We’re people, too.


(Borrowed from http://www.awfulmodifications.tumblr.com/)

This is another post that’s going to be incredibly important, just as the “How to deal with negativity” post was. This is another post I shouldn’t have to make, but apparently I do. It’s going to focus more on people who aren’t modified, or who are only lightly modified, but still applies to everyone. This post is going to be all about how to approach and talk to modified people respectfully. Remember, all of this is going to be from my personal experiences and views on things. Some people may be more relaxed about it, and some may be even more reserved than I am. But in general, these will be some good ways to go about approaching people in a polite way.

What sparked this post happened just now. I was just called an “ignorant bitch” at the grocery store because I ignored someone who said “Nice inks, baby” to my back. First of all, I don’t respond to people who talk to my back. Secondly, I don’t respond to derogatory names like “baby”, and thirdly, if you don’t have the respect to talk to me to my face, why should I turn around and even acknowledge you? And I really can’t stand people who throw around words like “ignorant” without knowing their actual meaning and in what context to use them.

I know that sounds like a rant, and it kind of is. This happens to me all the time, and it really bothers me. I’m sure it happens to other modified people all the time, as well. It’s disrespectful to talk to ANYONE’S back, so why is mine any different? Because I’m modified you think that I don’t deserve the same respect someone who isn’t does? Because I’m a woman, does that make it okay to call me names like “baby, shorty, mami, honey” or whatever? No, it doesn’t. It’s not a term of endearment when I don’t even know who you are.

So in general, what are the best ways to approach someone who is modified? I assume the reason you’re going to approach them is to ask them about their modifications, so that’s the sort of context this post is going to focus on.

Bottom line, these people are HUMAN, just like you are. They deserve the same amount of respect and honor you’d give to anyone else, or would expect other people to give you. Just because they are tattooed or pierced or scarred or whatever DOES NOT give you the right to treat them like less of a human being, like a side show attraction, or like their personal bubble doesn’t exist. It DOES NOT give you the right to talk to their back, talk behind their back, interrupt their conversations on the phone or to other people, or anything like that. You approach modified people the same way you’d approach anyone else, the same way YOU’D want to be approached.

First of all, really look at the person. Are they talking to someone, are they talking on their phone, do they have headphones on? What is their body language like, what is their facial expression like? Do they look like they’re in a good mood, do they look busy or in a hurry? If someone doesn’t look approachable, just leave them alone. This happens to me all the time. When I really just don’t want to talk to anyone in general, I’ll call my sister or my dad or a friend and talk to them, then people won’t interrupt me. Or I’ll walk around with headphones on, playing music, so again, people tend to not bother me. That’s usually a universal signal that this person doesn’t want to be bothered, so just leave them be and admire them from afar.

Here’s an example. You’re in the grocery store and you see a man standing by the cold drinks, deciding what he wants. You see his lovely full arm dragon tattoo and decide you want to ask him about it. You don’t notice that he’s wearing headphones, a Bluetooth headset, isn’t talking on the phone, he looks “available” to talk to. What you should do is walk up BESIDE him and say something like “Excuse me, sir. I was just noticing your lovely dragon tattoo and was wondering if you could tell me what it means/where you got it done/who the artist was/I just wanted to say it’s beautiful/whatever you want to ask.” That is polite, respectful, and makes the modified person want to talk to you. Do not walk behind him and say loudly “Sweet tat, bro.” or anything like that and just keep walking. That’s rude for several reasons. Again, you’re talking to his back, almost behind his back, and you’re not even letting him know who’s talking to him. I almost see that as a cowardly thing to do. If you really wanted to talk to my face, you’d have done it. But you’d rather talk to my back and walk away so I don’t have a chance to talk back to you.

Along that same vein, don’t make comments to modified people who are walking past you, or when you walk past them. Again, it’s rude. It doesn’t give them the chance to say “thank you” or even know who’s talking to them. Don’t talk ABOUT modified people either. That’s talking behind their back, and usually, the person can tell. Don’t stare, don’t whisper to your friend, either say what you want to to the person, or don’t do anything at all. If you would like to say something, try to stop them, or get their attention and say it. We’ll get into how to PROPERLY stop someone to talk to them next.

Under no circumstances is it ever okay to touch someone who is modified. I absolutely cannot stress this enough. DO NOT EVER grab someone, touch them, tap them, anything like that. Keep your hands to yourself! That is a violation of personal space, and it could even be seen as assault. I’ve been grabbed before, fairly violently, and it is NOT a fun experience. I will never ever talk to someone who grabs me to see my tattoo. And it is NEVER okay for you to grab someone or touch someone, even if all you want is to see their tattoo. It’s incredibly inappropriate, rude, and again, you can have an assault charge filed against you. Or you could end up getting punched, which is what happened to the guy who grabbed me. I was lucky enough to avoid an assault charge since he was the aggressor and I was defending myself, but still, DON’T EVER DO IT!!!

What is a good way to stop someone who is modified? Again, with this sort of thing, always think to yourself before you act “Would I like to be approached this way?” If the answer is no, don’t do it. But in general, if you are standing and someone is walking by you and you’d like to get their attention, a good way to start is to always say, POLITELY, “Excuse me.” or “Pardon me.” You could even go as far as to add “sir or ma’am” to it, if you’d like. You may walk toward someone to get their attention, but again, DO NOT grab them, or try to stop them from walking or block their path. Look them in the eye, smile, relax your posture and stance, be receptive. If you look aggressive or confrontational, the modified person is going to see you as a threat and not want to stop or talk to you. Once they see you and acknowledge you, then you can say or ask what you’d like to. If someone doesn’t stop or ignores you, it is NEVER okay to yell something behind their back. Just move on. Maybe they had headphones on you couldn’t see, maybe they were in a rush and didn’t want to be stopped, maybe they just weren’t paying attention or didn’t hear you. Either way, just shrug it off and move on. It is not an offense against you, trust me, so don’t take it as one.

Once you have someone’s attention, how do you speak to them, and ask them your questions? As I’ve already said, common courtesy applies here as well. Say to yourself “Is this an inappropriate question? Is this rude? Is this condescending or derogatory?” If the answer is yes to any of those, best not to ask. Again, some people are more open to questions than others, but remember what Thumper from Bambi said? “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all!” Depending on how the conversation goes, how receptive the person is to questions, maybe you could venture your more personal questions to them, but until they seem ready for it, don’t throw that out there right away.

A good example of this is another one of my own experiences. I was out with some girlfriends in a local pub back in Seattle. We were hanging out at our booth, talking, drinking, watching the sports game on the various televisions, that sort of thing. All of a sudden, some strange man walks up, sits next to me at our booth like he belongs there and says “So I was just noticing your tattoos and piercings and was wondering if you were into pain in the bedroom as well.” I was so shocked and dumbfounded and appalled I couldn’t say anything right away. Luckily, my girls stuck up for me and verbally abused the guy enough that security came over to see what was going on. He was escorted away from us and told not to even look over in our direction.

Another important thing to remember is just because the modified person is a woman, does not give you the right to call her names, “nice” names or otherwise. Sure, you might think it’s cute to call a woman “honey, shorty, mami, or baby” or whatever, but honestly, it’s NOT. Most women don’t appreciate cat calls and names like that, so do not ever use one when addressing a woman. Many people seem to think that because you’re a woman, that all respect goes out the window, double that if they’re modified. Women tend to be more sensitive to people approaching them than men are, mostly because our instincts tell us to be aware of our surroundings and to be wary when you see someone approaching you, looking like they’re on a mission. Our guard goes up and we immediately become defensive. It’s NOT YOU, it’s just the way women are and how we protect ourselves. Women are constantly victimized in society, physically and otherwise, so it’s just an instinctual reaction to be nervous when someone approaches us.

Going back to the whole touching thing, DO NOT stick your fingers though someone’s stretched ears. I hear this happening to people all the time. My stretched ears aren’t large enough for this, but I have had a woman grab my large hanging, delicate horn earrings and twist them backwards in order “to see them”. She nearly tore my ear off and nearly broke my incredibly expensive earrings by invading my space. I didn’t even know she was standing behind me! Rather than just asking me to turn around so she could see them, she thought it was appropriate to GRAB my earrings, turn them around backwards, and then was offended when I was angry with her for hurting me. Don’t be like this person! Remember what you were taught as a child; look with your eyes, not with your hands, and ask before you touch!

Once you’ve started your conversation with the modified person, be receptive to what they have to say. Don’t interrupt, don’t roll your eyes if they say something you don’t agree with, don’t laugh at them for their choice in tattoo or piercing, don’t start a conversation with someone just to talk down to them, make fun of them, or try to “save them”, as has happened to me many times, as well. I’ll say it again: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say ANYTHING AT ALL.” Again, this goes back to the thought you’re supposed to have before asking anything: “Would I like this said to me? Would I find this question offensive or inappropriate or rude? Would I be willing to answer something like this?”

At the end of the conversation, say thank you. Really, the impact those two little words make is huge. And honestly, this person took time out of their day to talk to you, you should feel honored and special that they thought you were deserving of their time and attention. I know that sounds arrogant and stuck up, but it’s the truth. I didn’t HAVE to talk to you just because you wanted me to, I CHOSE to talk to you because I wanted to. Thank the person for their time, for sharing with you, and wish them a good day. You started this conversation on a good note, so let’s end it on a good note, yeah? And who knows, you may have just made a new friend.

Bottom line, you get back what you give. If you are rude to someone, expect rudeness back. Being modified does NOT mean that they are less of a person. Being modified does not mean they’re “asking for it” or asking for attention. Being modified does not give you the right to treat them as a freak, or to ignore your own sense of common sense and courtesy, throw it out the window, and say or do whatever you want to someone. Modified people are still PEOPLE, with families and jobs and lives, who deserve the same respect you’d give anyone else, or more importantly, to yourself. If YOU wouldn’t want to be approached a certain way, if YOU wouldn’t want something said to you, don’t say it or do it to other people, modified or not.

Please, leave me your comments and stories in the comments. I would love to hear back about what you guys feel and think about this sort of situation.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sara
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 04:29:18

    I can’t believe that someone would treat another in such an aggressive manner just because they are modified! Especially with the grabbing and the verbal abuse. You, and other modded people, really have a lot to deal with–I applaud you for that; you’re able to get these mods even when many people are against you in such a manner. I’ll be honest, I only have my lobes and septum pierced (wanting more though ;]) but I can just feel how annoying and disrespectful these people would be to you. This post was a great read by the way, and have a splendid day! (Hopefully devoid of any people who don’t know how to treat a person.)

    Reply

    • Steel and Bone, Horn and Stone
      Sep 01, 2011 @ 14:37:37

      I know it sounds stuck up, but I just tell myself that I’m a flat out better human being than these people because I don’t treat others the way they treat me. I just have to tell myself that I modify myself for myself, not for anyone else. Body modification is a 100% selfish thing, you do it solely because you like it and it will make you feel good. Society in general needs to realize that most “alternative” people aren’t out to impress OTHER people with how they look. They do it to make themselves feel good.

      Reply

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