02 September, 2010

Fingerbanged Lobe And Other Things

Fingerbanged Lobe And Other Things


The summer is over. At least, it’s nearly over. When I was a kid, September coming near meant school starting. My cousin’s boy (which makes him my what, second cousin or some such bullshit?) has already returned to school, and it’s not September yet. I find that weird. Of course, he gets out of school in May or something, and I also think that’s weird. There’s something about changing leaves and school starting. They go together. Like unicorns and glitter, according to Flo on those Progressive Insurance commercials. Feel free to pay me, Progressive.

Also ending is my brief stint as the replacement bass player in my buddy’s cover band. (www.technicalv.com) I’d like to say it was a good run, but it really wasn’t. I don’t know that much material, so I handcuffed them slightly by what could be included in our three sets every week. I guess no one wants to hear the songs that I know how to play, like Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, SLAYER, and Megadeth. But I got through, and we had some fun. At least I did. I can’t speak for my dickhead drummer. I don’t think fun is in his vocabulary. Why am I talking about this? Because for two weeks in a row on stage, a drunk slut has stuck her fingers through my ears, and I’m not sure if that’s OK.

See? There’s the mod connection. Recently on the Mystic Metals Facebook page, I posted a poll that asked you guys how you react to strangers’ requests to touch your mods. The majority of you responded that you’d politely refuse, with two of you actually voting for the nonsense comedy answer, ‘Vomit uncontrollably.’ And I know who one of you is. The other answer choices were, ‘Let them,’ and ‘Violently refuse.’ I’m going to talk about what brought this on, and then we’ll discuss.

I’m on stage. A raised stage, sitting in a chair I am, playing “Kiss” by Prince, which leads into “I’m Bringing Sexy Back” by that dude who does computer commercials. At my corner of the stage are usually the girls that are too intimidated by the hotter broads dancing up on my singer, so they stand near me and my sitting down style bass playing. A woman, who had a couple of beers judging by the droop on her eyes and the Miller Lites on her breath, points to my face. I assume she wants to tell me that it’s someone’s birthday or bachelorette party, or other such nonsense. I lean forward, and the pointing finger of her finds its way into the space through my tunnel of my ear lobe. My lobes are a modest 1 ⅛”, so there’s some room there to finger it good. And so she did, “wooing” her way into a forgettable fun to aghast laughter by her friends. This continued on and off through the second and third sets, culminating in her approaching me afterward to get one last fingering in before she stumbled home and slobbered all over the junque of some dude she met that night. For this last fingering, I took my jewelry out. And you all know what that means. Stink finger. My wonderful passive aggression.

In this situation, I’m slightly handicapped. Well, technically, I’m handicapped all the time, but you know what I mean. As a person playing in a cover band, I’m required to be the entertainment. I’m supposed to make any drunk girl who looks at me during “Brown Eyed Girl” think that we’re playing it just for her. I’m supposed to make everyone there think that this is the best party ever. That’s what they’re paying us to do, so we do it. I can’t really refuse an ear fingering if it helps to sell the product.

Outside of that situation, however, what do we do? How do we react, what is our obligation, and what is appropriate or in-. Very frequently, I’d say several times a week, an unmodified stranger will ask to touch a piece of my jewelry. I don’t know why strangers want to do this, and I’m not really going to speculate about it because I’m lazy and tired, a little horny and slightly hungry. More often than not, my reaction is based on their inquiry. If the stranger is cool or pensive and shy about it, sure. Why not. Curiosity quelled is assumption dead. If the person is a dick, or I can sense that their inquisitive fingers are precipitated by a dare or a bet, then I often politely refuse. I am not too naive to think that people aren’t interested in a big hole through my skin. It’s strange to have stretched lobes, and I suppose that a stranger’s finger through the empty space proves that it’s real. We like to touch things. How many times has your mother told you, “We look with our eyes, not our hands.”

Those strangers that wish to tug on my septum ring are a bit more irritating. I suppose the unmodified people that ask this don’t realize that our jewelry is attached to us. It’d be like my pulling on a stranger’s beard (which also happens a lot to me). This Saturday, at a gig, a similar situation happened to the one I described, except it included some between set questions such as, “What else do you have pierced?” When I answered, which I probably should have lied, the drunk slut’s hands found their way to the places. She tugged on my nipple rings, and nearly touched my dick. How is this appropriate?

This doesn’t reside only in piercing modification. Some unmodified people like to touch tattoos to see what they feel like, which we all know is absurd because they feel like skin. You can’t touch color. I have a tattoo on my right shoulder of a spine with a circle and a slash through it where my birth defect is. It helps me explain the cane thing to curious strangers. Whenever I lift my sleeve to explain, someone touches the tattoo, usually unprovoked. I am not entirely sure what the stranger is hoping to learn by touching the mod, but I’m sure this has happened to you.

I have never walked up to a stranger and touched him without asking first. There are certain boundaries that you oughtn’t cross as a stranger in a society. We should respect those boundaries. But do we modified people dissolve those boundaries because we are engaging in something that is outward and easily shared? Just because I’m wearing color in my skin doesn’t mean that the color is for the stranger, right? It’s for me, and I ought to be the one who dictates who sees it, or touches it, and who doesn’t. The lobes, I can forgive slightly. Slightly. Stretching skin is still (strangely) unconventional, so the opportunity to stick a finger through someone’s skin without touching the skin should probably be taken. But touching a tattoo is more personal contact. Skin to skin is something that we as human beings hold pretty high in terms of intimacy. Or at least, we ought. Someone asking to touch your tattoo ought to be just as acceptable as my asking to touch a one armed woman’s stump, or a dude’s mustache, or a pale girl’s sunburn. Personal space is what it boils down to, which is a dumb thing to say because I don’t know what you would boil off to leave the personal space behind.

But how we react is terribly important as well, kids. If someone politely and innocently, with an honest ignorance to the modification culture, asks to touch a tattoo or finger my earlobes, how I react is vital to the perception of our culture. Do I let the person? Do I refuse like a maniac? Do I punch him, or vomit uncontrollably? Whatever it is I do, I ought to keep the perception of my culture in mind. No, I don’t have to let a drunk girl shove her beer stained finger through my skin, but I probably should be cool about it because I don’t want her making assumptions about our culture based on my intolerance to her stupid request. I would like to tell her to go fuck herself, and to take a moment to realize how insulting, insensitive, and rude her request is; we’re not all circus freaks, after all. But I err on the side of coolth and demeanor because I’d rather our culture be perceived as affable, friendly, interesting, and open than hot tempered, insane, and ill-mannered. No, we don’t have to comply with a stranger’s request to finger our modifications, but we can be cool in our refusal, and that’s important. We’re not obligated to any stranger just because our expression is one that is more socially shared, and unmodded folk need to know that. Politely, of course. Stay beautiful, kids.

Talk to A. Robert Basile on AIM at Basilephone
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  1. Pete is a dickhead. You got that right.

  2. this made me laugh, thanx i needed that.
    next time pull out some doctor gloves and ask them for i.d.

  3. I think it's gross. You don't know where their hands have been. If they feel the need to touch...they need to wash their hands. If they do it on impulse, they should be slapped. Has less to do with intolerance than it does with health and safety (taken from the chick that washes her hands after a hand shake *shudders*). Anyone offended can as you say, "get aids and die".

    AND tattoo'ed skin does feel different. I like tracing it with my finger...there's something quite peaceful and hypnotic about tracing the lines and feeling the depth...however minor.

  4. First off, I love your blog, and your funny as hell.

    I work as a waitress, and when I was in a place where body mod was less popular (aka the south burbs of Chicago) I would often get people who were curious as to what every one wants to know, did it hurt? How did I strech that? If the request was polite and the intent of a curious nature, I'd always let them. But my favorite memmories are the ones of kids with their parents, when neither of them had seen streched ears. Kids want to see it without jewlery in, but the parents usually squeeled a bit and shut their eyes when I took it out.

  5. Anonymous - Hey, thanks. that really means a lot. Keep reading. I'm sure they'll get better. Or worse. Or equally as mediocre. And you're right; the naked lobe always gets a mixed reaction.

    -A. Robert Basile

  6. A comment I get is people think I used a big hole puncher to get the hole in my lobes. I love to trace one certain tattoo my BF has on his arm with my finger so I get that, but we have intimate contact and share personal space so that's a different story. I do have a comment regarding personal space and touchy strangers, why do strangers think its ok to go up and touch a pregnant belly?? It has nothing to do with body mod touching but still just as annoying and still very creepy.