So, it’s been 5 years since I graduated from my Ph.D. program and moved to Storm Lake. Five years living in the Midwestern version of The Shire — not an exciting place, but very, very pleasant. Five years since I’ve done anything remotely foolish or wildly surprising (like moving to, of all places, rural n.w. Iowa). Seven years since my last tattoo.
Can you see where this is going?
Yeah. I’ve been feeling the itch. Folks who have tattoos or non-earlobe piercings or who do wacky, 6-weeks-to-grow-out, stare-worthy* things with their hair will know what I mean: THE Itch.
But I’ve long felt I’m all tattooed out. I love my 5 permanent images, but for now they say all I need said to myself in ink. I’ve had several non–earlobe piercings over the years and let all of them close for one or another reason.*** And I enjoy my Midwest humidity-curly hair way too much to hack any or all of it off.
So it’s been looking like the only foolish, Itch-worthy thing I could do in Storm Lake, Iowa would be to pick up some man in a local bar and take him home. Fortunately, my years working at Planned Parenthood convinced me that one should only bed a stranger if one could boil him first (did you know there are more than 30 diseases/infections/actual buggy things that can be transmitted via sexual contact? Ick!). Plus I appreciate less smoking and more teeth than I’ve encountered on my very few forays into local bars (and for the record, I was in the bars with friends).
Thus, my Itch might have gone unscratched, but for the flyer on microdermal piercing given to me by, of all people, my general practice physician. How cool is that — a single-point, implanted piercing that sits right on the skin. So sci-fi — so Cyberpunk! (okay, they’ll be Cyberpunk when they can light up or carry microchips or, implanted near your mouth and ear, function as your cell phone. Given the less than 2% rejection rate vs. regular piercings, you can bet scientists & industry are already looking at those ideas). So inexpensive! So utterly foolish! So tempting!
I thought about it for a whole month.
I had one implanted on Tuesday, a small (3mm), medium-blue gemstone on my left cheekbone about 1/2″ forward of the hairline, in line with the outer arch of the eyebrow. I love it!
I can’t post a picture yet, as the implant is still covered with a thin, transparent dressing and the pics I took all look as if I’ve got a thick pencil lead saran-wrapped to my face. But trust me, it’s nifty!
I do have to say that the procedure itself made me feel like a total middle-aged sell-out. As some of you know, visiting a tattoo/piercing parlor is an experience in itself, apart from the actual tattoo or piercing you receive. Even the most professional and popular such places strive to maintain a certain atmospheric balance of danger and competence — an atmosphere that says, “you probably won’t contract Hepatitis here.” Loud alternative or goth or metal music, funky decor, a few head-shop type items for sale along with the piercing jewelry and wacky hair dyes. The tattooists and piercers wear gloves, the tables are wiped down with antiseptic between clients, and the equipment is autoclaved, but that is all they are required/allowed to do — they aren’t medical professionals. In contrast, my doctor had me come in 1/2 an hour before the implantation to have a numbing salve applied to my skin and for the implantation, set up a complete out-patient-surgery-type sterile field, including drape. I got a dressing to wear for three days and a follow-up appointment tomorrow. See? a sell-out. I mean, if tattoos and piercings didn’t hurt and didn’t happen in slightly scary places, well, everyone would have one and the cachet would go right out the window. So I was actually happy when, despite the topical anaesthetic, the implantation hurt quite a bit. Not only did I feel like I still have a bit of edge, but there’s that whole rush of endorphins that comes from willingly submitted-to pain.**** People with tattoos and piercings know what I’m talking about.
So there it is: I have a new piercing and I’m good, Itch-wise, for a few more years. And if I get a minor itch, an itchlette, in 6 months I can change the jewelry head to a tiny silver skull with gemstone eyes. Or a stainless steel hex bolt or screw head. Oh yeah.
And Linda W., I told you not to read this!
*For me, it’s not about doing things specifically to be looked at or to provoke a response, or I’d have gone goth years ago. On the other hand, I’ve never understood subtle “secret” adornment, as when women’s magazines advise readers to, say, wear frothy, lacy silk underwear as some sort of private self-esteem boost. First, I’m a cotton undies kind of gal and second, if it can’t be seen,** I feel “what’s the point?” That is, only one of my 5 tattoos is on constant display (left wrist), but all of them are in places that can be displayed whilst still maintaining decent clothing coverage.
**Yes, in this respect I’m not a very good (modest, humble) Quaker.
***One of which was that a large-gauge bar through the shell of the ear in the open air in Montana in December feels like burning nails being driven into your skull.
****No, I’m NOT into giving or receiving pain.***** But I bet those who are get a similar, more intense rush from it.
*****Unless you count the occasional cutting remark.