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My body modifications aren’t an invitation for your criticism

Keegan Williams
Keegan Williams

I don’t think I’m wrong when I say most people are cognizant of the phrase: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Whether they choose to put that mantra into action is another story.

I’m talking about random strangers who feel entitled to share negative commentary on how I choose to decorate my own body.

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Early in my teen years, I dipped my toes into the world of body modification. I started stretching my earlobes at 13 years old, and I found my go-to tattoo shop with a reputable piercer, whom I still go to. My parents were relatively open with this exploration, while making it completely clear to me that tattoos were going to have to wait until my 18th birthday.

I lived with my parents for a good year and a half after I turned 18. It was a nice luxury. I had a job with ample hours and free housing. Therefore, after I legally became an adult, any of my extra money would immediately go toward my next tattoo endeavor. In the two years and eight-ish months that I’ve been of legal age, I’ve accumulated eight relatively large tattoos on my arms, legs and chest.

I’m well aware that my appearance differs from that of the average person. Unless I wear long sleeves on both my upper and lower halves, it’s immediately obvious that I’m a tattooed person, and my ears are fashioned with several holes of various sizes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love talking about my mods. One time at a party, this guy I had known for no more than five minutes and I were pulling pieces of our clothing up and down for each other to show our tattoos, enthusiastically talking with one another about our artists and favorite pieces on our skin. He asked about the spider monkey tattoo on my right bicep. I explained it was for my dad and referenced a childhood nickname. He talked about some of his tattoos that he extensively planned and those he got on impulse.

My point is that there is a correct and respectful way to talk to people about their bodies and appearance.

I usually end up running into problems not during social gatherings, but in everyday life–a rude comment or a shady glance.

One evening about two months ago, I was working at my part-time, slightly-above-minimum-wage, food industry job. A group of four adults, likely in their late 20s or early 30s, came in. As they looked at the menu, one man stared at me pretty blankly. His mouth was hanging open, his index finger and thumb from both of his hands were gripping the inner cartilage of his ears. He didn’t say anything, but I could tell this was his comical and impolite way of asking about the holes in my inner cartilage.

Let’s not forget the numerous warnings I’ve received about finding a job after college with visible tattoos and piercings. It’s arguably the most infuriating comment. The way I choose to go about my career in the future is ultimately no one’s business but my own.

I don’t know if it’s because body modification is still somewhat outside of the norm, but people feel the need to negatively question the decisions I’ve made about my body – when it’s just that: mine.

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This is the way I choose to live my own life, and when people feel the need to demean what I’ve done to my own body, a body that no one else is ever going to inhabit, it’s uncomfortable and generally irritating.

Some people have bodies covered in freckles. Some people are short. Some people dye their hair, and some have tattoos and piercings. Is it really necessary to approach others with what we don’t like about their appearance?

If you answered ‘yes’ to that question, you should probably stop staring at everyone else and take a look in the mirror.

Collegian Features and Entertainment Editor Keegan Williams likes to talk about his mods on a level of mutual respect. He can be reached at opinion@collegian.com.

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