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Pins And Needles: Holier Than Thou

...When it comes to body piercing I admit I am a thin-lipped priss. Somebody’s private part spiffed up with a thrift shop treasure is none of my business...

Gloria MacKay wonders whether it is the grossness of the fashion (adornments embedded in flesh) or the mindset of the beholder which is remiss.

A piece of jewelry out of context is as ugly as road kill, as impossible a sight to come upon without a shudder as an opossum stuck to the street (out of context meaning nostrils, tongues, lips and navels, and on down the line).

Ears, for some strange reason, I give special dispensation: a couple of creamy pearls, one poked into each lobe, speak to me of elegance. On the other hand, a gemstone anchored into a tongue is as appealing as a fish flailing on the bottom of the boat.

Is it the grossness of the fashion (adornments embedded in flesh) or the mindset of the beholder which is remiss? Or is it the selected spot on the bod? Shards of diamonds clinging to a platinum band which encircles a finger suit my eye to a “T” but a similar stone setting off a belly button in the manner of a search light promoting a midnight sale at the mall strikes me as, frankly, rather common.

When it comes to body piercing I admit I am a thin-lipped priss. Somebody’s private part spiffed up with a thrift shop treasure is none of my business. Furthermore, since my body is not totally devoid of artificial holes I am in no position to look down my nose at anyone who has chosen to refurbish theirs. Nevertheless, every time I come face to face with hunks of glass and metal protruding like quills I lose track of the business at hand.

Most people I hang around with are just like me. They have only the holes they were born with (and are having trouble keeping track of those) except, perhaps, for a discrete prick in each ear on the part of the women. None of the men in the room would compromise their ear lobes, even with a clip on, even for a special occasion, and even if you paid him.
One of our group sashayed into a party last month with a pair of battery operated candelabras dangling from her ears. I admit it was a festive look, but when a dear friend crowded into the food line just to whisper to me, “Her lights might be on but there’s nobody home,” I giggled all the way past the gelatin salads and into the chicken and gravy.

Most matronly women like me consider sedately pierced ears as mainstream as shoulder bags and dinner rings. It is the young bodies we see, strafed with holes and filled with trinkets, which teeter on the edges of our indulgence. I don’t understand why we judge two symmetrical ear holes provided by nurture not nature to be quite normal, while a dozen or more are bizarre? What’s so optimum about two? How many piercings does it take to turn a pillar of society into a sieve? I can’t give a number but I know it when I see it.

I am bothered more by the attitude of these mega-holers than by their appearance. They look smug, as though they were the first generation ever born to decorating themselves with more than whipping cream. I don’t think they have a clue or a care that body piercing is actually a human tradition, and very old hat.

Pharaohs pierced their navels. Mayans pierced their tongues. Romans pierced their nipples (1) to prove they were brave and (2) to have a place to hang their cloaks while they battled. What Julius Caesar really meant when he pleaded with his friends and countrymen to, “Lend me your ears” is problematic.

Buddhists did it, Asians did it, even Eskimos and Pakistani’s did it. A 4,000 year old clay figure has been found with ears very much pierced. Peoples of Borneo, Cyprus, Greece and Guatemala did it and there was a time, not too long ago, when a Tlingit Indian was measured by the number of holes in his ears. Body piercing, the world over, has been looked upon at one time or another as the best thing since spiral cut ham. And today is no different.

Not everyone gets that we are all in this loop of life together: from staid matrons with rubber-stamped ear lobes to rebels, bored to the bone, we are just beads on life’s string. Even the armchair jocks from Seattle, relieved that Griffey’s bedecked ear lobe looks out at them from another bench in another league (it isn’t the money, it’s the ear that still bothers them). Even total abstainers who still relish the torture of the clip-on ear ring for reasons known only to them. Even the cheekiest of teens who thumb their ornate noses at anyone who don’t know a labret from a hole in the ground. All we have are each other.

But let’s not be too hard on ourselves. The kids could be sitting on flag poles, gulping down gold fish, going ballistic with panties or mooning for joy. As far as my friend with the battery operated candelabras flashing up her nose and down her dress, I could think of worse places. Which reminds me, if I ever get to Italy I’m not going to do everything the Romans do.


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