Balancing work and body mods, finding the happy medium

Back from the holidays! Hope everyone had great and safe holidays, got everything they wanted, and ate lots of food! I know I did! Now, back to the important stuff.

One very important part in everyone’s life is picking their career of choice, the job that will hopefully last them the rest of their lives, and provide them with fulfillment, joy, and financial security. But what if that career interferes with your love of body modification, or vice versa? How do you balance your love of body modifications with your need for a job?

This has long been one of the big arguments between those who are modified and those who are not. “How do you get a job looking like that?!” or worse yet, “You’ll never get a REAL job looking like that!” The answer is much easier than you may think.

I’m just going to come out and say it. Tattooing your hands, face, neck or other very visible area, stretching your ears to large sizes, or piercing your face several times is probably a bad idea in general, unless you are already VERY secure in your lifelong job of choice that allows such things. Very few industries allow visible tattoos, piercings or large stretched ears, so if your ideal job is teaching, politics, real estate, or anything else that tends to deal with the public or that puts you in the public eye, don’t get modified in any area that can’t be easily covered up by clothing. Simple as that.

Hiding tattoos is usually pretty easy: wear clothes that cover them. Wear long sleeves, long pants, higher collared shirts, etc. You can find things that are light weight and airy, so you don’t sweat your butt off in the summer, like silk or linen, and sells individual sleeves that can hide tattoos as well. I have a full length set, and my only complaint with them is they’re not really helpful to people with skinnier or narrow arms, like mine, so they don’t stay up as high as they should. If they made them in various sizes, I’d probably like them more. I compromise by pinning them to my shirt sleeves when I need to wear them.

Another option is makeup, but this isn’t ideal. Girls especially will know that makeup of any kind easily smears, runs, and can even stain clothes. No matter how well you put something on, no matter the products you use, it will still smear if it’s rubbed on something, and can still run if it gets wet. Dermablend is one makeup brand that is designed to be tattoo coverup makeup, and I can tell you right now, it’s not ideal. It smears on everything, stains whatever it touches, and is a pain to wash off. Regular makeup remover pads or cloths or liquids don’t work very well either, it really does require scrubbing. So makeup isn’t really a viable option for day to day tattoo covering. Save it for special occasions or once in a while treatments.

Piercings have their own hiding methods. But again, if you plan on a career in the public eye or dealing with the public, don’t get pierced in visible areas. Many places allow for fairly free ear piercings, meaning you have a lot of piercing options there, but I wouldn’t stretch any of them. The septum is probably the only facial piercing that can be hidden completely; just flip the jewelry up into the nose and it’s gone.

If you already have piercings and are looking to get a job, invest in some good quality retainers. Retainers are glass or plastic pieces, usually clear or flesh-colored, that hold the fistula of the piercing open while remaining as unobtrusive as possible. I’d strongly suggest glass instead of plastic, however, but both have the potential to work just fine. These are not perfect solutions because retainers can still be seen sometimes, but they do help. You can also get flesh colored or clear beads or half-dome shapes to screw onto existing metal jewelry, this is great for tongue piercings. Again, though, this doesn’t hide things completely, but they can help sometimes.

Some people are lucky enough to be able to take jewelry completely out of piercings and have the fistula remain open. Most aren’t that lucky. The rule for piercings is always “If you want to keep it, always have jewelry in it.” You can’t count on being one of the people who can remove jewelry and be just fine. You can have a piercing for several years and once the jewelry is removed, it can vanish in minutes. I’m one of those people. I had an industrial piercing for over 5 years, and when I took it out, it was completely gone within 30 minutes. My 8 month old vertical labret was gone in less than 10 minutes when I took its jewelry out. So you really can’t rely on piercings staying open no matter how old, or well healed, they are.

Jewelry choice can also minimize how much a piercing is noticed. A 2mm metal bead or gem in your lip jewelry will be much more pleasant to look at than a 5mm acrylic striped bead or spike. Sometimes they can even go unnoticed if they’re small enough. Some jobs allow for certain visible piercings, usually a nostril stud or a lip stud, but they don’t allow you to wear rings in them. In that case, don’t argue, just wear the stud. You’re being allowed to keep, or even get certain piercings, on the job so don’t look that gift horse in the mouth! Wear a small bead or gem, wear a nostril screw instead of a ring, it’s a very simple and easy to work with compromise. Save your rings and bigger jewelry for when you’re not at work.

Always remember that jobs should come first, and your ability to get a job is only limited to yourself. YOU decide what job you want and can get, not your modifications. Your likelihood of getting a high paying job is entirely up to you, but you do have to understand that these industries have standards that their employees need to live up to; there is no getting around that. While some industries are becoming more and more accepting of body mods, they are far from being fully accepted. So if you’re applying to be a teacher, and your biggest competition has fewer qualifications and even less education than you do, but you have a large tattoo on your throat, the people in charge are probably going to choose the non-modified, but less qualified, individual. It sucks, but that’s the way it is.

Modifications don’t invalidate any schooling you have, they don’t make you less able to perform your job, or somehow make you unable to do your job at all. I will never ever say that they do. But, in this image-driven society that we live in, how you look makes more of a difference than how you actually perform your job. It sucks, it’s unfair and even stupid, but that’s the way it is. You have to keep this in mind when you’re getting modified.

Certain workplaces are more accepting or willing to work with or around body modifications than others. As stated earlier, most public eye or public interaction jobs, like nursing, doctors, dentists, teaching, real estate, sales, law, customer service, anything that causes you to interact with the general public usually won’t allow visible modifications of any kind. Keep any modifications you already have, or plan to get, hidden by clothing, or wear your smallest and most unobtrusive jewelry possible. Some companies in these industries are more lenient than others, but you can’t be sure which individual ones will be accepting and which aren’t. So until you are sure, don’t get modified in visible areas. It is fairly easy to balance work life and modified life, you just have to be more careful in what you choose to get and where you place it.

I have known several people who sacrifice their job prospects to indulge in body modification, and to be perfectly blunt, I think it’s a terrible and even childish idea. The mindset of “What I look like shouldn’t matter, it’s how I work that should!” is a great pipe dream, but also completely unrealistic and naive. Our society is more concerned with how you look than how you perform, how educated you are, how many years of experience you may have, and it doesn’t show any signs of changing soon. Honestly, job security, making money and being successful are more important than getting the currently en vogue modification of the moment. You can get modified at any time in your life, so it’s more important to have a good paying and fulfilling job first and foremost. If your chosen industry is more accepting of body modifications, then congratulations, go nuts, whatever. But some aren’t that lucky.

You may feel that right now you NEED to have this certain modification or you may die, but you really do have to think about what you plan to do with the rest of your life. You can’t rely on the economy improving, you can’t rely on society changing and becoming more accepting, you have to bend yourself to fit in to at least some of society’s rules. The idea that you can do whatever you want and people will just have to accept you isn’t 100% true, or even wise. Yes, people should accept you for who you are and how you’ve chosen to decorate yourself, but they don’t have to HIRE you just because they accept your personal life choices. Job life and personal life are two separate, different things, and you need to remember that and work around it.


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