A couple of months ago, I got my face pierced. Not my whole face, just my eyebrow. My right eyebrow. But still, my eyebrow is on my face, and this apparently gives a lot of people a lot of anxiety. I have no idea why – it’s not like I’m forcing them to put a needle through their face or aything, but it does. I personally couldn’t care less how many piercings or tattoos you have. If you engage in good hygiene practices regularly you’re good in my book. As long as I can’t smell you coming, we’re fine (although I must admit avid Abercrombie or Hollister wearers do cause me a bit of initial grief while I wait to see if they’re going to try to humiliate me or otherwise mock my fashion sense or lack thereof. Flash would say that I need a few more ‘corrective emotional experiences’ to overcome this fear and I’m working on it – hey! I hang out with preppy gay men! It seems to be helping so far!).
Anyhow, back to my face. Initially my mother was a bit put off. But if you know anything about my grandma (yes, the Hot Topic grandma) you’ve probably correctly assumed that it didn’t phase her in the least. You’ll also be pleased to hear that she didn’t seem to mind at all that I took the Christmas money she’d given me to the tattoo parlor to pay for the piercing. Nope, didn’t bother her at all. My grandma is frickin’ awesome.
I wore the piercing to work. What was I supposed to do? If I took it out, my hole would close up and then my Grandma’s Christmas money would be greatly under-appreciated. So I wore it. And I wore it. And I wore it some more. Eight weeks later my boss noticed.
He said:“When did you get that?”
Me: “Two months ago.”
Me: “I think they’re pretty.”
That was the last I heard about it. Now mind you, my boss is the CEO of a non-profit with a $13 million budget. He is a man who has power to wield, if he so chooses. So I also came to the conclusion that my boss is pretty frickin’ cool, too, and should meet my grandma sometime.
I am usually fairly conscientious of where I don my eyebrow apparel, so when I visit our sites or meet with board members I take it out. Duh. I like my job and I’d like to keep in good standing with the boss, so I generally try not to scare board members (who are usually white, middle age, and upper-middle class) away. It’s common sense. However, a few weeks ago I went on a site visit to a youth summer camp and forgot to take out my piercing. It happens. *shrug* I hadn’t even noticed that I’d forgotten to take it out until I was attacked by a mob of teenage girls who wanted to tell me that my eyebrow ring was so cool, man, and ask me if it hurt. Suddenly, I was cool. I have never been cool to teenagers. I was not cool to teenagers when I was a teenager. I didn’t even know how to react. So I told them thank you and no, it didn’t hurt and that I hoped they had a good time at camp, and then I went about my merry way.
Why is she telling us this? you’re asking.
I’m telling you this because I’ve been thinking a lot about the way I present myself to the world and how that ties into my consumeristic notions about life and everything else. See, it seems to me that in my demand to be myself and express who I am, I have been decidedly consumeristic. How many pairs of armwarmers or fishnets does a girl need, anyhow? Do I really need a purse full of buttons to tell you who I am?
I’m very irritated with myself about all of this. Who I am should be easily conveyed by the way I live my life – the things I do with my time, the way I love the people around me, the topics that ignite my heart and my passions. I should not need a button to do this. I should not need a pair of armwarmers to do this. I should not need fishnet thigh-highs to do this. I should not have to pierce my face to make a statement. So I decided to tone down my wardrobe a bit. I discussed this with my good friend Cuthbert (code names are now, by the way, in effect) who looked at me in horror and said:
and then proceeded to encourage me to look at why I wear the things I wear and what would change if I did, indeed tone it down.
So here’s what I came up with:
Reasons Why I Dress Like I Was Raised In A Dungeon In My Free Time
1. Firstly, I love the reactions I get from conservative adults. OMG, it just cracks me up to see people stare at something as silly as an eyebrow ring. This bothers you? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Let me introduce you to a few of my friends! But seriously, when people see me dressed in a way that invokes a stereotype, but then they get to know me and find out that I don’t spend my time thinking of creative patterns to use when cutting myself, it does a little something to them. It breaks down a barrier, just a little bit. I love the idea that because someone knew me, they could be a little bit more open to getting to know that teenager that really does feel like an outcast. I love the idea that a whole group of people might seem just a little bit more approachable to someone very conservative because the way I love defies the stereotypes associated with the way I dress. I would call this breaking down barriers.
2. Secondly, I love the reactions I get from other people who are dressed just as ridiculously or from teenagers. Do you know why the mob of teenage girls came to me instead of one of my co-workers? Do you know why I meet random people at bars who aren’t hitting on me but want to talk about serious life stuff? Because allowing yourself to resemble them (or what they want to be) just a bit allows you to be approachable. Most teenagers don’t trust adults…. unless they happen to have piercings in their faces, apparently. I think a lot of people who reside on the outskirts don’t trust those in the mainstream, either. This makes me think of Paul saying that to the Jew he is a Jew and to the Greek, a Greek, and so on. To the people who I love passionately – the people who hurt in this world – the people who most need loved – I am approachable. I would call this building bridges.
So, breaking down barriers and building bridges, eh? Doesn’t sound so bad after all.
In an effort to try to tame this consumeristic beast living in my heart, I thought I should get rid of these clothes and accessories – then I found out these clothes and accessories actually play a fairly important role in my relationships with other people and what other people learn from me (and, of course, what I have the opportunity to learn). So where does that leave me? At the moment, I’m going to leave the things in my closet that were already there and I’m not going to buy any more. It’s a good start, at least, but it certainly doesn’t feel like enough to me in terms of conquering the part of me that just wants to own crap. This ‘taming-the-consumeristic-black-hole-that-my-heart-has-become’ journey is turning out not to be so simple after all. Perhaps I’ll be back with a more definitive answer at a later date….
By the way.... beautiful quote...
"Where there is beauty, there is God.
Where there is creation, there is God.
Where there is searching, there is God.
Where there is God there is passion,
fire, and an overwhelming sense that He
is good, but not safe."
~ God of the Dark Places