the aesthetics of various piercings rather than the rock ‘n roll, no pain no gain vibe of the ‘90s. You’re more likely to hear a lot more talk about your own anatomy at these places, rather than the brusque, “What do you want?” And according to the piercer from Adorn East who recently did my friend’s cartilage piercing at a professional shop has gotten a lot less painful with prohibitions on piercing guns. In fact, in Oregon it’s illegal to get anything besides your lobes done with a gun, that caveat the result of piercing gun lobbyists as our piercer was quick to point out. Piercing guns rely on force, instead of the sharpness of the needle, which leads to more pain and occasionally more healing problems due to the blunt trauma.
In recent seasons, piercings have even extended to the fashion industry. The Givenchy Spring 2012 show for example, featured models with large septum rings and the December 2012 issue of Vogue UK did a glamorous jewelry photo shoot with earrings all up and down a models cartilage. Perhaps the allure is something more exotic than the usual double-lobe or nose, anything you can imagine piercing, there’s a name for it:
I would know all this because, yes, I caved. After I got a tattoo when I was eighteen, the pain factor didn’t seem like an issue anymore. (Yet again, another thing I think everyone downplays. Getting a tattoo is like “cat-scratching”? Really? Never have I ever had a cat scratch that did such damage to my skin layers it was permanently etched there, but I guess I’m in the minority here.) I keep saying I’ll stop, too. Just the belly button… And the forward helix… I’ll just get my rook done, I mean, I’m in England…
I don’t really know what it is about piercings, since it’s obvious that I’m a wuss, but it’s actually become a little addictive. Is this the advancement of things like nail polish or hair dye? Piercings are seemingly the perfect permanent/impermanent accessory, a choice made in youth that can be basically undone in old age (as long as you don’t gauge your ears past a 2). But I think the new wave of piercing parlors describe it best: adornment. And who doesn’t want some of that?