Body piercings and tattoos are taboo in my book
Just the other day I was waiting in line to pay for my newspaper and there was burly guy in front of me. I couldn’t help but notice that he had several piercings in his left ear and a tattoo all the way down his arm from his shoulder to his wrist.
Then when I drove through town I saw two stores offering tattoos and body piercings. One tried to lure customers in with this on their front window: “the pain is temporary…the art work forever.” It seems to me that it should be the opposite.
The next day I went to a Red Wings game with my two daughters and witnessed countless numbers of people with similar mutilations and manifestations on their bodies.
And when I work at the various summer festivals, I see the same.
The incidents of body piercings and tattoos have increased tremendously over the past 20 years. They have become more and more a part of our culture.
Now I don’t begrudge someone who is trying to make a living. But I do draw the line (no pun intended) when it comes to tattoos as well as the puncturing of your body for unnecessary (definition: non-surgical) reasons.
These procedures have increased the risk for contracting a number of serious blood diseases.
More about that later.
The fact that this type of “artwork” has attracted my attention, in my mind, seems to be the purpose of it in the first place.
It may be just a coincidence but, of those people of whom I have observed with tattoos and piercings, I would estimate that over 75 percent are obese.
Now I’m not a psychiatrist and I am not trying to stereotype anyone. I just think that these practices are ways for someone who has low self-esteem to get attention. It’s kind of like the one person who dyes their hair blond or another person who consistently buys a red car. They just do it for the attention.
And the areas of piercing continue to challenge me. Nowadays they include the eyebrows, lip, nose, tongue, navel, and certain other areas that I cannot reveal in this family newspaper if you get my drift.
Although they have flourished recently, we can’t really consider piercing and tattoos as passing fads.
That’s because both were actually rituals practiced by civilizations for thousands of years.
In ancient Egypt, body piercings were a form of expression and a reflection of status. The mummified remains of a human that was pierced over 5,000 years ago was recently uncovered. Egyptians loved to adorn themselves elaborately. In fact, they even restricted this practice to the royal family alone. And the pharaoh himself was the only one allowed to have his navel pierced.
This practice was even mentioned in the Old Testament when body jewelry was considered a mark of beauty and wealth. It was clear that body piercing was a sign of status and attractiveness.
In ancient Rome, centurions considered it a badge of courage to have their nipples pierced. (I hope this made it past the censors).
At the same time the Aztecs of Peru and the Mayans of Mexico practiced tongue piercing as part of their religious rituals.
As warrior tribes, they practiced nose piercing in order to appear fiercer than their opponents.
In Central and South America lip labrets were popular for aesthetic reasons. Women with large lips were considered to be more attractive. Boy, have those areas gone south!
In the last 20-30 years body piercings of all kinds have quickly caught on.
The art of tattooing has followed a similar path as body piercing.
In his book “Spiritual Tattoo: A Cultural History of Tattooing, Piercing, Scarification, Branding and Implants” (I guess he covered them all), Professor John A. Rush sees the physical alteration of the body as a rite of passage, a group identifier, or a mechanism of self control.
He referred to slaves who have been branded to establish ownership and the Romans who punished Christians by tattooing their foreheads. And he also cited the Jews who were tattooed during the Holocaust in Nazi concentration camps during World War II for identification purposes.
But in modern times tattooing is used as a way to express individuality or rebellion.
To be honest, the body art I have seen on most men’s arms leaves a lot to be desired or interpreted.
I can’t even make out what the heck the message they are trying to convey.
It’s not as easy as “Mom,” or the name of their girlfriend inscribed in a heart.
Vanity seems to play a part in modern tattoos. A man with a tattoo around his biceps is trying to make them appear bigger. A tattoo will also call attention to various parts of the female anatomy especially the lower back and around the navel.
But all of this show and tell has some negative consequences as well.
We’ve all heard about the unsanitary needles that can result in infections.
Consider this important fact: the skin and mucous membranes in the mouth and nose protect us from many infections. Tattooing and body piercings procedures involve piercing the skin and mucous membranes with a needle or other sharp instrument.
Unless the needles are new or sterilized and properly handled for each procedure, instruments can be contaminated with infected blood or bodily fluids of another person.
You can also have bacteria or viruses present on your own skin that might enter your body and cause infection at the areas of piercing.
Practitioners who do the cutting are also at risk of becoming infected through accidental cuts or punctures.
It is also possible to transmit viral infections such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV and herpes through tattooing and piercing.
Try explaining those diseases to your wife, girlfriend or, in some cases, both!
So in the course of human events as well as tattooing and body piercing, when it becomes necessary to alter or abolish some body features don’t become a revolutionist. Accept yourself for what you are and seek more positive ways to improve your self image.
Future columns will include ways you can do just that without mutilating your bodies.