Why I Put Metal in my Face.
I never really went through a rebellious teenager phase. I was always very driven, obedient, self-motivated and productive with my actions and choices, never straying from the paths I decided for myself leading toward success and fulfillment. I have also always had an incredible relationship with both of my parents, rarely disagreeing with them about what would be best for me. When I decided to start adding facial jewelry to my appearance, a lot of interesting truths came out about the things people assume about my identity- as well as my relationship to my parents- simply based off of the “extremity” of my self expression. So let me make a few things clear:
I believe in the power and autonomy of self-expression- even when some physical or emotional pain is included. First and foremost, I think you should be able to do what you want to, especially when it involves your own body and when it doesn’t necessarily interfere with anyone else. I have always been intrigued by the capacities of the human body on an aesthetic level, and believe there are many ways to take control of one’s physical appearance and energetic affects. Facial piercings are one manifestation of self-expression, and a manifestation that also reflects the control we have over our own body modifications. It also reflects the fact that “beauty” extends far beyond the physical- as a human being I am beautiful regardless of whether my nose is pierced. Physicality doesn’t have to and most often probably shouldn’t inform any conception of beauty, femininity, or societal standardization. It is important for me to feel control over the way my identity is expressed and perceived through my body, and that discomfort or pain as part of the process and experience of self-expression doesn’t- and shouldn’t- have to prevent embracing those experiences.
With that said, I also think it is important to consider the ways in which our representations of selves affect other people. In the case of my own facial piercings, a lot of people assume that they have had a huge impact on my parents, on my family. While I probably wouldn’t have done anything differently in terms of my decisions to experiment with “body modification” if my parents had been against it, I did take into consideration what they would think and how it might be seen as an expression of their parenting of me. And luckily, my parents and entire family (well, except maybe my Grandma Suzy on occasion) have been completely supportive of this decision- as they have been of all of my other decisions. And in a way, my facial piercings do reflect the ways I have been raised by my parents: they reflect that fact that I have grown up in a progressive, liberal, open-minded household that encourages self-expression, creativity, independence, and healthy experimentation of experience. I have always had my own unique style- one different than my parents’ but equally as eccentric- and have always been allowed to pick out my own clothes, dictate my own appearance, and express myself in my own way regardless of social expectations or “appropriateness”. In fact, I had to convince my mom to not get her own eyebrow pierced when I got mine done- the only reason she didn’t do it herself is because she didn’t want it to seem like she was copying me!
One thing that has been important to my father in particular, which I definitely have taken into consideration and chosen to respect, is not getting tattoos. While I have a very open-minded outlook on body modification and believe in the autonomy of self-expression, but I have decided for myself based on my father’s ideas about tattoos to limit my body modification to piercings. My dad, following a Jewish outlook, disagrees with the permanent aspect of tattoos as a form of body modification. Judaism prevents you from being buried in a Jewish cemetery if you have permanent body modifications like tattoos and that is something that I choose to observe as a Jew based on my father’s beliefs. A big part of my Jewish education has also always involved the Holocaust, and my father essentially forbids me and my sister from getting tattoos out of respect of those who were forced to get tattooed against their own Jewish beliefs like his. These beliefs of my father’s are beliefs I have been raised on as well as examined and questioned; my relationship with him and my identity as a Jew has informed my own belief that like everything else, the body is always changing and self-expression- including body modifications, should be fluid, reversible, and able to be undone.
Freedom of expression is an ideology I believe in but unfortunately not always something I get to put into practice as a member of the socially constructed reality in which we live. The ways our identity is expressed and perceived within the space of humanity are so often dictated by norms, regulations, expectations and assumptions- many of which affect us subconsciously and are ingrained in us by the time we are old enough to even understand what is even involved in getting a nose ring. I actively try to take control of the expression of all aspects of my identity, questioning and challenging the standards by which we are all even subconsciously expected to live. So, the main reason I experiment with facial piercings is simply because I can; getting my nose and eyebrow pierced is sadly one of the few ways I can control my physical self-expression in a healthy and (relatively) socially acceptable way. I pierced my nose and eyebrow not only because I happen to really like the way it looks on my face, but because I am proud to display the results of my own experimentation- and successes- of autonomous and creative self-expression in one of the few ways society allows me to. I wear my nose and eyebrow piercings with dignity and pride in all settings. They have never once gotten in the way of me getting my job done, appearing professional, or seeming composed in my sense of self. If anything, they have enabled my confidence in feeling in control of the way I am perceived. It might not be much, but I am two nose studs, an eyebrow ring, and five earrings closer to genuinely embodying my inner sense of style.
Still- what you see is much, much less than what you get… face metal and all.