09 November, 2010

Tarnished But Not Corroded

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those only of the author and may only coincidentally reflect those of Mystic Metals, its employees, or associates. All responses should be posted as comments here, or mailed directly to the author, A. Robert Basile, at ihatebasile@gmail.com. Mail sent directly to Mystic Metals will not be read.

Tarnished But Not Corroded


I’m going to use a word that I don’t use very often, and you have to promise me that you won’t tell anyone. OK? Here goes. I love my friends. There it was. Love. I love my friends. I hope you enjoyed it because you likely won’t see it again. It’s true, though. I have special feelings for the important people in my life. People like Chris and Matt and Steve. People like Jenny and Amanda (you, Amanda, not the other Amanda. I guess her too, though.). People like Dan and Jay. You too, Sam (not my dog, Sam; my singer Sam). You cats and kittens are very important to me. Isz, and Steph. Krista, Becca, the joilie Marjorie, and you too Emmy. I feel the need to put that down on paper (or on screen as it were) so that you guys know. It’s important to tell the people who are important to you that they are indeed important to you. Here’s the word important again. Go do that now. I can wait.

I really wish this guy at the bookstore would stop staring at me. It’s pretty obvious. I mean, when you choose to stare at someone, oughtn’t you do it in a kind of surreptitious way as to not let the person know that you’re being fucking rude and creepy? One would hope, I suppose. Still, we ought to expect that kind of behavior from the curious, don’t we. And we get it frequently as members of the modified community. I know I do, but maybe I’m stranger looking than most. I blame the beard. Recently I engaged in a conversation about stretching where the individual asking clearly had preconceived ideas about what we are and what we do. After the talk, she complimented me on the way I speak, my politeness in answering her questions, and her surprise at my reasons for modifying. She smiled and said that she didn’t realize what modification could be to someone. I shared with her this little story.

Kim Leach, a tattoo artist, recently helped a woman named Laurie Sutherland through a difficult time of her life. Difficult time; that’s slightly understated. Laurie needed reconstructive breast surgery after battling breast cancer. We all know that October, which recently passed, is breast cancer awareness month. You kids also know that I’m not into ‘awareness’ and especially setting aside time (as in a month) to draw attention to any type of cause. I don’t think that joining a Facebook group or wearing a colored ribbon does much for science and the curing of disease. What I do think helps a cause or draws awareness to the destructive corrosion that we will inevitably endure to our bodies are people that remind us that our beauty has not oxidized into a fragile, green mess. Kim Leach is one of those people. Laurie’s breasts were reconstructed using tissue from her abdomen. Apparently, much to my own ignorance, this is a common practice for creating new breasts for those who have suffered from cancer. Kim Leach designed and tattooed a butterfly and flourish to cover the belly scar and draw beauty to something that would otherwise be a reminder of pain and woe.

Before I laud Kim for her wonderful attention to beauty, I’d like to talk about what this story means. I am not a fan of people using other people in a worse position than you as a way to help you cope or deal with whatever it is you’re dealing with. I think that is a bullshit argument and it doesn’t serve the person at all. People do that shit to me all the time, starting sentences with, “You think you have it bad, you should see…” Any sick person or person battling an illness doesn’t want to hear that. All it does is make the sick person feel like a dickhead for thinking his situation is difficult, which is exactly not what the example giver is trying to do, I’d hope. I’m not sharing this story as an example of that. I am not sharing this in an attempt to make you look at your life and be happy about whatever. If you think your life sucks, awesome. You’re allowed. It’s also not a call to action to change your behaviors. If you want to keep drinking a fifth of Dewer’s every day and smoking two packs of Lucky’s, don’t let someone with breast cancer, or any illness, stop you. What this is, however, is an acknowledgement of something great; and that something great is what you and I have been discussing since week one of this blog. Celebrating beauty.

This story makes me think this: Laurie endured a great stress and trauma in her combat with cancer. What she may not have believed during the process, and then later with the reconstructive breast surgery to repair a familiar aesthetic, is that she is beautiful despite the angry and voracious cells in her body causing a carbon mutiny. But she was, she is, and she will always be beautiful. Things rob us of our beauty, don’t they. Things like disease. Things like opinions of others. Things like bad relationships, depressions, death. I don’t believe that anyone needs to reclaim beauty because that assumes that the beauty is gone. I don’t think that’s true. I think that it can be buried by all of these things, but not taken away. And in order for these things to have any measure of power over you, you need to have the beauty to begin with. Which you do.

What Laurie has done with the help of Kim is what we all do when we modify. We add and remind. We take the small segments of flesh and the forgotten body parts and shine light on them, draw attention to them, celebrate them. Kim Leach has done a world of good in her participation of Laurie’s beauty. Kim didn’t add beauty, and the cancer didn’t take it away. They both changed it. Kim, a tattoo artist. Not a doctor. Not a psychologist. Not a pharmacist or any indulgent bastion of sinful behavior. Kim, the reminder. And Laurie the beautiful.

I don’t have to tell you kids that there are bigger things happening than getting modified to get stares. I think the majority of us don’t do that. Yes, there are some. Save the mail about how you stretch and tattoo just to pick fights with people who say rude things to you. If you’re that person, why do you read my blog? You obviously don’t get my message. The rest of us, the most of us, celebrate what we already know is there. The rest of us, the most of us, know that our beauty becomes tarnished but not corroded. The rest of us, the most of us, see our own beauty and the beauty in every one else as well.

I praise Kim for her part in the acknowledgement of beauty, and I celebrate the beauty of Laurie. There is an awkward unfortunateness in that the attention to this story is drawn because of the sorrow and melancholy of the affliction of cancer. You don’t have to have a disease or an illness or a special case to celebrate the beauty of yourself and others. All you need is the point of view to see that beauty. The special cases are what draw our attention to the value of things buried. With the right point of view, we can draw attention to those things of value without having to endure the punishment for being blind to it. Don’t be blind to your beauty, kids. Celebrate it. Tell those people who are important to you that you value them. Tell a stranger too. The stranger is just as valuable. Stay beautiful, kids.

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