Head like a hole

Katie Boes

Liz Tener moved her hand from metal bars to metal rings, counting. “I have 10, 10 piercings, right?” she said as she looked at her boyfriend, a piercer at Lasting Impressions Tattoo Studio, 114 Welch Ave. Tener, sophomore in horticulture, has piercings that include an eight-gauge navel ring, a two-gauge earring, an inner-upper lip piercing, two eyebrow bars and several cartilage piercings. The standard piercing size is a 14-gauge. Smaller gauge sizes indicate a larger piercing hole, said Lou Smith, owner and piercer at Lasting Impressions. Not long ago, men were considered deviant for having one earring. Today, piercings of all sorts are common, Smith said – tongues, eyebrows, tragus (part of the ear), lips and genitals are among some of the places pierced. Smith said they’re busy piercing all the time. “It is a spur-of-the-moment thing for most people,” she said. Jim Kennedy, junior in mechanical engineering, said his decision to get his penis pierced was “just for the heck of it – nothing really triggered it.” So far, Kennedy said he is pleased with his piercing in several aspects, including sexually. “It feels better. It must be more friction or something, but from the girl’s angle, I’m not sure,” he said. Luke Lasche, sophomore in biochemistry, said piercing is addictive. “Whenever I get one piercing, I have to get another,” he said. It was 11 p.m. on a “dead night” when he and a friend went to get both his tongue and eyebrow pierced. He also has both of his ears pierced. Lasche said he likes the fact that people recognize him by his piercings. “Although it takes some getting used to, people will recognize you by it,” he said. “Most people say it looks pretty cool.” Tener said she started piercing to accessorize, but she also likes the rush. “Now I sort of enjoy the pain a lot,” she said. “It’s basically a legal high.” Melody Maxted, who has her nose, tongue and navel pierced, said her piercings also were an adrenaline rush. Yet Maxted, sophomore in English, said she sees this as only a temporary thing. “Once I get a real job, it’s coming out,” she said. Employers, parents and friends sometimes have negative reactions to visible piercings. Tener said when she applied at Hickory Park Restaurant, 1404 S. Duff Ave., they weren’t impressed with the piercings. Tracy Wheelock, manager of Hickory Park, said the restaurant’s policy is for those working with customers to limit the piercings to only their ears. Tener declined the job because of the restaurant’s rules. “I didn’t take them out because I wasn’t going to change myself for a job that pays $7 an hour,” she said. Lasche, who works at the Elk’s Club, 522 Douglas Ave., said he is required to take out his piercings before he goes to work. “It’s basically because the older members have a problem with it,” he said. Many parents have issues with piercings, Lasche said, but eventually they accept it. “My mom wouldn’t let me in the house for a couple of days,” Lasche said. Tener said her parents don’t like the eyebrow bars because they are so visible, but “they’re supportive – they realize I’m doing my own thing.” Kennedy said people are shocked when they find out about his genital piercing. “It seems a lot of people are interested and just kind of curious,” he said. Lasche and Maxted both agree that in social settings, people generally have a positive response. “It has started to become more popular,” Maxted said. “Our generation has accepted it.” However, Tener said she often gets derogatory responses because she has so many piercings. “I see a lot of dirty looks and whispering,” she said. “Many think it’s interesting and some will just ask. I take that as a sort of compliment.” Along with the occasional social disapproval, pain and health risks are also problems. Hugo Kenemer, piercer at the Asylum, 120 Hayward Ave., said the genital piercing is the most painful, which Kennedy can attest to. “My tongue piercing was not very painful, but my other piercing was painful for a couple of weeks,” he said. “But now I don’t even notice it much anymore.” Tener said she had to remove a barbell that went through two holes in one ear because the skin around it swelled. There is still a bump that couldn’t be removed through lancing, she said. Infections in piercings stem from not taking care of them properly, said piercers at both establishments. Despite the risks, these four students said they are happy with their piercings. Tener even said she is excited to get her next piercing, though she hasn’t yet decided where it will go.