Just when I think I’ve cleared away all my prejudices and stereotypes, I run into another one. Yesterday was an example of how a long-held misconception can get turned around in a minute.
I wanted to get my ears pierced again. Well, not my ears, but my ear lobes. It would be the third time. The first time, decades ago, I went to a place that used a gun to shoot studs in. One stud was shot in at a weird angle, so for years afterward I painfully repierced that lobe every time I put an earring in it. Several years ago, I stopped wearing earrings, let the holes close, and then had them pierced again, also with a gun. In a few days, my ear lobes swelled up like red balloons so I took the studs out and let them heal again.
I’ve missed wearing earrings, but the clip-on kind drive me crazy and I’m now gun shy when it comes to piercing. So I googled “medical ear piercing” and drew up a local tattoo place. The information on the site was impressive, and so were all the licenses and certificates. It made sense too, that a tattoo artist would use a needle and would be especially careful about bacteria and cleanliness. I have to admit that some of the photos of things people have had pierced was a bit disconcerting, but hey, if they want a ring in that thing, it’s okay with me.
I’d always imagined a tattoo establishment as a little seedy, the kind of place where drunken sailors on shore leave got “Mom” tattooed on their arms, or rebellious teens got tattoos of whatever would annoy their parents most. The place I went to wasn’t anything like that. It felt somewhat like a dentist’s office, with a central hall with offices on each side where tattoo artists and piercers worked. The walls were lined with paintings from different cultures, and bookshelves held anthropology and art books. I hadn’t expected books.
My appointment was with a young woman with a small diamond in her lower lip. I filled out a standard medical form and waited while she pierced a woman’s nose. While I waited, I could hear conversations from other rooms where young people with art-covered arms and legs chatted. I’m not sure what I’d expected to find in a place where people go to get skin tattooed and different body parts pierced, but it wasn’t these courteous, well spoken, well read people. The young woman who did my work told me she had been fascinated since childhood with the way different cultures define beauty. She’s now a college student studying cultural anthropology. I hadn’t expected that, either.
The piercing was done expertly and with careful attention to antisepsis. I left with needle-pierced ear lobes into which little hoops of surgical-grade titanium had been threaded. I also left with a humbled realization that I have a lot to learn about my fellow human beings. I hope none of them hold the same stereotypical misconceptions about me that I hold about some of them.