Category: body image

Tattoo Parlors > Mall Kiosks for Piercings

I read this great piece in TIME on why tattoo parlors are better for piercings. My first piercing was the ears. Like many

Ear Piercing Gun

girls my age, I was absolutely dying to be deemed grown up enough to pierce my ears. My dreams came true on my 7th birthday: I remember sitting in the lavender chair in a Claire’s at the mall, the odor of rubbing alcohol heavy and my ear lobes cold, trying not to squirm while a woman put a dot on each ear and shot an earring through a piercing gun. I clenched my eyes tight and hoped that the dots would be parallel and centered, or ‘straight’ in 7-year old speak.

I admit a bias towards tattoo and piercing parlors: my undergraduate honors thesis was on the gender differences in piercing preferences, and involved a number of interviews at local businesses. I found shop owners and artists to be respectful, honest and scrupulous about sanitation — which I can’t say for any mall kiosk on the planet. When I got a nose piercing and entered the world of body jewelry purchasing, I found businesses ready to offer advice and suggestions, often with simple instructions and easy DIY recommendations.

In sum: save time and headache and likely money – go to a tattoo parlor for all your piercings. 

Why I Took My 7-Year-Old to a Tattoo Parlor

By Bonnie Rochman
“Last month, following a long period of girlish cajoling, my daughter finally got her ears pierced in celebration of her 7th birthday. The setting was not the traditional mall kiosk staffed by some bored and minimally trained 16-year-old. Instead I took my daughter to a tattoo parlor.

Surprised they even allow 7-year-olds in those kinds of places? Think again. A growing number of parents are apparently turning to tattoo parlors to bejewel their children’s little lobes. I didn’t come up with this crazy idea out of the blue; I’m a reporter, after all: I researched where to take Shira and weighed the pros and cons. I found that tattoo parlors — despite the blaring heavy metal music — were mom-approved by a local parenting email list. When even a nurse cast her vote in favor of the tattoo parlor, I deliberated no longer.

“There is a stigma attached to tattoo parlors that they’re dirty and will be bombarded by foul-mouthed people,” says Sarah LaRoe, a mom with multiple facial piercings and tattoos creeping up her neck, who pierced my little girl’s ears so tenderly that she left her not in tears but with a big, happy smile on her face.

Contrary to what you might think, tattoo parlors — at least the one I went to — are actually bastions of cleanliness. Some states regulate them, and reputable ones use disposable needles and sterilize all their equipment in an autoclave. In contrast, mall piercers and many jewelry stores use piercing guns that have been associated with complications and can’t be completely sterilized. Armed with that knowledge, which would you choose?

While some parents might be freaked out by the idea of taking their kid to a tattoo parlor, I looked upon the outing as an adventure, joking with my daughter about getting a Hello Kitty tattoo for mom. What I didn’t expect was that the experience would evolve into a lesson in tolerance. In that unnerving way little kids have of speaking their mind, Shira took an initial look at LaRoe and stage-whispered: “I think she looks ugly like that.”

I immediately flashed her my scary mom eyes to signal her to clam up. But later, after we’d left the store, her comment served as an opportunity to point out that just because someone looks different, it doesn’t mean she’s not a good person. LaRoe, regardless of her unconventional piercings, was super-professional and extremely kind.

For professional piercers like LaRoe, who stick needles through noses, eyebrows, tongues and nether regions, ears are the most mundane of piercing locations. But that doesn’t mean they don’t take it seriously. LaRoe spent nearly an hour with us, versus the quick in-and-out that I remember from getting my ears pierced at the mall as a girl. Before leading us into the piercing room — which looked just like a doctor’s office — LaRoe handed the birthday girl a bag with a lollipop, which expertly distracted Shira from being overly nervous about what was going on.

The bag also contained non-iodized sea salt and instructions for mom on how to mix a saline solution to clean newly pierced ears. Unlike the alcohol that mall kiosks recommend for cleaning, salty water doesn’t burn.

Now for the gory details: at tattoo parlors, piercers use hypodermic needles to core out a sliver of skin, making room for an earring — a relatively painless procedure. In contrast, at the mall, the piercer uses a gun that painfully jams a blunt-tipped earring stud into the ear lobe; the process does not remove skin, but effectively pushes it aside.

LaRoe is so convinced of the superiority of needles over piercing guns that she’s signed petitions to ban the guns; one such petition makes the case that “only cowboys use guns.” In her quest to reform the ear-piercing industry, LaRoe leaves her business card at schools and pediatricians’ offices. When she takes her own son to the doctor, she’ll frequently get questions about her multiple piercings; sometimes she gets customers that way too.

Ultimately, though, change starts parent by parent, through word of mouth. “It kind of acts like a trendsetter,” says LaRoe. “All it takes is one little girl who goes to school and says it didn’t hurt.”

It didn’t hurt? Well, maybe a little. But so little that Shira didn’t even blink when LaRoe pierced her first ear. During the procedure, LaRoe had her do some deep, yoga-like breathing, which Shira is familiar with from her weekly yoga class. In and out, in — pierce! Of course, the lollipop helped too.”

On Good Girls and Sexism

Woot! I get a wave of excitement when something I write actually makes it into the blogosphere. Here’s part of a new piece I just wrote for Huffington Post, Why Do I Have to Be Nice to Everybody?

“I grew up in the South, and nurtured habits die hard. I was once grounded for saying “damn” to my sister. I wore white gloves and bonnets to Easter mass and crossed my ankles when sitting in skirts. I didn’t know what the word “horny” meant until one of my girlfriends took pity on my naïveté in eighth grade. (Sexuality is inherently tied to a woman’s value and virtue, you see).

“Even today, I wear slips under dresses and send hand-written thank you notes. I don’t discuss bodily functions in mixed company and consider it an honor to be asked for a recipe after a dinner party. I smile even if I don’t like you and am one of four people on the metro who says, “Pardon me.” In sum: I was raised a good girl.

Read on and tell me what you think!

Why I’m Not Skinny

I eat. Yup, there it is. Not novel in my world, but apparently eating is a bit unusual among certain women. Check out this interview with someone famous and skinny (Kelly Wearstler?) in Bon Appetit:

How do you start the day?

Kelly Wearstler, aka “Chewing Is Overrated”

I go to Barry’s Bootcamp at 5:30 a.m., seven days a week. It’s me and a bunch of Hollywood hot-shots. I’ve heard we burn 800 calories per class.

Sounds intense. Do you hydrate?
KW: I drink water mixed with Miracle Reds or Miracle Greens, with drops of plankton. Later in the day, I drink water with lemon, and alkaline water with cayenne extract.

You must be starving after that workout!
KW: Not for a while. After I drop my sons off at school–they still let me walk them into class–I get a double dry nonfat macchiato at Urth Caffé. And for the rest of the day, I juice.

What about real, solid food?
KW: Besides almonds or granola, I don’t eat a lot during the day–juicing is what gives me energy.

As Jezebel aptly captures it, “Although the interviewer tries to engage Wearstler in a conversation about food — since it is, after all, a FOOD MAGAZINE — she declines.  She is not interested in chewing!”

Perhaps chewing is overrated. Too much work. Doesn’t burn enough calories. While filming Batman, Anne Hathaway joked about the unforgiving nature of the catsuit, saying “And right now, I’m, like, living on kale and dust.”

As a woman with curves who struggles with weight, I snort at the mere thought of subsisting on lemon juice and dust motes – with cayenne flakes! I get hungry, people. No, I get ravenous. To help communicate the sincerity of this, I’ve trained my family and significant others to understand my hunger zones in stop light colors:

GREEN ZONE: I’m good to go right now, no hunger pangs. Thumbs up.

YELLOW ZONE: I feel hunger creeping up. I’m still cool but will need to eat within the next hour or so.

RED ZONE: I need food, NOW. Don’t speak to me until we eat. Take me directly to calories. If food takes more than 15 minutes I will dissolve into an angry, grumpy, tummy-aching, headach-y mess.  Ignore the red zone at your peril.

Since we’ve established that eating is in fact a necessity in my world, other options for crazy skinnyness include:
1) Smoking. Gross. It’s expensive, smells bad, is disgusting and will kill you. Plus you look like trailer trash.

2) Diet Pills. I hear that people live on diet pills laced with caffeine. Maybe speed? I tried some weight loss pills for about 3 days in college, which resulted in me feeling nauseous, anxious jittery and with a killer headache to boot. Nope.

3) Eating Disorder. Anorexia is out since ya know, chewing is important to me. And I don’t have 8 hours to spend at the gym each day. Bulimia involves too much horribleness to even contemplate. I like enamel on my teeth.

Which brings me back to the basics of eat less and do more. Or, as Michael Pollan famously summarized in The Omnivore’s Dilemma: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.