Prick Fixx

May 16, 2009

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No, it’s not a new kind of Viagra.  It’s a body piercing aftercare wipe.

I’m pretty skeptical about piercing aftercare products.  I really haven’t come across anything better than sea salt soaks, a good skin-friendly oil, and good health.  Nevertheless, I’m always  looking out for us pierced consumers, so when I was looking for some pure sea salt to buy (and didn’t find it) I decided to try this stuff out.  It’s distributed by P2inc. at www.inkfixx.com.

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They come in packages of 30 single-use wipes for $8.95 at Steel Navel, which isn’t too bad.

There’s not much info on the package, and the directions are a little odd.  They say to apply “as needed” and to contact your piercing professional, and to use only as directed.  Pretty vague. I suppose you really don’t need much direction for a wipe, but it doesn’t mention any rinsing.  I guess you’re just supposed to leave any salt residue behind on your skin.  It contains Water, Coral-Reef Sea Salt, Yucca Glauca Root Extract, and Cetyl Pyridinium Chloride.

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As far as I can tell, the idea behind piercing aftercare sprays and applications is to remove crusties for cleanliness, which makes them a fine convenience product. I tried these on my nipple piercing which has been crusting a lot recently, and–they worked.  That is, they removed the crusties.

But then I noticed that my nipple was actually irritated.  These wipes wouldn’t do a thing for that.  So I got out my dwindling supply of pure sea salt and soaked.  Heat and immersion in the saline solution do a far better job  in caring for a piercing than any spray  or wipe could do.

I think these products, and there are others, the most heavily-advertised of which is H2Ocean, are mostly good for making their inventors money. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (smirk), but be a smart pierced consumer!

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Reach Out and Poke Someone

May 2, 2009

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Outreach

I’d like to highlight the remarkable and important work that the APP (Association of Professional Piercers) has done in educational outreach.

It seems that every issue of their journal, The Point, has a report about their participation in events designed to educate and inform, but if you don’t read The Point regularly, you might not be aware of it.  Representatives of the APP make regular appearances at national public health and nursing conferences, spicing up convention centers and educating about body piercing.  They make their own conference (going on next week!) available free of tuition to health inspectors.  And they have stepped up their international outreach efforts, too, trying to boost all piercers’ professionalism, and educate as many groups as possible about safe body piercing practices.  Along with educating piercers themselves, this is the other, very important task the APP has set itself.

Consider this quote from Didier Suarez, who recently attended the American Public Health Associaton conference in San Diego:

. . . many attendees were unaware of the dangers of ear-piercing guns; that they cannot be sterilized, that the jewelry is an inferior material, and that a blunt stud is used to puncture the tissue.  Just that information was an eye-opener to almost every attendee I spoke with personally.

And these attendees were medical professionals,  public health workers, educators, and students.  These are pretty important segments of the population to educate about body piercing!  Other conferences which the APP appears at include those of the American College Health Association (ACHA) and the American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA) and the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA). (I’m sure there’s an important nursing conference, too, but right now I can’t find it.)

Here’s the link to the latest issue of The Point (.pdf), from which the above quote comes from.  The Point is always worth reading, and I notice the online version has all color pictures, which is nice: The Point Spring 09

I don’t know if this kind of outreach is unique in the body modification world; the above-quoted article suggests that the conference attendees were hungry for tattooing information, too, but that there were no similar efforts by tattoo professionals.  Connections have also been made with international body art conferences, such as the Italian association of piercers and tattooers (APTPI) and the BMXNet events in Germany.  I like that the Italian conferences end in a “traditional debate of the . . . Board members and Conference Participants,” (The Point, Vol. 38 p. 6).  That sounds . . . lively.

I do know that the APP has been involved in an extraordinary exchange of information in the recent annual conferences in Mexico. There’s a huge interest in piercings in Mexico and Latin America, and the APP has been running conferences in Mexico City for the last few years, despite many obstacles, not the least being the language difference.  From reading the descriptions in The Point, the piercers and public health officials there soak up the educational offerings like sponges. (The APP is really stepping up their efforts in the Spanish language in the US, too, making classes and brochures available in that language.)  Danny Yerma, of Wakantanka in Mexico City, is the International Outreach Coordinator and he’s a fantastic piercer, who has produced his own body art magazine in Mexico and really worked hard to get the word out in that country.

Now that would be an interesting conference to go to!  And, by coincidence, I happen to speak Spanish pretty well.  I wouldn’t want to go alone, but if I could find someone to go with me, I’d love to volunteer at that one.  As long as they lick that pesky swine flu thing, of course.

As you can see, there’s a lot of public education still needing to  be done.  I wish all Pierced Consumers could do more in that endeavor. I like to think that what I do is a kind of outreach, but I’d love to have an APP presence in my town.  Maybe I’ll look into Border Health conferences; there’s got to be something . . .

I know some piercers who have problems with the politics of the APP (committee politics is never fun), or their very strict and rather expensive membership rules, or who simply are not joiners.  But piercees can support these outreach and educational efforts without worrying about all that, either directly, by volunteering at the APP conference, by doing outreach in your community, or monetarily.  The APP website has a page which says you can make tax-deductible donations and get various rewards (bumper sticker, video) at various levels (though I don’t know anyone who does this).  You can also sign up to be a Patron Member for dues of $50 annually.

Even if you’re not a fan of the APP or don’t have the money, sometimes outreach for all of us is as simple as answering a friend’s questions, or recommending a really good piercer.  So think about spreading the point.

***

ETA: I think I’m channeling the APP because I’m missing the conference this year.  I also forgot to explicitly express my appreciation to all the volunteers and staff at the APP who make the above-described outreach possible.  Thanks!

Pic courtesy of Jam343 at Flickr.

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The Piercing Bible

April 19, 2009

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Just Get It!

Let me introduce you to the best reference a pierced consumer could have: The Piercing Bible, a book by Elayne Angel.

There’s nothing else like it out there, and no one but Angel could have written this book.  I know she has worked very hard on it, and I am bursting with pride for her.  It’s a fantastic book for everyone interested in body piercing, and I do urge everyone to pick up a copy.

In the interest of disclosure, I had a small part in the conceptualization of the project.  I knew we needed a book like this, and I’m so excited to finally have it. I’m not going to do a “review,” because I can’t be unbiased, although I plan at least one more  blog post on the book, more content-related.  For right now, allow me to introduce Ms. Elayne Angel, piercer, author, a pivotal figure in modern body piercing, and not the least to me, my friend.

***

Cloud: As a bibliophile, I loved your blog post about greeting your book for the first time:

I opened the box and lifted the book–hefted it really, to feel its pleasant and considerable weight. Smiling, I took a look at the front and back covers, then thumbed through the whole thing and heard the sound of the paper, then took a big whiff  of the fresh paper and ink.  I did everything but lick the thing.  I wanted (needed, even) to experience my book with every possible sense I have.  What a delight!

Cloud: Let me ask you:  Are you sure you didn’t lick it?  Just a little when no one was looking, hmm?

Angel: In all honesty, I was tempted, but I did not lick it.  At the time, I was in New Orleans, staying with friends–so I didn’t have a lot of private time with my new book.  I will admit that I took more than just a whiff, though.  I suppose it would be accurate to say that I briefly huffed the book.

Cloud: I know exactly how hard it was to find a publisher and I know how hard you  worked on this.  Are there any thoughts about the process you’d like to share?

Angel: I’m glad I never set out to make writing my “day job,” that’s for sure!  People keep asking me what I’m going to write next (as if it is a foregone conclusion I’ll write another book).  I can’t even think about that right now!  Completing this book (while meeting the harsh deadlines my publisher demanded) was one of the hardest things I’ve ever tackled in my entire life.  When I talk about “blood, sweat, and tears” being involved, I’m not speaking metaphorically.

One of the greatest challenges was dealing with the  illustrations. The artist is a wonderful woman named Jennifer Klepacki, and we’ve become fast friends through the process.  But she was in Connecticut, and I was in Mexico, so creating the drawings over that distance was pretty crazy!

Because the book’s budget limited the number of illustrations I was able to include, quite a few piercings had to be drawn on one view of anatomy–for example male genitalia with 10 different pieces of jewelry in it.  I’d send her perhaps 7 or 8 different photos of piercings that needed to be incorporated into one drawing, along with written instructions on relative jewelry sizes, piercing placements, and so on.  She’d draw up a draft, scan it, and email it to me.

Quite quickly I realized that no matter how much detail I put into writing about the way an illustration should look, words alone would not suffice.  So I started to print the drafts, and draw on them myself, and then scan them and email them back.  I am artistic in a variety of ways, but drawing has never been one of my best skills, so this really caused me to stretch my capabilities.

Sometimes we’d go back and forth dozens of times until I was satisfied.  Jennifer was fantastic about doing whatever it took to get to that point.  What a trooper! Also, as soon as we began the project, the publisher cut four weeks off of the deadline, and they wanted all 23 illustrations done in a month!  That was one of the more difficult (but ultimately rewarding) parts of the process.

Cloud: I can’t draw worth a damn, either.  We can create pictures with words, but artists are visually oriented.  These are technical drawings, which need precision, but they are quite wonderfully done.

Angel: Here’s another story: My editor Lisa and I bounced different versions of the manuscript back and forth many, many times. I can’t even count how many edits it went through.  It honestly seemed like the book would never be done.  So after months of passing it between us, I ecstatically sent Lisa the final version (on deadline).  I wrote her a thank-you note, and flew out the following day to see my family in California.  I’d gotten up at 4:00 in the morning to make my early flight, and spent a long day traveling.  I had a nice dinner with my folks and was exhausted and ready for bed.

I decided to check my email for just a moment before turning in. And there it was: my manuscript, along with a note from my editor asking me to spot-check the cross-references.  Because the material is so interrelated, there are about 143 locations where the reader is sent elsewhere in the book for more information on a subject:  “See page 47 for details.”  This is one of the last things in the process, because every edit causes page numbers to change.  But I’d already checked this once or twice, and given my corrections; I couldn’t believe I had to deal with it yet again, and while I was bleary-eyed from travel.

So, I randomly checked a cross reference and it gave the WRONG page number.  There I was, in the middle of the night, rechecking every single cross-referenced in the book.  I’m glad I did; three of them were wrong! Of course, then I started to wonder what else was still wrong.  It could drive a person crazy!  Apparently it is common that changes are made after the first print run, and errors can get corrected at that time.

Being a perfectionist is great characteristic for a piercer, but in a writer . . .

Cloud: Was there any part of the book you had to fight to include, or that gave you particular trouble?

Angel: The publisher and I wrestled over the cover quite a bit.  At one point I was so distraught, I regretted having signed the contract.  Ultimately we settled on the current cover, and I’m pretty happy with it, except that the color isn’t nearly as purple as I would have liked.

I don’t want to give a negative impression of my publisher.  Ten Speed Press is fantastic, and I feel that the whole team there worked really hard to make The Piercing Bible as good as it could possibly be, and I’m very appreciative of  everyone’s efforts.

The end-notes were a bitch or organize, because the publisher’s program doesn’t work with the formatting for automatic endnotes in the Microsoft Word program that I used.  I had to manually put in special codes for their placement.  Then, edits caused things to get swapped around and I’d hve to re-do them.  I wriestled with those damned end notes for what seemed like a lifetime!

Cloud: What do you have planned for the official debut?

Angel: The official debut is coming up at the annual conference for the Association of Professional Piercers in Las Vegas the first week in May.  We’re having it at the Tropicana this year (a change from our many years at the Riviera).  I’ll have  booth and will sell and sign books and I’ll be selling my poster there, too (pictured here).   The publisher is making some postcards for the book, and I’ll have those also.

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Cloud: I hope it goes smashingly for you.  I had hoped to attend the conference this year, and perhaps volunteer, but as you know, conference can be exhausting even without being post-op!  The Tropicana better treat you guys right–it’ll be great to be down at that end of the Strip. Are you planning any other appearances at conventions or events to publicize the book?

Angel: While I’m at the APP Conference, I will discuss book signing/guest piercing opportunities with my colleagues from around the country.  So, those plans have yet to be made, but I’ll be happy to keep you and your readers posted.Following the Conference (on May 16 at 6 pm) I’ll be having a book signing in Los Angeles at an alternative gallery:  Antebellum Gallery.  http://www.rickcastro.com/antebellum/antebellum2.html .

Cloud: Please do keep me informed about appearances.  Every little bit helps, right? You’re probably watching the Amazon.com reviews pretty closely, and so far they’re great, but have you received feedback yet from other piercers?

Angel: No, the book just started shipping a matter of days ago, so I figure it will take a little more time–there are over 300 pages after all!  I’m kind of surprised that anyone had time to actually read the whole thing and post a review already.

Cloud: That’s exactly what I’m doing, and what Noah [Babcock of Evolution in ABQ] told me–you have to set aside time to read and study it because it’s so dense with information!  And yet it’s very readable at the same time.

Angel: I’m looking forward to hearing whatever feedback people have.  So far, it has all been good, but I’m sure piercers are apt to be my harshest critics (of the content, anyway).  The book IS on the conservative side, but if it wasn’t, then the non-piercing communities (like healthcare professionals, educators, legislators, etc.) wouldn’t take it seriously.  A very important goal of mine is for The Piercing Bible to be accessible and acceptable to these other types of people.  There isn’t a single other resource that has the potential to encompass and educate such diverse audiences.

Cloud: Oh, I entirely agree.  Just waiting until the nurses and health care inspectors get hold of it–they should be falling on it like mana from heaven!  When the APP does outreach to these professionals, it seems like they’re so hungry for good information.

Angel: Even though I clarify that the content is largely based on my own opinions in the book’s disclaimer, “Substantive research studies, statistical analyses, and other definitive resource materials related to modern piercing are in short supply; therefore, the information, practices, and procedures described in this book are largely based on my own extensive, clinical experience.  I’ve integrated industry standards where they exist, but there is still preciousl little that is truly standard, so my opinions are a primary component of many chapters.”  I won’t be suprised to hear from piercers who disagree with some of my perspectives.

Cloud: Me neither.  How many piercers does it take to change a light bulb?  None; the light bulb never gets changed because they can’t agree on the proper procedure!   Although piercing procedures don’t have quite the same history and mystique that tattoo procedures do, do you anticipate anyone saying you are giving away “secrets” or something?

Angel: I doubt it.  I don’t think piercing has suffered from that same affliction that has impacted tattooing.  Jim Ward always shared his information (and created a magazine to help: PFIQ), and I’ve always shared whatever information I’ve had.  Since we were part of the foundation of the industry, I think that helped to set a precedent for a more open sharing among piercers.

Cloud: There seems to be a great deal of interest in and thirst for knowledge about piercing by people in Mexico and Latin Amerca–any plans to translate the book into Spanish?

Angel: I certainly hope so! That’s part of the deal with the publisher, so hopefully the book will sell well enough in the US that they’ll decide to proceed with versions in several different languages.  Everyone can help:  buy a copy if you don’t have one already!

Cloud: I’ve bought a couple extra copies for gifts!  As I’m sure you know, my area of the border and many areas of Mexico have experienced increased amounts of horrific violence related to drug wars–have you seen any signs of unrest in your area?

Angel: No–the Yucatan is almost like another country.  We aren’t anywhere near a border, and our areas is not at all affected.  Actually, the Yucatecos don’t consider themselves “Mexicans” at all.  It is very different here.  They have their own culture, customs, cuisine, and so on–all quite different from the rest of Mexico.  in fact, people always tease us when we travel to the US:  “So, what do you want to eat?  Mexican food?  And they’ve always surprised and think we’re joking when we responde, “Yes! Please!”  We don’t get Mexican food here of the type we’re accustomed to from living in California, and we miss it!

Cloud: I’d send you some green chiles if I could.  Are you missing doing piercings?

Angel: I must be, I keep dreaming about doing piercings. In fact just last night I had a dream I was guest piercing in a studio in the UK.  My client wanted a genital piercing, but we were all together (two tattoo artists and me) in one big room.  So I was trying to position the table so my client could have as much privacy as possible given that we were in plain view of everybody.  Hmmm.

I have done some piercings when I travel, and now that the book is done, I’d like to do more.  I’m probably going to be dong some guest piercing/book signing engagements in the US and maybe elswehere.  I’ll keep in touch and let you know my plans as they develop.

Cloud: So, now that the this project is done, I’m sure you heaved a big sigh of relief.  What’s next?

Angel: Now that The Piercing Bible is available, the next phase is publicity, marketing, and promotion. I want to let everyone know about the book so that anyone who needs the information gets to read a copy.  I could spend all day, everyday, on the internet working on that!  I also help my husband with his business.  Somehow, I stay busy ALL the time, even though I don’t have what you’d call a “real job” at the moment.  I’m enjoying life very much, and I plan to keep on doing that!

While I have “the floor” so to speak, I wanted to let everyone who reads your blog know that you were totally instrumental in getting this book to happen, and that I truly appreciated all the time and effort that you put into it.  You do deserve a lot of credit and I hope you know that I freely give it to you.  Thanks, Cloud, for getting theat whole ball rolling.  Your contributions are part of what helped to make The Piercing Bible what it finally became.

Cloud: It was my pleasure to contribute in a small way. I’m not surprised at the dream, either–your empathy and sensitivity to a piercee’s needs are among the qualities that make you a great piercer, so this must be your equivalent to “naked classroom” dreams.

Thanks, Elayne, for talking to me about the book, and I wish you fantastic success with it.  Now you can literally say you “wrote the book” on body piercing!

***

So, there you have it–my attempt at journalistic greatness by interviewing the much greater Elayne Angel!  Go, pick up a copy of The Piercing Bible at Amazon, or ask you bookstore to carry it.  You won’t be disappointed!

Note: As I’m writing this, there’s a knock on my frontdoor.  The mailman, with a surprise delivery.  What is this?  The return address was from no one I knew, but the size and shape reminded me suspiciously of . . . The Piercing Bible!  With a special message from Angel.  Completely aside from the utility, uniqueness, and detailed content about piercing, this will always be a special book for me.  I’ll keep my other copy for reference and for mark up, but my autographed copy goes into the category of life treasures.

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Guest post: A Flowering of Sorts

April 8, 2009

pdbsg-picture-198Cloud invited me to guest blog (a major compliment), so I’ll try to keep this interesting.  She was the grand dame of Tribalectic when I first tentatively described my first piercing years ago, and she remains an ornery, insightful broad whose thoughts amuse, inspire, and inform.

My experience in the piercing community is that its members tend to be thoughtful, sensitive, even cautious.  Many, if not most, shows signs of empathy, and welcome whatever happiness or grief is re-membered, as in put back together, by their fellow community members.

By no means are all piercers or piercees suffering souls.  There are some folks just intersted in a better way to get off.  Will my tongue stud make her jizz?  You know what I mean.

But, there is that segment of the population which has been wounded in mind, or heart or spirit.  Something private and personal has been taken away, stolen, defiled.  It could be a beaten spouse.  It could be a raped adult or child.  It could be the jackass boss who never lets you be what you want to be.

When your identity has been stolen away, you can either give in or you can reclaim yourself.  Your pain is your pain.  How you ornament yourself is your choice.  Who you share yourself with is your choice. Piercing, for some, allows you to reclaim your body.  It’s mine, not yours you assmunch! In my eyes, this is a beautiful project a flowering of sorts, where you reclaim your body and let it grow from there.

Never let bad memories hold you back.

Namaste.

-pdbsg

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Did you see that?

March 28, 2009

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Piercing as Architecture

Flickr has been my friend and assistant in my blogging venture.  You just never know what you’re going to find.  Like this pic of a building in downtown Torino Italy.  It’s pierced, and . . . it’s bleeding! This comes from agd82’s photostream, and this is the information that’s posted about the building:

You can see blood spilling from the piercing: red blood and blue one. The red one is supposed to come from normal people, the blue one from the aristocracy. This to show that in the past those building were rich aristocrats and now by common people.

And here I thought it was just an advertisement for a piercing studio, and it turns out to be social commentary. Some further digging indicates that this was an installation done by a group of young Turinese architects under the aegis of Corrado Levi, an Italian artist, architect, and professor. Pretty cool!

You can see another shot of it lit up at night here.

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Two for Tuesday

March 24, 2009

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Yesterday, I had my biggest day of viewers on my blog so far,  so thanks to all my readers!


A couple of items for your reading pleasure today:

I got a nice note from a piercer in Newcastle, Australia, via my IAM page on BME, who said:

Hey Cloud. Your blog is really going well I see.  I want to say how much I enjoy checking it out. You  have a real way of conveying the information so its easy to understand. . .  An awesome resources site.  I have started to let my clients know about it. “

Wow.  I’m blushing! Thanks, Greg! So if any of you are reading me from Australia, give a shout out.

Second, for men with genital piercings, there’s a survey you can take part in. The group doing this survey is the same one which has done a study of VCH (Vertical Clitoral Hood) piercings in women, so it’s legit.

I urge you to support academic and scientific research about body piercing when you can, so here’s the link to participate in this survey:

Men With Genital Piercings Survey

It’s my understanding that it’s composed of basic questions about piercing and your lifestyle. Thanks once again to Elayne Angel for posting about this study on her blog.  I’m waiting with bated breath for the book’s  release, Elayne!

Thanks to Tambako the Jaguar for the lemurs!

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On the Younger Side Part 3: For Teens

March 22, 2009

Disclaimer:  I’m not a teen! And who wants unsolicited advice, anyway?  There’s a reason why Charlie Brown’s adults go, “WahWahWah” and you mostly see the grownups’ feet in E.T.

How Do I Convince My Parents to Let Me Get a Piercing?

Good question. And, unfortunately, I don’t know the answer.  As always, though, I do have a few thoughts on the subject.

My suggestions:

  • First, read How to Make Friends and Influence People,  by Dale Carnegie (Link to Google Book).  You can find it at any library.  Despite the cheesy title and dated anecdotes, the information and advice in that book is priceless.  I’m serious!
  • Try to negotiate with your parents, and be prepared to compromise.  Be calm.  Don’t whine.
  • Do your research, and present them with facts about piercings.  Be ready to answer their questions and counter their arguments.  Print out the FAQs  or the Piercee’s Bill of Rights from the Association of Professional Piercer’s website.
  • Show your parents you can be trusted with other stuff, and they’ll be more likely to trust you with this.
  • Use this time to plan, to ask questions.  There are several good discussion forums about piercings where the people will take the time to encourage you and respond to your concerns.  Learn about proper aftercare so you don’t get suckered by inappropriate recommendations from well-meaning friends or less-informed piercers.   Take a look at the resources on this site, or leave a comment here.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, back off and try again later.  Be patient.  Your body will survive without extra holes for a little while longer!.

Sadly, there will be parents who will never agree.  Some parents can be persuaded, others never will–too stubborn, too prideful, too religious, or just opposed.  Body piercing is not for everyone, and there are always people who react with revulsion or disgust no matter how old you are.

In fact, body piercing may not be for you, either,  so take some time to think about who you are and what your lifestyle is and will be.  Don’t be like the girl in Part 2 who stretched her ears at age 13, only to need surgery later when she wanted to enter the Air Force; or the young guy who had always wanted to be a fireman, only to be told he was disqualified because of his ear piercings.

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Some things to consider:

The key to getting a good piercing is to find the best, most experienced professional piercer you have access to.  Don’t settle for just anyone at the first tattoo studio you walk in to.  Reputable professional piercers will not pierce you without a parent’s permission, and will never pierce a minor’s nipples or genitals.

Who is going to pay for your piercing? Save some money or earn some extra cash so you can show your parents you are serious. Don’t use this an excuse to self pierce.  Who will pay for medical care if your piercing gets infected?

Good jewelry is not cheap, and you may need more than one piece.You should buy the best quality jewelry you can afford for your initial jewelry.  It isn’t cheap, but good quality jewelry makes a difference.  Implant grade stainless steel or titanium will protect you against most skin sensitivities.  Well-made jewelry is also highly polished and free from irregularities that could trap bacteria, and internally threaded and well-machined, well-fitting ends mean fewer lost balls and beads.

Don’t touch it; don’t play with it; and don’t change the jewelry too soon.  Leave the initial jewelry in as long as you can.  Just do sea salt soaks and keep it clean.  Never touch your piercing with dirty hands!

Don’t count on hiding it from your parents, your school, your coach, etc.  You need to keep the metal jewelry in there as long as possible while it’s healing, and even clear retainers are visible.  Taking it out and putting piercings back in for an activity, like sports, isn’t recommended either–that will only irritate the piercing and keep it from healing well.

What if I can’t get their permission?

If you can’t convince your parents, then your alternative is to wait until you are 18 or the age of majority in your location.

Please don’t pierce yourself!

It’s unsafe, because you don’t have the equipment to sterilize anything; you don’t have the knowledge or experience to get a good piercing, not to mention the awkwardness of trying to pierce yourself in a mirror, without leverage, or a good vantage point.  For more on this, here’ s my post on self-piercing.

When you at last own the rights to your own body, you can treat your piercing as a rite of passage. Make it mean something to you, and come out the other side a different person. Just know that parental disapproval (and concern) never goes away, even when you are adult, so you may be trying to hide that jewelry from grandma at age 30.  Some people will never understand.

***

This is the last in a series of posts on piercings by age group.  Here’s the list of the others:

Teens and Piercings: How to Avoid the Worst Case Scenario

On the Younger Side Part 1: Babies

Too Old for a Piercing?

And, for fun:  How to Sound Like the Charlie Brown Adults from Wikihow.

Thanks to mod complex at Flickr for the lip piercing pic.

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Too old for a piercing?

February 24, 2009

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The Short Answer:  Absolutely Not!

I get this question a lot.  Mostly from people who’ve never met me in person as, obviously, when they know me, they can see that I’m no spring chicken.  In fact, I got my first body piercing (except for lobes, which do count!) at age 45.  You can, too.

I started my body art journey with tattoos in my 30s.  One of my tattooists also did piercings, and he told a story about  piercing the clitoral hoods of three “little old ladies from the old folks home,” and how much they enjoyed their new jewelry.  This comment simmered in the back of my brain for years, until it surfaced to compel me to seek out a body piercer.  If they could do it . . .

The perception that only teenagers or students  get piercings is a hard one to overcome. I’m here to tell you that there are far more people into piercings than you may realize. Mature people.  Professional people.  Old people, even.    I regularly correspond with people in their 50s, 60s, and even 70s who are active piercees.   Even though we may “buck the trend,” older piercees are often better informed and do more research before getting a piercing, and have the resources to purchase quality jewelry.  That can only be a good thing, in my opinion.

Younger people tend to start with facial piercings, both because they tend to need to visually express their style, and because minors cannot legally get genital or nipple piercings.  That means that younger people’s facial piercings–labret, eyebrow, etc.  get seen–a lot. In contrast, older people’s motivations tend to be different and they tend to get “hidden” piercings. Most of us are in the workplace where discretion is necessary, and piercings that can be hidden under clothes are ideal.  Further, many older piercees are motivated by a desire to spice up their sex life, or enhance their self image in mid-life.  It’s not unusual at all for a 40-something (or even older) to get a genital piercing, say, a Prince Albert, as their first piercing.

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Special Concerns of Older Piercees

Let’s say you are interested in getting a piercing, but don’t know where to start.  None of your friends have piercings (or else they’re not telling).  How do you find a piercer?  Who do you talk to if you have a problem?  How do you get up the courage to walk into a piercing or tattoo studio and talk about jewelry for your nipples or your penis with a scary-looking stranger?

If you are not a teenager or 20-something, you may be concerned about how you will be perceived by your family or friends if you get a piercing. Will you be ridiculed?  Will they think you’re just in the grip of a mid-life crisis? Lapsing into second childhood? I always tell people, you have to have thick skin to be pierced (speaking metaphorically). Don’t think so much about what other people think, and make up your own mind. It’s your own body, after all.

In my experience, older adults who get pierced tend to be less experimental with their body art, and plan to keep their piercings permanently, so there is often a concern about removing piercings for medical procedures.  In addition, older people’s skin loses collagen and is not as supple, so there are also questions about whether or not they are suitable for a piercing.  They may be self-conscious about less-than-perfect bodies, citing beer bellies, baby-chewed breasts, and the ravages of time.  So who do you talk to?

Help is out there. Many of these concerns are shared by all piercees and there are resources available.  There’s information on this site that can help you.  If you have questions, just post them on the comment section, and I’ll be happy to help you if you can. I also highly recommend internet forums, particularly the Tribalectic forum, as a great place to get answers to your questions and “meet” other people who understand.  ETA:  Also check out the wonderful folks at the Steel Navel forum, who complained that I left them out!

Whether you are interested in enhancing your sex life or self-image, expressing yourself in a new and fun way, or have just always been intrigued by the concept, I say go for it!

Pic of “old lady with birds” from closelyobserved.com’s photostream at Flickr.  Pic of old couple at Warwick Castle from lisalamb83’s photostream.


Piercee Profile: Michiko

January 31, 2009

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I need a break from aftercare posts, so here’s an interview of a very special piercee:  Michiko!

She’s a strong, opinionated, and very sexy woman, who comes to us all the way from Hamburg, Germany (Wikipedia link).  She very kindly volunteered to answer my dumb questions.  The questions may be boring, but she certainly isn’t!

At the risk of promoting piercing egocentrism, tell me a little about what you’re currently up to.

I’m in the process of going self-employed.  My business license started with the new year.  I make soaps, bathing stuff, and natural cosmetics (no makeup though) in the wider sense.  To be honest, being my own boss and thereby being able to look however I want did play a role in my motivation, even if it wasn’t the main reason.  Other than that, I live in Hamburg, Germany.  I’m polyamorous.  Which means I have several lovers; the most important one is n the U.S. which of course makes travelling a great part of my l8ife.  And I’m somewhat involved with the local BDSM scene.  I’m 29 and I live alone with my three kitties.  But I’m not a crazy cat person, I promise.

I’m excited for your new business venture!  Do you have a sample product pic, or a website yet?

Nooo, not yet! I’m working on it, but there’s so much to work on (sigh). I hope that sometime by next month there’ll be at least a small website, a little shop, proper packaging and branding, etc.

You let me know when it all comes together, and I’ll feature you.  Every little bit helps, right?  Now, please tell me about your body art–how many piercings do you have now?  Do you have tattoos also?

Counting earwork, I have 18 active piercings.  Five of them are facial piercings, so I’m pretty clearly identified as pierced.  I retired two lobe piercings when I stretched the first pair, two surface piercings that just wouldn’t take (I did have proper surface bars in them, but luck still plays a great role I guess), a christina and a tongue piercing that was placed way too far to the front.  (Note: A christina is a female genital piercing. Here’s a link to the BME Encyclopedia for a christina, in case you don’t know what that is.  Very NSFW!)

I do have three tattoos and great plans for sleeves.  There’s a tribal on my back, morse code around my left wrist and a line or writing on the back of my head, all of which are about meaning as much as about looks.  The same is true for my scars; three long scratches down the side of my belly and braille writing around the right wrist.

For a long time, I also had dreadlocks, which of course made me look even more of a freak.  Actually, I think I’m pretty much done with piercings at this point.  I want a dermal anchor in my cleavage to replace the rejected surface piercings, and possibly maybe some more earwork, but that’s about it.  My friends identify mas as “the one with all the piercings.”  I jingle when I walk, I think that should be enough . . .

I think it’s interesting that you made that comment about “looking like a freak.”  Do you really think that?

Nah.  Actually I think I look incredibly harmless.  It’s the whole Asian thing; I have very soft and childlike features.  A lot of old ladies who hate tattoos and piercings still want to pinch my cheeks.  And of course there’s a good bit of ironic self-ironic appropriation of the term.  You once said “freak” was not a bad thing in your book, because that’s what the hippies used to call themselves.  In my world, freak pretty much means everything outside the mainstream, so most of the time that’s a compliment.

I’m amazed you remember that, but it’s quite true.  But I think “freak” is a trigger word with a lot of connotations for people. People’s reactions can be unpredictable.   A lot of piercees have trouble with their families over their body art.  How has your family reacted?

My brother has tattoos of his own.  He retired his piercings, but more because they irritated him than for aesthetic reasons.  I think my father still doesn’t quite understand what’s going on there, so he doesn’t comment either way.

My mom and I went through quite a bit of arguments, then discussions, and now wholehearted acceptance.   When I was a teenager, we had huge arguments over every new piercing.  Then she started to calm down, and when I was 21 or so, she gradually started complimenting me on individual ones.  Said the stretched lobes really suited me, or commented constructively on the combination of jewelry to get.

When I got my first tattoo at 26, she was thrilled and said she was downright envious, and since then we’ve had an exchange about these things, probably much like other people would discuss their hairstyle or clothes shopping with their mom.  She’s really cool and open-minded anyways, I think this just took her some  getting used to, because I started out early, and I guess from her perspective it was indistinguishable from plain self harming.

Do you have a  good piercer?  Or are all your piercings self-done?

I have a lot of self-done piercings.  Part of the reason is that, when I was 14 and desperately wanted a navel piercing (you wouldn’t believe how much that freaked people out 15 years ago), there simply were no pro piercers available in the German small town I grew up in.  Not that my mom would probably have signed up for it.  But either way, there were no real alternatives.  I got my first piercing advice from the punk kids in the schoolyard.

My first attempt at a navel piercing rejected and tore out, which somehow didn’t stop me from giving  it another try.  This time, it worked–the placement could probably be better, but I’m still wearing jewelry in that one.  So I kept dong my own work for quite a while.  The first piercer I had access to wasn’t exactly trustworthy either.  Only when I moved to Hamburg and suddenly had a lot more choices did I find someone I trusted to work on me. Still do.

I think before that, I didn’t even see my choices as limited, I just felt I was better off doing my own stuff.  I’d say the ration of screwed up piercings between me and the pros was pretty much balanced until I met Sasha.  Then again, complicated stuff like my eyebrow and clit hood piercings, I would never have attempted myself.

What’s your typical aftercare like?

German piercers still tend to give a rather harsh disinfectant.  It worked on some of my piercings, but I’ve switched to sea salt soaks now.  They’re much less irritating to the surrounding skin.  Sometimes, when one of my healed piercings gets irritated, I still use the disinfectant as a quick fix.  Other than that, with 18 healed piercings, checking and cleaning each one with clear water in the shower is enough work for every day.  I wash out my stretched lobes especially thoroughly, sometimes with mild soap, and always make sure I dry off the pierced bits particularly thoroughly.  I’ve found that water alone can irritate the hell out of a piercing if you just leave it soaking into the hole and probably attracting all kinds of germs.  I remember several people posting on Tribalectic that they had massive trouble and even keloid-like swelling around their navel piercings until they simply started rying them off with a q-tip after every shower.

Are you paying attention, piercees?  Drying is important!

I know that like me, your motivations for a lot of your body art and body play are closely tied to your sexuality.  Everyone always wants to know which piercings made sex better.  Are there any tips or insights about sex with piercings you’d like to share?

Haha! I don’t think there are any piercings that universally make sex better.  Doesn’t it all come down to personal preferences, compatibility and the practices you’re into?

My surface piercings made it impossible to put me into certain forms of bondage.  A triangle can get sore just as quickly as it gets you off, and I’m not sure if everybody would necessarily enjoy anal sex with someone who has a huge PA.  I think what “makes sex better” is that you generally have more to play with–and I don’t just mean genital work.  I love kissing people with lip and tongue piercings!  But more importantly, it has to do with confidence and body image.  In order to want your genitals pierced, you have to first acknolwedge their very existence; maybe their aesthetic value.  And you have to be ready and willing to take care of them and spend a lot of time staring down your own crotch.  You’re forced to get to know your own body better, and to articulate your desires and your limites more.  You get conversation starters like, “ouch, stop that, it’s pinching me.  But hey, if you do this instead, it will get me off like mad.”

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I’m always fascinated with the state of piercings in the rest of the world (other than my own little part).  Can you talk about the differences between piercing attitudes and procedures between the US and Europe, or other areas of the world that you know about?

Procedures, I don’t know.  I already mentioned the disinfectant for aftercare, otherwise I can’t really tell the difference as I’ve never been pierced outside Germany.  I know most places started offering dermal anchors much later than in America.  There are the guys from Visavajara way down south who do extreme mods, but since they’re part of a very small, very international community, I can’t imagine they work very different from say, Lukas Zpira or Brian Decker.

Now for attitudes . . . I’ve only been to two big cities in the U.S., which again means I can’t really compare, but from American online friends I get the impression that it’s a much bigger deal over there to have visible piercings than over here. Granted, I live in a very tolerant, colorful part of the second biggest city in Germany.  But at least here, you see bank clerks with discreet little nostril studs–or even not-so-discrete tattoos.  In pretty much every job below a certain level of education (unless you’re selling high end cosmetics or waitressing a five star restaurant) piercings are not an issue at all; again, speaking for the big cities.  And I’ve had several experiences with professors, coaches, supervisors, etc.  who were extremely shy and self conscious about even bringing up the issue.  I think they’ve worried they might come across as uptight and conservative.

When I was working at a call center, we once got this survey in for the public transport provider, a government organization.  Since the survey required us to actually go outside and interview face to face, the supervisor called me into his office and asked me, in sort of an awkward way, if I’d mind very much, this was sort of representative after all, er, um, not that he personally had anything whatsoever against piercings or dreadlocks. He apologized about five times over and had very red ears.

On the whole I’d say that if you’re applying for a large bank loan for example, it might still be helpful to take out the piercings for the appointment.  But in everyday life, they hardly seem to get noticed.  I think Germans who grew up around and after ’68 are extremely careful about infringing upon anybody’s individual expression.

What do you think the general public should know about piercings that they do not?

That they don’t hurt after healing.  That they do not beep at the airport unless you go really big.  That yes, those rings do open and close, and that it’s no problem to eat or kiss with an oral piercing.  That their earrings are piercings too, and that should give you some pretty good pointers.

And of course that, if you have visible piercings, there won’t be a question or joke you haven’t already heard.

What do you think piercees should know that they don’t?

Probably the thing I mentioned above:  that there is no one piercing to improve sex, or your body image.  Or any one-size-fits-all placement.  IF you want an eyebrow piercing, you should make sure it really fits your face, not get one because it looked cool on someone else.  And that earwork is serious stuff.  People who flinch at a tongue piercing go and get tragus and industrial piercings because, you know, “it’s just ears.”  Well, that’s for “potential” piercees.  I hope.

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The thoughtfulness, intelligence, and spunk of piercees constantly amazes me! I’ve met so many wonderful, interesting people who share my obsession, like Michiko.

I can’t thank her enough for sharing a little bit of her life with me.  Like Spock says, “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.” Rawr!

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Piercing Aftercare in Detail: Salt of Life

January 24, 2009

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Salt is, of course, necessary for human survival.  The search for and trading of salt has impacted trade and the rising and falling of nations.  It seasons and preserves food, and as we know, it also has therapeutic uses.  Salt is great stuff–you can eat it, gargle with it, and bathe with it.

Of course, it’s also one of the main components of basic body piercing aftercare. In case you missed my obsessive cross-linking, here’s my post on how to do sea salt soaks for your piercings:  Like Chicken Soup for your Piercings.

The APP’s standard aftercare recommends a “non-iodized sea salt solution.”  That’s all very well, but what exactly is sea salt, where can you find it, and why can’t you just use Morton’s off the shelf?

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Salt comes either from mines or from the sea, and the nutritional value of each is the same. The chemical composition of salt is NaCl, or sodium chloride.  Regular table salt is refined, then anti-caking agents are added for pourability.  Iodine is also added as a nutritional supplement.  You do not want these additives in your piercing!

There are many varieties of salt. Look for salt which has no additives.

Some people recommend kosher salt, which you can find in your grocery store.  Kosher salt is raked during the mining process to produce a fluffy texture which melts well.  But look! The box I have, which I use for cooking, has “yellow prussiate of soda” in it added as an anti-caking agent.  So, read the labels for any type of salt you are considering purchasing for your sea salt soaks.

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Another type of salt you may find in your grocery store is Celtic Sea Salt, or another brand of gourmet sea salt.  This type of salt is off white, almost gray, due to the trace minerals which haven’t been refined out.  I use this stuff in food, to brush my teeth for gum therapy, and for therapeutic baths.  I personally don’t know what effect these trace minerals have on piercings, so I prefer to use plain, refined NaCl without any additives if I can get it.

Not Epsom salts! Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) may have therapeutic benefits, but they are not what is recommended for your piercing.  Food grade rock salt may be okay (not the crap stuff they sell to put on roads), but remember you want this stuff to dissolve in hot water.

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Where to Find Salt for your Aftercare:

Your piercer.  The best studios will have salt available, either for purchase, or given as a freebie with your aftercare instructions.  If they don’t have it for sale ask them–why not?

Your grocery store or health food store.  A health food store is often a good bet.  I found the individual packets of pure NaCl pictured above sold for use in neti pots (jalneti).  Avoid products with anti-caking agents or iodine added.

Online.  Many body jewelry retailers carry salt for aftercare. Here are a couple of sources from my favorite sites:

Sea Salt from Tribalectic

Jala Neti Pot Salt from Yoga & Life  (Neti pots are fabulous health aides too–check them out!)

Sea Salt from BodyArtForms

Note:  You can also use pre-packaged sterile solution for your piercing aftercare, which you can buy at a drugstore.  Not contact lens solution! Contact lens solution has added stuff!

You can also buy proprietary aftercare solutions, like H2Ocean, containing salt.  Let me just say here:  I don’t like them! You don’t know exactly what you are getting, and most of them are much more expensive than plain salt.   In addition, sprays, while they might be good convenience products for aftercare when you’re on the road or running around, don’t allow for the beneficial effects on your piercing of immersion in hot salt water. All this stuff smacks to me of people just wanting to cash in on the popularity of body piercing, and I can’t see any of it is better than plain, cheap, natural salt therapy. Again, read the labels and know what you are buying.

Some further links to info about salt and salt therapy:

Salt Works

Celtic Sea Salt

Geology of Salt from About.com

Too much salt is bad for you, but I love it!