Her Piercings Tell the Story

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011 at 2:49 PM
Her Piercings Tell the Story by
Contributed photo

Some people have one or two, and some of my friends have as many as 16.

I have 11.


Many people have a deep-seated fear of needles and pain, so what motivates them to rise above, and endure the scorn of strangers, family, friends, or employers to willfully undergo piercing? 

According to the Erie County Department of Health, there are 12 licensed Tattoo and Piercing Studios through the county. Tim Crocoll, Body Piercer at Ink Assassins, 2601 Peach St. accepts walk-in piercing appointments, as well as walk-in media interviews. And when these happen concurrently, this writer got to observe a lip piercing.  Twenty-three year old Gary Yurkewicz, of Erie, came in to have his lip re-pierced. He chose to remove his prior lip jewelry during his recent job search. ?I have always thought that lip piercings are cool, but worried as I interviewed for a job what perspective employers might think,? Yurkewicz shared. Now, employed at a local machine shop, he felt comfortable to express himself with a lip ring once again. His lip piercing joined several ear piercings. 

Like Yurkewicz, each of my piercings tells a story too; my first was at 13.

Getting my ears pierced for my birthday was all I wanted that year. My mother didn?t have hers pierced and just didn?t get why I wanted to deliberately poke holes in my head. Our disagreement escalated to the point that she dragged me to the pediatrician to let him be the mediator in this mother-preteen daughter battle. He didn?t dissuade me, and we went right from the physician?s office to Piercing Pagoda at the Shenango Valley Mall. True story. My lifelong fascination with piercing had begun. I was pierced, hook, line and starter earrings.

Piercings have been practiced by people from ancient times to present day, with the most conventional form of piercing in the U.S. being ear piercing. So, what?s the attraction?  Why do people do it?  ?The Piercing Bible? written in 2009 by Elayne Angel, a veteran of over 40,000 piercings, suggests that the attraction in the media with NBA player Dennis Rodman and singer Janet Jackson helped turn piercing into the industry it is today. Paul King, a writer for ?Piercing Fans International Quarterly? wrote that, ?body piercing has penetrated the mainstream through literature, music videos, high fashion, media sensationalism, governmental hysteria ? don?t be surprised when Barbie starts sporting a belly button ring.? After all, belly button piercings are currently the most popular piercing with teen girls, next to ear piercings. According to Missy Twohig, owner of Sacred Piercing, 253 W. Eighth Street, ?Many teens come in for the naval piercing, marking a rite of passage. I also see many women who use navel piercings and other piercings to symbolize empowerment or taking control of their lives, like after a divorce. It?s like a reclamation of their body, and very meaningful.? Twohig?s mission is to provide her clients with a piercing experience above any other. The ambiance is relaxed, and comfortable from the minute you walk in, you feel at ease.

Twohig continued, ?Personal expression is the biggest reason I see when customers choose to pierce.? Studies show that 62 percent of people with piercings have done so to express their individuality. Like driving a Toyota, wearing Nikes, or brushing your teeth with Crest, piercing is a personal expression of who you are. Since 2007, Twohig has pierced those as young as four, and adults as old as 83.  ?It?s so rewarding for me to bring meaning to people?s lives through piercing, especially when they?ve wrestled with the decision to pierce for 20 or so years. The 83-year-old woman I recently pierced was on her honeymoon, and had always wanted a cartilage piercing.? Crocoll likewise tells of the 75-year-old woman who got her belly button pierced. ?Because it was something she always wanted to do,? he said.

Almost any part of the body can be pierced.  According to both Twohig and Crocoll, the most common piercings they perform are ears, navels, nostrils, lips, and foreheads.  Surface anchors are becoming more popular too. These "single point" piercings allow people to be even more creative and accent a tattoo or other body area, such as below the eye, like a teardrop, sternum, or hips, with a permanent piercing placement.  The old clich? ?if you can pinch it, you can pierce it? is largely true.

The one drawback to increased piercing interest is that those desiring a piercing cannot always find a trained, experienced professional piercer.  Pizza and wing restaurants and tattoos and piercing studios abound on every corner in Erie, it seems, while in reality, there are only 12 licensed piercing establishments.  There are also jewelers that pierce, like Piercing Pagoda at the Millcreek Mall, and Wal-Mart, who will pierce for free, with the purchase of a pair of earrings or piercing kit. But the adage, you get what you pay for should be heeded. Reusable piercing guns can put clients in direct contact with blood and body fluids of previous clients. Their use can cause significant tissue damage and a longer healing time due to poorly designed piercing studs.  Also increased infection is a side effect.  Piercing Pagoda employees were unable to provide further comment for this story due to corporate policy prohibiting speaking with the media; however, they stated that their company is positioned as a jeweler, and not known for their piercing.

Twohig and Crocoll both encouraged people interested in piercings to do their homework and ask many questions when considering where to pierce.  Consider visiting the piercing studio. Of course you?d expect cleanliness to be at the top of the list. But also ask to see their sterilizers and make sure they open their needles right in front of you, and that after a thorough hand washing, the piercer is gloved for the entire process. It?s also a good idea to ask around. Where did your friends get pierced, and how does their piercing look? It should enhance their appearance, and not look out of place. 

The Association of Professional Piercers (APP), an international non-profit organization dedicated to the dissemination of vital health and safety information about body piercing to piercers, health care professionals, legislators, and the general public, repeatedly hears ?I should have listened to my gut feeling.? If you don?t feel comfortable with your piercer or studio, you should leave.

My piercing story continued through my 20s and 30s with eight additional piercings to commemorate key celebrations, from getting my first real job after college to bonding with my son when he turned 16.  Two cartilage piercings and a belly button piercing reclaimed my independence after getting divorced.

My latest piercing chapter happened just last week, culminating from a six year decision to have my nose pierced. I am a curious person. I brought up piercings during conversations with people I randomly encountered, such as restaurant servers and sales clerks adorned with piercings I admired, to acquaintances such as co-workers and fellow classmates.  I Googled, ?Which nostril to pierce (left or right)??  I also conducted my own research study on my Facebook page with a post to friends, asking,?? if you have a piercing(s), what's your favorite? Most crazy? Most memorable? Most regrettable? And why do you pierce??

Responses included: 

?I looooooooooooove my nose ring. I've had it for years and years and years and years. It's a part of me ... a part of who I am. I will have it FOREVER!!!? Yes to nose pierce = 1.

?I got my belly button pierced on my first day of college with one of my friends. It was completely random but probably so typical. Freedom, right?? Cool, didn?t know she had hers pierced, I like her even more.

?I have 16. The one I miss most is my nose (took it out for a surgery, and its "retired"). I LOVE my wrist piercings; those fall under my craziest and most original. :)?  Yes to nose pierce = 2. Plus now I want a surface anchor piercing ? thanks, friend.

?Eyebrow piercing. Worst decision ever.?

This was the only discouraging post, but I figured I could always take out the nostril piercing if I had buyer?s remorse. After all, it wasn?t permanent like a tattoo. My Facebook friends didn?t let me down and supported my decision to pierce.

My ultimate tipping point came when I discovered that that you could pierce with glass nose jewelry that was barely noticeable; I was finally comfortable with the decision!

Do I have regret with my nose piercing?  You bet I do.  I wish I would have done it much earlier.  I had been needlessly afraid of the unknown process and potential pain and aftercare complications. In my research, I also found out what really strikes fear in the hearts of many Americans are snakes and not fear of needles.  That is number six on the list which also ranks public speaking, heights, being enclosed in small spaces and spiders before needle phobia.   

My piercing at Sacred Piercing was a unique experience from the moment I walked in, to the moment of piercing; it was soothing, relaxing and an experience unique from my prior 10 piercings.  Twohig educated me on the Chakras and why the nostril piercing was beneficial for opening up my third eye by providing clarity of thought, insights and wisdom. She helped me with deep breathing exercises to live in the moment and alleviate any negative thoughts prior to the piercing. It only hurt a pinch and that was all. 

My other regret is that because I chose a hypoallergenic glass piercing stud, no one notices it. I had been sporting my new nostril piercing for a whole week before I got my first compliment. And that was from a friend who was thinking about getting her nostril pierced too. 

While I have a while to go before passing the world?s most pierced woman, Elaine Davidson from Brazil with 1,093 piercings, I want to help spread the word about self-expression through piercings. 

Will your piercings tell a story or commemorate the highlights of your life? How will you express yourself? And when people ask, ?did it hurt?? You can smile, as you?ll have your own story to tell about that.

More information about choosing a reputable, quality piercer is available at www.safepiercing.org. To learn more about Sacred Piercing, visit www.myspace.com/sacredpiercing. To learn more about Ink Assassins, visit www.inkassassins.com or www.myspace.com/tim-the-piercer. 

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