I’ve been in love with body modifications ever since I can remember. Although I had my ears pierced since I was a baby, my body mods journey didn’t actually start until I got my second holes done when I was fourteen years old. This caused me to get over a dozen piercings that ended (for now) with my second hole on my lips. Now that I’m contemplating getting the popular septum piercing like Katy Perry, I’ve started to wonder whether piercings change how I look or if it's so small, it doesn't affect anything. Because I’m older and on the cusp of the professional world, I know that sometimes my body modifications can change how people judge me and whether I am professional enough for a job (even though body mods shouldn’t be used to judge someone). But when it comes to the people who have looked at me for seven years with all my jewelry, would they really notice if I took them out?
I decided to test this idea by removing my piercings for a day when I'd be surrounded by friends and family. I already know what some of them think of my body mods, having had to sit through a slew of comments that you shouldn’t say to someone with piercings. But since I don't usually take my piercings out, I have never seen their reactions to a bare-faced me. Would they notice? Would they comment? What would their reactions be to a non-pierced Vanesa?
Sundays are when I see most people, so I figured doing the experiment on this day would be the most beneficial for results. I wouldn’t let anyone know that I would be removing my lip piercings, as that would clearly ruin the results, but would wait to see if anyone commented on my missing jewelry. Because I have semi-long hair, I decided to hide my ear piercings with that, and simply take out my facial piercings before beginning the day. I would then count the amount of people I saw and tally separately how many actually noticed I wasn’t decked out in my usual bling.
I also would take a photo of myself without my facial piercings and post it on all my social media: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, and Instagram. It would let me reach more of my friends and allow people to actively comment on my missing jewelry.
My Sundays consist of going to church in the mornings and sometimes visiting my nephew in the evenings. Being a pastor's daughter with multiple piercings has never boded well for me, so I was really expecting the church members to notice the silver bling from my lips being gone. Even though my parents are accepting of how I choose to look (although not happy at first with my decisions for body mods), others have been more open in their opinions on my appearance. While I know their intentions are never to be mean, it still made me hesitant about going through with this experiment. I wasn't sure if I was ready to hear the comments I assumed would include positivity for my removal of my facial piercings.
This feeling passed as I finished getting dressed and I quickly took out my piercings in less than five minutes. I didn't want to change anything else about my regular routine, so I sat down and did my makeup as I usually would, which always includes bright lips. Applying lipstick was probably my favorite part of the day, since putting on lipstick with a lip ring is never as simple as it seems. Once I finished, I stepped back to look at myself and saw, in my opinion, how different I looked.
My lips seemed plain and boring to me. I was shocked at how naked I felt without my jewelry on my face, too. I couldn't tell if this was good or bad, but it was definitely jarring seeing my lips without a single loop of silver on the left side. Before heading into church, I snapped a few photos of my face and uploaded them to all my social media outlets with a simple caption that didn't mention anything about my lip piercings being gone.
Throughout the whole service and small gathering afterwards where I greeted everyone individually, not a single person mentioned my missing lip ring. There were about 20 people there I expected would speak up about my facial piercings being gone, especially having heard some of their comments beforehand on my appearance. However, none of them even seemed to notice that there was something different about me at all. This extended to social media as well.
I figured not many people would notice on Tumblr, Twitter, and Snapchat, but I was hoping that at least one person who commented on my photo on Instagram or Facebook would say something about me not rocking my usual jewelry. When I didn't get any comments, I even sent selfies to my closest friends and waited to see what they said. All I got was compliments on my appearance, but no mention of my piercings.
The only person who commented was my mother. She only mentioned it briefly by gesturing to her lips and whispering "you took them out." And while this means that someone did notice, I never really considered her an adequate judge knowing that she never seems to miss a detail, nevermind on her own daughter's face.
After waiting a few hours, I figured no one was really going to say anything about my missing jewelry besides my mom. I texted my friends saying that I had taken out my piercings and they hadn't noticed. Their responses were: "I guess I just focused on how pretty you are honestly," "I think its just cuz everyone got so used to it," or "I knew there was something but I thought it was the hair!"
My Final Thoughts
At first, I thought that if everyone had been so used to my lip rings, they were sure to notice that they were missing. However, after thinking about it, I realized three things. First off, everyone is too busy focusing on themselves or other stuff to care about my lips (and I say that as nicely as possible). Second, instead of becoming more different from the average person, I simply reverted back to the socially-acceptable appearance that lets me blend easier in a group of people. And finally, I can't read minds and maybe they noticed, but were too polite to say something.
In the end, it was only me that really noticed they were missing because I'm so accustomed to them on my face. When I am anxious or bored, I find myself playing with my stud or ring a lot. But when I took them out, I would reach to my lips and grasp at nothing but lipstick that would smear all over my chin. Even now as I finish writing this, I instinctually try to pull where my stud used to be and only feel the healed hole left in my lips.
For various reasons, I've only put the lip ring back in and left the stud off. I now only have one piercing on my face (though that may soon change). But the fact that no one noticed or spoke up about my missing jewelry made me feel more comfortable in my choice to continue body-modifying because in the end, I'm really the only one that cares — and that's how it should be.
Images: Vanesa Pacheco