writer, speaker, content creator

"So, why did you get your ears pierced?"

In Social Conventions on July 2, 2009 at 4:50 pm

That’s the question that’s been asked of me for the past week or so. I got my ears pierced a bit over a week ago, just two metal studs in my lobes. Pretty understated, but I may get more prominent earrings when the piercings heal completely. Inevitably, friends and family have asked “why.” There are two reasons. The first is that I felt like it, and thought that I’d look alright with pieces of metal in my head. The second reason requires a bit more of my characteristic verbosity.

When I was in Japan, my friend D would often say of the various Harajuku kids that they were cute because they were “all rebelling in the same way.” This is the sort of clever-guy observation that I normally appreciate, but I think that it sort of misses the point. Firstly, looking unconventional is not the same as looking unique. Not at all.

If something is “unique” then it means it is singular, one of a kind. (Which means that something is either unique or it isn’t. Saying that something is “very unique” is rather silly.) Very few people, I think, want to affect styles and modes of appearance that are unique. Sure, there might be a few weirdos out there who want to be the very first person to wear a flying ferret on their head, but for the most part folks want take part in stuff that already has established meaning. This includes looks and modes that are often described as “alternative.”

The kids in Harajuku were just as much expressing solidarity with each other as they were rebelling from the Japanese norm. If anything, their construction of their own group, their own “us” was probably more important than any ideals of rebellion that they might have had. Likewise, I didn’t get my ears pierced because I’m rebelling against anything. I did it mainly to advertise the fact that I belong to a given branch of American culture.

My various beliefs and opinions, I think, are fairly well advertised by my appearance. The fact that I have pierced ears, a beard, oftentimes a buzz cut, wear a studded belt, Dr. Martens, and have an inordinate amount of t-shirts from Threadless all advertise things about myself. Namely, that I’m the sort of person who voted for Obama, is in favor of things like gay rights and abortion, has opinions about which version of Blade Runner is best, and is more likely to read Pitchfork than Rolling Stone. I want people to realize this. The idea that people can assessed and judged independent of their appearance in some idealistic or pure way is absolutely ridiculous. Because people will always make discernments about how I look, I want it to be on my terms, mostly in hopes that I can associate with others like myself. It’s not necessarily about “being unique” or “rebelling” at all, even though it is at once adopting a moderately unconventional mode of appearance.

Eventually, after I get back from the Peace Corps, I might get myself tatooed or pierced in a more dramatic fashion. God help me, though, if I ever end up looking like any of these assholes.

EDIT: By popular demand, here’s a picture, though they are not huge, and do not show up especially well in photos.

  1. While /I've/ seen them, certainly a picture is in order?

  2. Fine, fine. My wonderful descriptions are just not enough for you. I'll cave into your demands.

  3. Thank god that links to a larger picture…

  4. I can't believe you didn't go for the little gold studs with birthstones. As a November baby myself, I always rued my luck to end up with two fake topazes in my ears (I've had mine pierced and repierced, professionally, four times), as if the real thing wasn't ugly enough. But that was the '80s and early '90s. I believe yours is the opal. Nothing says "Masculine piercings" like two baby opals in your ears. Except, maybe, two lab-generated pink sapphires. 😉

    Also: hold onto those original earrings with which your ears were pierced. They're extra sharp and pointy, and should you have a partial close up at some point in the future (some ears just don't like to stay pierced, especially if you don't wear earrings everyday), a little ice, some hydrogen peroxide and one of those suckers and you're good to go.

  5. Sydney — Joe actually got these done at a piercing shop with a needle, so they're almost certainly not pointy. They're probably simple internally-threaded barbells and so not particularly useful for repiercing. Sadly enough, since I would love to watch Joe jab a needle through his own ears…

  6. You would like, that, wouldn't you. Sick fucker.

    Yeah, these aren't extra-pointy. They are pretty standard. If I want to jab something through my own ears, I'll probably have to go rummaging through my roommate's sewing equipment. I'll probably have to do that when I want to put in a pair of extra-large lab-generated pink sapphires. The opal can be a nose piercing. It'll be hot.

  7. That, sir, is a mighty fine beard.

  8. Thank you, sir! I have little doubt that I could best a Chia Pet in a fuzz-producing competition.

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