The Bold Red Rocket Scientist!
When I asked Chuck his interview questions, his answers came back identified as “Bold Red.” I think this is a good metaphor for him–his strong personality comes through clearly, as you will see. He describes himself as: “45 years old, engineer/rocket scientist, living in North Alabama, heavily tattooed, currently 13 piercings, have lost/given up on about another 13 more through the years, former piercer/shop owner, tattooed for 24+ years, pierced for 22 years (26 if you count earlobes). ” (And I do!) He’s also a thoughtful and prolific writer, so I’m splitting this interview up for ease of posting/reading.
Part 1–The Man
Q. Where are you spending your life these days, on and off the net? Any good body modification sites or other sites you’d like to highlight?
A. Online–Most of my time is spent on various fora dealing with watches, knives and gadgets and guns, and on various news/current events sites and blogs. Throw in several active email accounts and a moderately busy MySpace page and it takes up a good chunk of my evening every day. I am also involved in a movie project, which could turn into a book project, that has periods of intense email traffic.*
The only piercing site I spend any time on anymore is Poked (which is more social than anything else), plus now I have started perusing your blog. After devoting huge amounts of time to Tribalectic back in its early days and finally burning out . . . I just haven’t had the desire to submerge myself in the day-to-day struggle to inform the public at large about better piercing practices. Fought that battle for years, got tired of the bloody forehead, and have turned the reins over to anyone else with the heart to continue (with my thanks!). I never had much use for BME, so I have never really spent any time there . . . I guess I’m just not cool enough LOL. If there are other piercing/body mod forums out there, I guess I haven’t bothered to find them. I guess any more I’m just kind of old fashioned about the whole deal . . . I would much rather PFIQ started publishing again and I could read new issues of it every few months vs. spending time in forums and chat rooms anymore. Yeah, I’m a piercing Luddite, LOL.
Offline–working, playing with my kid, walking in the woods, and all other fun stuff we all enjoy (hanging out with friends, going to concerts and sporting events, etc. ) Not spending nearly enough time getting tattooed or pierced these days.
Q. I give my interviewees a choice of how they wish to be identified. Most, like me, want to minimize public scrutiny of their Name+ their body art. As Chuck puts it, with employers scrutinizing your online trail and the future being unwritten, its probably best not to put the full name. But I’ve never had a rocket scientist before! (That’s “had” in the sense of interviewing! *koff*) So–
What’s it like being a rocket scientist with body art?
A. Wow. There are about 101 different ways I could approach this one. I’ll just say that while I have been surprised at how much acceptance or at least tolerance I have encountered in my 22+ years as an engineer, I would also be lying if I said it has not damaged my career. For every 99 professionals that don’t care about my tattoos, piercings, etc., I can find one or two who do for whatever reason. If that one or two are in a position of any sort of power over me, then it can damage my reputation, salary, opportunities, etc. Unfortunately, this has happened to me in the past; not enough to have me terminated, but enough to impact my earning potential for many years. Fortunately right now it appears the folks I work for and with don’t care about my mods, at least to the extent they know about them, LOL! I have stopped wearing short-sleeve shirts, removed my tragus jewelry, wear a glass retainer in my nostril, retainer in my septum, and down-sized my earrings to 8 or 6 gauge (Jeez, I can’t even remember which.)
I have also learned the hard way that it is best not to talk about any specific mods below the neck with coworkers, no matter what they ask or how “cool” they seem. That said, the professional world I work in is a whole lot more accepting of mods now than they were back in the 80s when I started. I also refuse to play the victim and accet full responsibility for any professional repercussions any past decisions may have caused. I have no regrets over any of the twists and turns my life has taken.
Q. No regrets. That’s what I like to hear!
You have a beauteous family! (Including a precious daughter adopted from China.**) Does your wife still have her septum piercing?
A. Thank you very much . . . my family is very important to me and a source of great joy and purpose in my life. My wife has explored the body modification world both before we met, and also along with me. She has never had as many tattoos or piercings as me but chooses her work carefully, if infrequently. She has chose to remove all of her below-the-neck piercings in the last few years (a few of which I was sad to see go, LOL!). She still maintains her pierced septum and is about equally likely to wear exposed jewelry as a retainer. In the last year or two has gotten her nostril pierced again (having lost one or two before) and has started stretching her ears after years of not wanting to (currently at 4 ga.)
My daughter, who will be 5 in January, is being raised without being sheltered in any way from tattooing, piercing, etc. We have asked her if she wants her ears pierced when she is older and she vehemently says no! She doesn’t even notice our tattoos, and only recently once asked me, “Daddy, why do you have a earring in your hoo-hoo?” That one caught me off guard and was tough to answer intelligently. I may have tossed out the gem, “Some people just do that sort of thing” and changed the subject quickly. She is still at an age where privacy concerns haven’t entered into her world. I imagine they will soon, though, and once they do the whole tattoo and piercing thing will get a lot more . . . sensitive. My wife and I both plan to raise her as neutrally as possible regarding mods, letting her decide for herself whether she is interested, not pushing one way or the other, and we will try to be fully supportive of whatever decisions she makes whether we agree with them or not. The only place I will be insistent is in demanding she see safe, clean practitioners. I’ll probably also urge her to wait as long as possible to be tattooed if she goes that route. I’ll buy the first if she follows my advice.
Q. By the time she’s ready, it will probably be hopelessly uncool to have piercings and tattoos!
We know that people sometimes do dumb things to their piercings. Is there something that piercees do that just makes you want to scream?
A. I don’t know, I think I have reached a point in my life where I really don’t care what people choose to do with their piercings. If they want to ignore the best advice and do something stupid, that’s their problem, not mine (unless it’s my advice they ignored, then they need not bother asking me again, or crying about their situation when they get into trouble over it.)
I guess the only thing that will still and always piss me off is people who know better going with poor choices in jewelry, piercers, etc. just to save a few bucks. I have no patience or tolerance for that mentality (and its prevalence was one of the reasons I left the business). As far as piercers go, that is where I will still get very pissed off. I have no use for those who can’t be bothered to continually improve and be the best they can be, those who can’t be bothered to research the best aftercare for their clients, and the ones who have no business even sweeping a shop floor let alone picking up a needle, they have so little experience.
And I believe there is a special place in hell for those (fortunately rare) near-rapists who do things like insist women be aroused for genital piercings, and that they themselves must be the one to handle the task.
Q. What’s the most important lesson about piercing that pierced consumers need to know?
A. EDUCATE YOURSELF!!! Know what you are getting into before you do it. Know who is doing it to you and what makes them qualified to do it. Know how to properly take care of it to best insure likelihood of a happy, healed piercing.
DON’T BE A CHEAP MOTHERFUCKER! Choose your piercer based on qualification, not price. Choose your jewelry based on sound, experienced recommendations and not price, color, or other superflous considerations.
TIP WELL, YOUR PIERCER IS WORTH IT! If they aren’t why are you even bothering with them?
All great advice from a man who has helped me more than he knows over the years. Tune in to part 2, in which we discuss a bit of piercing history with someone who’s been there and done that!.
*Here are some links to the movie/book project mentioned: http://www.myspace.com/neonchristatlanta (music warning!); http://www.myspace.com/atlpunkfilm paypal warning!
and here’s Chuck’s MySpace page, but you have to let him know who you are; random people won’t be “friended.” http://www.myspace.com/fivedime (Isn’t social networking just lovely?)
**For more info about Chinese adoptions, you can peruse Mr. and Mrs. Chuck’s blog, and see their wonderful little girl, Morgan, here.