You only do it for attention!

I seem to make a lot of posts about dealing with negativity in various ways. Maybe I should make a specific category for them…

This seems to be a running trend with people in a lot of the online body modification circles I frequent. Parents and family being not only unaccepting of body mods, but being rude, mean, and hurtful about them. Strangers are easy to ignore and blow off, but it’s very upsetting to me that parents and family would treat their kids this way. So, how can you respond to comments like this?

Ultimately, don’t feed the trolls, as they say. Don’t engage in this sort of dialogue with people. The most you should be saying in return is something like “I find comments like that mean and disrespectful, and they make me feel bad. I would appreciate it if you didn’t say things like that to me, or about me.” And that should be the end of it. But what if it’s not? Here are some common things unaccepting family seems to say to modified family members.

You’re only doing it for attention.
Sure, maybe some people who get modified do it for attention, but that’s not the reason everyone else does it. Do you wear a bright red shirt so people will stare at you? Or do you wear it because red is your favorite color? Do you wear skinny jeans because they’re trendy, or do you just honestly like how you look in them and how you feel in them? Do you cut or style your hair a certain way to attract attention, positive or negative, or do you just like it that way? Body modification is the same thing. The vast majority of people who get modified do it for their own benefit, not anyone else’s. Remind people of your motivations behind getting modified, whatever they may be.

It’s just a phase, you’ll get over it/grow up.
Maybe for some, it is. Maybe some are just rebelling, just out to piss off the world and everyone in it. But that’s not to say you are. There are many well-known figures in the body mod world that have been getting modified for 30 years or more. If you truly love something you never fully give it up. Body modification is more than a “hobby” to some of us, more than a phase or passing fancy. It’s an honest way of life. It’s a dedication to an art form, a lifetime of study and passion. Express to your family why you love body modification, what is it about the art form that you find fascinating, and tell them why you’ll always love it and always practice it. Body modification is so much more than back alley tattoos and gigantic rings in your face, which is what most people visualize when you talk to them about body modification

Why would you ruin yourself that way?
This one really upsets me. For someone to accuse another person of “ruining” their body is incredibly insensitive and rude. Especially when the person they’re accusing honestly believes that they’ve been bettering or beautifying their bodies. It hurts when strangers accuse you of this, but it hurts even more when family says it. Many think that this is a form of reverse psychology, if they tell you you’re ugly, you won’t do whatever it is you were doing. What they don’t realize is that most of the time this technique doesn’t work at all, and can actually make the situation worse. Like telling a person they’re fat and ugly all the time won’t usually make them go work out and get on a diet, it will make them eat more, seeking comfort in it and to alleviate depression over being called names. Remind them that you feel what you’re doing is making your body more beautiful, even if only to your eyes, the only eyes that really matter. Tell them that their hurtful comments are hurtful, and that you would never say anything like that to them, so you would appreciate if they didn’t say things like that to you. You respect their right to look the way they do, all you ask is that they do the same for you.

You’d be so pretty/handsome without all that. You’re ugly now.
This one is similar to the last one. No one has the exact same aesthetic tastes, in anything. Remind people of this. Remind people that you like yourself better with your mods. There is never one defined look for beauty, everyone has different views on it. Just because one person doesn’t like it, doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t like it, too. No one is ugly, ever. They just have a different idea of what is beautiful. If you don’t like the look, you don’t wear it for yourself.

I don’t want to be seen with you. You’re an embarrassment to me/the family.
This one is particularly painful. A parent should always be proud to be seen with their children. You created this child, you raised this child, you taught this child a good deal of what they do and know. So for a parent to not want to be seen with their child means they’re ashamed of them, and for the reason for that shame to be something as shallow and superficial as physical appearance is very sad. If anything, you should be proud that your child has the confidence to do what they love. You should always find your child beautiful no matter what they do. Remind your parents and family that they don’t have to like the way you look, but they shouldn’t hate you for it, either. To hate someone solely on how they look is very shallow of them. What should matter is that you’re a good person, not a burden on society, and that you do the best you can to make the world a better place, not how you choose to decorate yourself.

No one will ever love you or even find you attractive.
This has been disproven time and time again. Currently, body modification is very much in vogue, and there are many photographers out there who have taken beautiful pictures of modified people, there is an active movement in the modified community to show the world how beautiful body art is, and also that what you physically look like doesn’t matter as much as what’s on the inside. Loving someone isn’t based solely on their appearance, and for someone to think that way is incredibly narrow-minded and ignorant. Beauty isn’t everything in the world. Remind people that there is, again, no one single established view on what is beautiful and what is not. So just because THEY don’t like it, doesn’t make it ugly.

I’ll disown you if you do this!
Again, for a parent to resort to something this drastic over something as superficial as physical appearance is absolutely, astoundingly horrible to me. It’s almost as callous and cruel as kicking a child out just because they’re gay. There are more important things to get upset about than just modifications. Express to your parents that it isn’t worth getting that upset over. You didn’t do any negative harm to yourself or anyone else, which is more important. (What I mean by negative harm is something detrimental to your wellbeing, physically or mentally/psychologically, something done to yourself in anger or sadness or frustration, or through bad coping mechanisms.)

I understand that some parents have very strong beliefs against modifications for various reasons. Some still think that men piercing their ears, either one or both, will either make them gay, or indicate that they are gay. Many think that tattoos will automatically make a once nice child into a drug addicted felon. Many parents have religious views that encourage them to hate anything not belonging to that religion. One of the best ways to combat this sort of anger is through education. Remind your parents that the “gay earring” thing was just fear and hate mongering, and that no one knew which ear was the “gay” ear anyway, so if it had been true then, it absolutely most certainly isn’t now. Times have changed, and so have body mods. Remind them that a tattoo or piercing isn’t going to change who you are, what you stand for, what you believe in, and what your values are. YOU have to make that decision, and body mods can’t make that decision for you.

You’ll never become anything in life now. You’ll never get a good job.
This has also proven false time and time again. But it’s also partially right. Employers are becoming very slowly more and more accepting of body modifications, but they are far from being fully accepted. Express to your parents that you do intend to get a job, go to school, do whatever you want in life, but you also won’t stop modifying yourself. Remind them that many prominent people in the world are modified. Their favorite doctor could have a full sleeve of tattoos, their favorite senator could have a Prince Albert piercing, or that sweet girl at the cashier stand they always make a point to go see could have stretched ears and a huge foot tattoo or her nostril pierced. Body modifications don’t necessarily mean you’ll be a slacker, stuck on welfare and working minimum wage your whole life. They only hinder your ability to function in life if you allow them to. If you want to succeed bad enough in life, you WILL, and modifications won’t necessarily stop you from doing that.

After having spoken to people who’ve endured this sort of thing I’ve noticed a lot of it tends to come from grandparents or older members of the family, and usually at family functions like holidays, birthdays, or other gatherings. As much as I hate to say it, if all other attempts to educate others and stand up for yourself fail, refuse to go to those kinds of functions. If you don’t have a choice to go or not, as many young modified people do, then just do your best to avoid the subject, or diffuse it. If a family member brings up your mods in a negative way, or a way you don’t like, TELL THEM that you don’t want to talk about it that way.

It’s very important that you tell the people who hurt you that they ARE hurting you. Maybe they don’t even know they’re doing it, they don’t realize that what they say to you hurts. You need to stand up for yourself and make your feelings known. And if in the end, after all of your efforts have proven useless, then you don’t need negative people in your life. If your grandparents never have anything nice to say to you, then don’t see them anymore. If your parents are only rude to you about your modifications, keep them hidden from their sight and don’t engage in modification conversations with them. It’s not that you’re ashamed of your mods and that you should hide them, it’s more about picking your battles. If they always cause problems when you’re around family, you might as well just hide them just to make the function more pleasant. I will agree with what you’re probably saying, though: “They should accept me for who I am, regardless of my modifications!” And yes, I do very much agree. But I also believe more in picking your battles, it’s not worth the anger, the frustration, and the fighting that result from it, is it? So just wear long sleeves, wear your smallest, most unobtrusive plugs, wear small studs instead of rings, and just try not to make a scene.

If the subject does come up, immediately make it known that you don’t appreciate their negative comments about you and your choices. Be firm, but not mean. Don’t sink to their level. Something to the effect of “I don’t appreciate you talking so negatively about me and my modifications. I will not have these conversations with you.” is a good way to go about it. Then leave the situation, leave the room, leave them alone. Do not ever sit there and take the abuse, because it will only continue, or even get worse. Don’t let the bullies win, you have to stick up for yourself or leave the situation entirely. If after all of these efforts there is no change, then keep those people out of your life. It’s harsh, but has to be done for your own benefit. Constantly having negative people in your life won’t do you any good, even if they are family.

In the end, as selfish as it sounds, your own happiness is more important than pleasing your family. If your family doesn’t have anything nice to say to you or about you, then you don’t need them around you.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. paula staunton
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 02:57:42

    This is brilliant laura this was a fantastic blog post astue articulate and to the point

    Reply

  2. DysfunctionalCrayon
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 14:00:17

    This is exactly why I’ve been denying myself mods. The fear of backlash from my mother. She tried to tell me once that because she created my body I’d be disrespecting her by changing it. WTF.

    The more I think about it, the more I realize that modding will be a way of taking back my body.

    Reply

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