On body modication

Published • 08 May 2008

Body modification is a permanent or semi-permanent alteration of the body for non-medical reasons — think spiritual, societal, BDSM play, aesthetic or practical. Body modification has been in practice for at least two thousand plus years — Ötzi the Iceman was found with a fairly large earlobe piercing (1–000 gauge; 7–11mm) and 57 carbon tattoos.

Yesterday I had another piercing done — a vertical eyebrow piercing sitting right beside my first on my left eyebrow. I wanted to get another piercing before I leave for Germany this Sunday. Being my second eyebrow piercing I knew what I had coming and all in all it was a fairly relaxing procedure, as far as piercings go. My latest metallic addition had me reflect over the topic of body modifications again — the image I present to others both at work and in my personal interactions.

These issues came up twice before: when I got my first eyebrow piercing and later when I had my Ashley piercing (an inverted vertical centered labret). Eyebrow piercings are simple to get, quick and easy to heal and generally bruise or swell very little. My Ashley piercing on the other hand left my lip swollen for several weeks, bruised and discoloured. Now that the primary healing is over I’m as happy as a clam; I love it. I consulted my employer, work colleagues, family and close friends about both of the piercings and received mixed responses. Work was open to the idea and didn’t mind whatsoever, family didn’t mind either way and accepted it was my decision whilst most of my friends were supportive and receptive to the idea.

Ultimately it comes down to an alteration of the body that can affect the impressions we leave upon others, particularly first impressions. First impressions are vital to good relationships; as much as we like to think we don’t judge books by their covers our first impressions of someone will shape our reactions and future interactions with that person.

The way we look during social interactions is influenced by many factors. Two that come to mind first include the way we dress (e.g. is she wearing a casual t-shirt or smart business wear) and personal hygiene (e.g. how clean are his fingernails). Body modification also affects the way we look.

I’ve found little issue with the piercings I have and the way they’ve altered my personal image. The only notable observations are that interactions with those several generations older than myself tend to be more conservative and prone to look less favourably upon visible body modifications. This is obviously something that I needed to weigh up — how much did I want to get the piercings versus how often I would have important business meetings with government types. I don’t want to make accusations that public servants are all conservative, but I think the example works.

On that note working in Canberra means I’ll probably run across a public servant just by walking out the door here in the City. I have a few colleagues who directly work for the government and themselves have a piercing or three, if not a tattoo or something else and have had no issues getting or holding their job. I’m glad that thus far I’ve had no problems in business interactions and happy to rarely hear of prejudicial treatment relating to body modifications, at least here in Australia.

In closing, I’ve also been told that as a “creative type” we’re given a little more leeway in this entire regard and sometimes we’re almost expected to be somewhat more outgoing and expressive.

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