There's a moment, the same and yet different every time, where a bit of your flesh is held between clamps of one sort or another and you hear the words "Breathe in for me, then out, then in again and out slowly." You know what's coming, you've asked for it and yet here you are again breathing out slowly for the second time again. The bolt of stainless-steel lightning passes through you and it's the bite of every animal that looked so cute you just had to pet it. You pet those animals although others told you "Careful, that raccoon-badger-hamster-moose-ferret-asp is mean, it's going to bite you!" You pet it anyway, because it was beautiful and you knew it secretly loved you. And then it bit, because they do, after all, always bite. A bit of fiddling that's never comfortable and they say "There you go, the jewelry's in!" You're now different. More than you were before. Something alien and beautiful has become a part of your body; adornment for its own sake. You look in the mirror and think "I am Goddess, I am super human, I am made of metal! What the hell was I thinking?"
My Big Daddy and I were talking about this the other morning over pancakes, how it's been a human drive for thousands of years to do this and other things like this. Thorn and bone, fire and blood, we've been altering ourselves ever since someone noticed some virgin skin and wondered what it would look like if they... When considering body modification from an anthropological point of view it's easy to think "Oh those wacky primitive cultures, running around with loin-cloths and soot tattoos, sticking bits of this and that through their extremities. How quaint and indigenous."
Be me. Walk through Whole Foods, see the faces of those who didn't intend to be watching a National Geographic special right at that moment. We are not of the same tribe, maybe that's the appeal to me? I, like many others, love to proclaim "I don't care what anyone thinks about me!" but that's a big fat lie, I'm sure on some level we all care. I love to analyze the hell out of myself, I'm my favorite topic because I'm an expert on the material.
I was born a blue-eyed baby with one quarter of one eye a honeyed golden spot. An amber slice in a blue pie. It's been commented on my whole life. When I was little, kids were mean. "What did you do, stick a pencil in your eye?" "Do you have two different dads, is that why your eyes are different?" I knew it meant that I was magic, and could see things other people couldn't see. As an only child I had a lot of time on my hands to see these things. I was also left-handed, another trait that will make you stand out when you bump elbows with anyone you're seated next to, unless they too are left-handed. I was different out of the gate. I loved and hated it in equal measure. I was also a fat kid with a very high IQ. Blending in was not an option.
Early on I became a professor of the odd. A weirdness specialist who invented strange things to do and then did them to myself. I happen to have five letters in my first name, in fifth grade I wrote each letter ornately on the nails of my right hand. Having your name on your nails became the IT thing to do, and though I was much copied it didn't gain me entrance into the world of the "normal" kids. They copied me, and I didn't realize then that that was a form of homage. I had already been separated from the Everybody by the school system.
At a magnet-school they set up two trailers at the edge of the playground, one for "EH" (which stood for "Extra Help," the predecessor of Special Education) and "MGM" (which stood for "Mentally Gifted Minors") The reality of that situation is that there were two trailers full of kids who didn't fit, the Retards and the Brains. They turned us loose on the asphalt with the "regular" kids to be entertainment, bait, targets. It was a known fact that to touch any of us was to acquire an incurable case of the cooties, and one of us sitting at a lunch bench with the normals would poison all of their food. Book readers and paste eaters. Fat kids, slow kids, weird kids. We had only each other to befriend, and my group was just terrible to the other, who wants to be friends with a retard? Every kid needs someone to feel superior to I suppose.
My Dad explained the idea behind that just the other day, as an adult it makes perfect sense. As a child it was exile, and I got a horrible step-dad that same year, the year Dottie came back. It was bound to be the neon sign with the blinking arrow that said "Failure-Right this way NO Vacancy!" I checked in to the Weird Hotel, and have comfortably lived there ever since.
In early recovery I had the realization that I have been strange, on purpose, for as long as I can remember. If you were going to reject me (and of course you were!) I could say that it was because you weren't cool enough to understand me. You are narrow minded, I am avant garde, this is your problem, not mine. The pink hair, the tattoos and piercings, the inflammatory T shirts just dare you to look at me sideways. Beside all that, I am an artist and was born that way too. We are a unique brand, we artists. (Andrew, I still contend that you can't qualify an absolute, no matter what evidence you find to the contrary on the internet.)
So I have this big personal awareness explosion and realize just why I have always acted the way I do. Then I sit with it for a few years, and realize that while it may be true, there's a bigger truth at play here in my life. I just like being different. I freakin' LOVE being different, the only one. I was born to be singular, the only one of me you'll ever know. (Here again is another glimpse into my inner life of secret superiority.) I don't watch the movie, I read the book. I have a better than average, yet incomplete grasp of topics, vocabulary and eras than anyone I meet, and I'm multicolored! I swear I would grow feathers if that were possible. Big, colorful, butch male feathers, not little brown "Oh gosh, don't notice my nest!" female feathers. What started as a self-defense mechanism has become a way to walk through the world that brings me joy (and also bolsters my secret superiority fantasy.)
I don't think I'll feel complete until every inch of my skin below the neck and above the wrists is adorned with color and image. Never having liked my face (which looks increasingly and alarmingly like my biological mother's as I age) I feel it is improved with every ring and jewel I have installed. I am an artist, I am a canvas, I'm smarter than you and I don't care if you don't want to sit at my lunch table! This is an interesting and sometimes sad amalgamation of young me and old me. I can't wait to see really old me, and would die to listen to the people who eventually autopsy my body. (That's a given, I know, of course they'll wait till I'm dead; figure of speech, move on.)
I have a new little ring in my nose this morning. It's still a little tender. I continue becoming, and in the long run it matters not why I do what I do. I have also learned to make a nice living being who I am and assisting others on their path to become who they really are. I don't add anything to the skin of a client, I facilitate them uncovering what has always been there anyway.
Weird kids unite! Read the book, it's always better than the movie.