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I hope everyone has had a wonderful New Year’s, and looking forward to this brand new year. A conversation I had last night with my mom and some friends we invited to celebrate with got into the subject of appearance. One of the major subjects of scorn was stretched lobes, piercings, and tattoos. The other ladies were much older than I am, and therefore  a bit more conservative in views of fashion. They were complaining about how tattoos detract from one’s looks, how they uglify a person. Same with ears and piercing. My mom was griping about a student she sees in the halls at her school who has enormously stretched lobes, and how she finds them grotesque. She declared that this kid would never get a good job, or be taken seriously in life because of what he did to his ears. She was upset that the boy’s parents seemed okay with him stretching and considered it irresponsible. My mom also doesn’t like tattoos and considers them a mental aberration. People who get tattoos, she feels, have some kind of mental instability and a desire for attention. Several of her fellow teachers have tattoos, and she’s never said anything to them, but it’s clear she disapproves.

I got read the riot act for mine, told I was stupid, irresponsible, unhinged and sick for doing so. My parents grumbled about one of my younger sisters getting one, plus she got her nose pierced, but were not quite as harsh on her as they were with me. Maybe it’s because she’s not suffering from depression? I don’t know.

What the ladies last night were commiserating over was that they felt anyone with extensive piercings and tattoos would never get far in life. No company would ever want to hire them, or anyone take them seriously because of their appearances. Is that true? Is there any concrete facts to support that accusation? Have any of you been turned down for employment because of extensive tattoos and piercings? What jobs were you forced to take? Were any of you treated differently than others? Did people consider you less intelligent? They said it was okay in other cultures, like in Africa and Asia to have enlarged piercings and such, but not in America, because it’s not publicly acceptable. According to them.

I think there are different levels to ideals of style, beauty, fashion. What we consider attractive here in the States may not be in other parts of the world. This country, and Europe, keeps trying to force the standards of Western beauty on the rest of the world, because we think this should be the worldwide standard.

So what qualifies someone to be socially acceptable by the public now? Does having a great deal of tattoos and piercings automatically make someone unworthy of intelligence, kindness, the ability to be a parent, teacher, skilled professional? Should we view these people as sick, psychologically disturbed for doing these things to their bodies? The people I’ve met who have body modifications, piercings, tattoos, have generally been intelligent, NORMAL people. I’ve met some weirdos too, but by far, they have been very down to earth folks.

People who look down on this will often dredge up obscure bits from the bible about not defiling one’s body with cuts and such. What about surgery, then? Does someone needing life-saving surgery risk spiritual condemnation? They also say someone who modifies themselves is just desperate for any kind of attention because they didn’t get it as a child. Or the person is acting out against a repressive society by being defiant, being deliberately provocative in appearance, acting outrageous. Sometimes they accuse these people of being perverted, for having all those piercings and the like.

I have never been truly comfortable with myself in regards to my looks, because of the surgeries, the scars, the emotional imapct. I knew people would stare at me openly when I was younger, wondering if I was in a car accident, or if I had Down’s Syndrome. It made me very angry and bitter towards everyone. My parents asked me why on earth would I do these things to myself after all I’d gone through. I was making myself uglier, in their view. Really? So because I chose to stretch my lobes and get tattoos, I’m a sick freak. I’m a loser, baby. I know my limits, thank you very much. I’m not as stupid as they consider me at times. I did my research to prepare myself. I took a lot of time to consider what I wanted to do. I didn’t get a butt-ugly tat of a cartoon character, or some misspelled phrase. I chose my images very carefully. I considered placement, and how it would look over a long period of time.

I see this world we live in as growing more global, as we embrace different cultures. Look at America–we are no longer all white WASPs. We are a culturally and ethnically diverse nation that cannot be classified into one simple category. As for standards of beauty, I think we need to change that too. Instead of these sickly, wasted twits tottering down the catwalks, we should be embracing the idea of a healthy body and mind. Thinner doesn’t mean better. I don’t think appearances equate ability or intelligence either. I think it’s wrong to judge based solely on one’s looks, or lifestyle, or even religion. We can have our dislikes, but we shouldn’t be forcing them on the unwilling.

I’ve had my share of prejudice towards things in terms of body art and modification; there are some kinds of piercings I will never appreciate. There are tattoos I will never like because I just find them incredibly tasteless and unattractive. I have to wonder about the person how they will feel when they get older. Will they want to maintain stretched lobes when they are elderly, or whether those full sleeves they got as a young person still look good when they are in their 70s? It’s nothing to sneeze at. It’s common sense, and being practical. I know I’m going to retire my stretched lobes when I’m older, because it just won’t look right.