I used to share little sympathy for people with body piercings who complain about their lack of social acceptance, despite having piercings of my own. I always thought that people with piercings should know that they may be looked at differently. They’ll probably have to work harder compared to people without piercings to prove that they’re not abject, ambitionless low lifes. They should know what they got into when they decided to get pierced, so I personally didn’t care to lend a shoulder to cry on when they got certain stares.
Then my mom negatively commented on my monroe piercing that she thought I had removed years back, and that’s where it all started. For those that don’t know what a monroe is, it’s a stud pierced off center on the upper lip, not on the actual lip itself.
My mother was debating whether or not to let me go to Cancun for spring break, but eventually said no due to my lack of judgment.
“I don’t like that lip thing you wear when we’re (my parents) not around. It shows you have bad judgment,” she said.
Of course, I brought up the fact that my older, accomplished sister has both her nose and navel pierced, while I just have my monroe. My mom swiftly responded with, “Well, yours is worse.”
I love my mom unconditionally, but seriously, my piercing is no “worse” than either of my sister’s piercings. I was puzzled and slightly angered by my mom’s response, but I wanted some other opinions.
I went to my best friends, the ones that honestly tell me if I look hideous before going out. Though they didn’t entirely agree with momma Maharaj, they thought my sister’s nose stud was more acceptable in society compared to my monroe.
My anger and confusion dissipated, but my prior ambivalent sentiments grew more directed. I believe there is no single piercing that’s any more negative than another, as long as it’s not in a provocative area (personally, I think that type of body art is on a different level).
For example, someone with a nape piercing (a piercing on the back of the neck) shouldn’t be looked down upon compared to someone with her or his cartilage pierced solely because the latter piercing is more common. The ubiquity of a piercing shouldn’t correlate with its appropriateness.
I thought it was unfair that when I worked at a restaurant my senior year of high school, I was told to remove my monroe. However, the other hosts didn’t have to remove their nose studs or any types of ear piercings. I understand the business’ standing on the issue; they don’t want hosts who have “weird” piercings greeting customers. But it all stems back to society’s view on these “abnormal” piercings. It’s society’s intolerant nature toward the unknown, the different, and the unique that upsets me. In fact, I find this sentiment strikingly similar to the reasons behind racism.
Don’t get me wrong; I understand the stigma attached to piercings. Over a quarter of people with body piercings have spent three or more days in jail, 22 percent use drugs and 19 percent never finished high school, according to a national data set done by Laumann and Derick. It’s an unfair connotation, but the statistics are very telling.
Still, I find it unnerving how resistant people are to difference and change. People, like my wonderful mother, see a nose stud and think it’s fine but see a monroe and think it’s “worse.” The piercings are the same size, but its location is different. Its prevalence is different. Basically, it’s different. And if I haven’t beaten this point to a pulp already, people are less inclined to accept the different.
Can you blame people like my mom though? She doesn’t create these assertions based on meanness, it’s simply how she and the majority of people grow up: initially not accepting change. This resistance and lack of acceptance can channel through many avenues in varying magnitudes. It can range from people not wanting to try new bars or running paths, to people finding certain piercings bad—ultimately judging the person’s character—or not associating with different races.
I try to eschew this mentality whenever possible. I frequently try new restaurants with different food, perform different workouts, listen to different music and talk with people from all over the globe. I purposely aim for living a non-routine life, though it’s difficult to do.
To conclude this piece, fight negative preconceived notions. If you come across a piercing that deviates from the norm, don’t be so quick to judge. Accept difference; it can be a beautiful thing.
Geena Maharaj can be reached at email@example.com.