Welcome the next installment of my year-long look back at a decade defined by its extremes. Rap versus grunge; mullets versus pixies; Saved by the Bell versus NYPD Blue – the 1990s had it all, and then some. Every other week I’ll be reminiscing about some facet of the 1990s, potentially drowning in some ill-forgotten nostalgia despite my best efforts otherwise. Serving as inspiration is an utterly ridiculous but nonetheless intriguing list created by Huffington Post — 1990 Things from the 90s to End the Nostalgia Once and for All – and I’ll be using a random number generator to pick each week’s “topic.” So don’t have a cow, man, if I ask you to talk to the hand while take this sweet ride through the 90s. Word to your mother.
Week 17: HuffPost list #1297 – Body piercing
Honestly, I’m not sure what was worse when I went to look up images for this post. The pictures of piercings gone awry or the surprising number of uvula piercings that popped up. I mean, I get that you can pierce a lot of different body parts but…ew.
If the image search revealed nothing else, it was that body piercing as come a looooong way since the 1990s.
For myself, both my folks were quite against all manner of piercing, and I wasn’t much of a rebel, so I waited until I was in college to make up for lost experiences, so to speak. But I have to say that within my 1990s lifespan, the appeal of simply having pierced ears wasn’t all that strong. During high school, I was much more interested in the non-standard piercings that I saw on one of my friends, those in the nose and eyebrow. Exquisitely tame by today’s standards, back then, the idea having jewelry embedded on one’s face was fascinating. By the end of high school, I had made myself believe that nothing was going to stop me from getting some sort of facial piercing that would really stand out.
Though my college was small, it was nonetheless teeming with diversity. After finding a comfort zone among the theatre geeks and artistic free spirits — this at the height of the 1990s — my ideas about body piercings really opened up. I met up with piercings a plenty, from those in lips, tongues, and cheeks; to gauges and all manner of shiny things in and on ears; to ones of the more…um…private sort. My fascination with nose and eyebrow piercings was replaced by a bridge (of the nose) piercing. It was the one and only thing that ever made my seriously think about getting contacts, because otherwise, with glasses, what was the point?
With time, however, my interest in piercings died down, mainly because it seemed that…well, they weren’t so unique after all. A turning point for me arrived late in my sophomore year during choir practice. I knew several folks in choir through the theater department. None were exactly close friends, but I had worked with several of them on various shows. One, a guy, was typically nice. Wry, a little boisterous, easy to work with, and mostly unassuming. Choir practice was weekly. One week he looked like his normal self, and the next, he didn’t. He, normally with light brown hair, had dyed his hair black, smeared on some dark eyeliner, and, most importantly, he had a significant septum piercing. And by significant, I mean “ugly.” It was big, or at least big for his nose, and quite ornate. All other sudden changes aside, the piercing just looked really out-of-sorts.
I’ll never forget that in that moment, I became staunchly anti-facial piercings. While the moment of extremism passed, I just couldn’t shake from my mind that the possibility existed that maybe I wouldn’t look as good as I pictured with any sort of jewellery on my face. Again, not being all that much of a risk-taker deep down, that seed of doubt grew large enough to make me eventually take a hard pass on sticking needles in any part of my face. Besides, since it seemed that everyone and their mother (literally) were growing accustomed to body piercings, they lacked the “statement” or “punk rock” appeal that they once had. I certainly did ride a number of trends during the 90s, but body piercing wasn’t one of them.
Thanks to my friends, I did succumb to regular ear piercing in my senior year. I got the piercings a little higher up on my lobes than would be typical, so I guess that was the “rebel” in me talking.