Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


About those piercings, young people

posted by Rod Dreher

weirdo.jpgThis morning I was in line getting my Pennsylvania driver’s license, and noticed a teenager in front of me getting his learner’s permit. He had a small ring in each earlobe — not pierced in the conventional way, but rather with small rings embedded into each earlobe. The idea is to stretch out the earlobe. The kid’s father was with him, and I thought, way to go, Dad, letting your kid turn himself into a freak.
I’m serious about this. Mind you, I had a conventional earring when I was that kid’s age — how daring that was for males in the 1980s — but when I graduated college and got a job in which an earring on a man wasn’t kosher, it was easy to take the thing out when I went to work, then put it back in when I went out to the clubs. It wasn’t long before I lost interest in having an earring, and took it out permanently. The hole closed, I guess; you can still see evidence that my ear was pierced, if you look hard.
I wonder, though, if young people into the more extreme forms of body modification have any idea how unemployable that sort of thing makes them in many decent-paying jobs. That kid’s freaky ears may make him cool among his crowd, but try putting on a coat and tie and showing up for a job interview looking like a primitive. You can grinch and moan all you want about how unfa-a-a-ir it is to judge people negatively based on their body modifications, but there is such a thing as professional standards of appearance. You don’t like it? Fine. But resign yourself to being able to work only in a certain kind of job. I blogged earlier today off that Atlantic Monthly story saying that young adults entering today’s job market have totally unrealistic expectations of what it’s going to be like for them — and that one reason they are so ill-informed is because their parents have indulged them, and encouraged them in their flight from reality. Along those lines, re: economic mobility and freedom, that teenager’s father has done his son a great disservice by allowing him to permanently stretch out his earlobes like that. It’s like giving your kid a food-stamp name.
Jobs aside, don’t these kids ever stop to think about how stupid they’re going to look when they hit middle age?



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abbykk

posted February 12, 2010 at 4:17 pm


First, “food stamp name”? If you are so worried about the way that young people with piercings and such are perceived, perhaps you should first be concerned with the way your language choice will make people perceive you. Your offensive categorizations weaken your argument, and will only allow those who agree with you to truly hear you. Way to shut down dialogue.
As a “kid” who has recently entered the job market, at 26 as a pastor, I am deeply frustrated by your assumptions about youth. I have three ear piercings in each ear. My parents thought they were stupid. And yet, baby boomers most often compliment me on my three earrings, and how surprised they are that so many can look so pretty. I also have two tattoos. Each is modest, and only one is ever seen by the general public. And, as they are religious tattoos, they are within my industry.
But, though it is on my arm, no one in church sees my tattoo. I know how to play the game. I know how to put on a suit so that they believe what I have to say on Sundays and how to wear heels so that my diminutive nature does not detract from my authority. But, some folks, no matter what I say, how faithful I am, how well I do my job, or how much I play the game, will ever think of me as their pastor or believe that I have authority at this stage. Whatever. No tattoo of piercing, or lack there of, would matter to them.
And, we are self-selecting. When we change our bodies, we know it will exclude us from places and jobs. Often they are places we don’t want to go, and jobs we don’t want to work.
The professional world is changing. I know more people my age that can wear whatever they want to work than those who have to wear a suit. My husband, a professional, doesn’t own a suit. We have the ability to define who we are and we will deal with the consequences. We. Are. Not. Stupid.



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Mr Obvious

posted February 12, 2010 at 4:17 pm


Have you ever met someone successful that has a tattoo on their neck? Along those lines, why don’t young people get their feet bound? Or neck rings? I don’t get it.



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Lindsey Abelard

posted February 12, 2010 at 4:20 pm


Yes, these piercings and tattoos can be quite a joke. I sometimes have to work to prevent myself from laughing out loud when I see some of this on young people today. However, keeping everything in perspective, is this really any worse than the dirty, scraggly look of the hippies in the late 60′s and early 70′s. At least the kids today are clean looking. The hippies of the late 60′s were some incredibly mangy and scraggly looking people.



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Dan Berger

posted February 12, 2010 at 4:27 pm


The hippies could clean up, cut their hair and get decent clothes. Scruffy, shaggy and unkempt are temporary.
A body mod is a permanent reminder of a temporary enthusiasm.
Incidentally, I’ll save Rod the bother by reminding the Rev. abbykk that “food stamp name” is a reference to an earlier thread, specifically to a line in the movie, “Coach Carter:”
“I think I’ll name the baby Shaniqua.” — a young, pregnant character
“Ha, ha! Why don’t you just name her ‘Food Stamps’?” — one of her friends
I should remember that line; my son (a jock with no piercings or tattoos — yet) has watched it often enough.



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Martin Snigg

posted February 12, 2010 at 4:30 pm


Agreed Rod. Far too young to fully appreciate what they are doing. A pretty expensive (in many ways) fashion to pass through.



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David J. White

posted February 12, 2010 at 4:30 pm


Jobs aside, don’t these kids ever stop to think about how stupid they’re going to look when they hit middle age?
Of course not, Rod. One of the consequences of our pervasive, persistent youth culture is that kids think that middle age, let alone old age, is something that is never going to happen to them.
I’m old enough (47) to remember when parents were grown-ups. My parents came of age in the 50s, not the 60s, back when young people still aspired to be adults, and then once they graduated from school, and maybe served their stint in the military (back in the days of the draft), they got a job, got married, settled down and became grown-ups. And many people my age looked at our parents and saw people who were grown-ups and who were happy to be grownups. They dressed like grown-ups, they talked like grown-ups, they acted like grown-ups, and they had grown-up tastes and hobbies. And we expected — and wanted — to be like them when we grow up. We tried to see ourselves as our parents one day — and it helped us try to imagine the future consequences of present acts. Of course it didn’t always keep us from doing stupid things, because we were kids, after all, but at least we had some role models in front of us who were grown-ups, and not ashamed of it.
I really feel sorry for kids whose parents are themselves trying to prolong their own adolescence and who refuse to put aside childish things (as St. Paul said) and simply accept the fact that they’re grown-ups and act like it. Why should their kids take a moment to image what things will be like for them when they’re middle aged, when they look at their own parents and all too often see aging adolescents who refuse to accept that they’ve become grown-ups, and to act like it?
The fact that we have a celebrity media culture that insists on glorifying too many people who are essentially aging adolescents trying desperately to show how “hip” they still are only compounds the problem.
With the regard to the picture you included with this post: Does this young woman carry a basin around with her to catch the dribble? Good God, people born with things like harelips and cleft palates used to be regarded with compassion for having an unfortunate disability, and would undergo surgery to correct it. And someone does this to herself intentionally?!?



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Rod Dreher

posted February 12, 2010 at 4:34 pm


Lindsey, a scraggly person can always get a haircut, shave, whatever. I was a semi-scraggly college student with an earring. It didn’t take much effort for me to get cleaned up enough to work in an office. But if you’ve stretched your earlobe out like some of these kids have done, you can’t easily repair or conceal that, if you can at all.
Abby, “food stamp name” is a phrase a commenter introduced the other day in the thread here about whether certain exotic names keep one from succeeding in business.
You write: And, we are self-selecting. When we change our bodies, we know it will exclude us from places and jobs. Often they are places we don’t want to go, and jobs we don’t want to work.
OK, fine. It’s a free country. But in a time of diminishing employment prospects, is it really so important to remove yourself from a wide swath of the job market for the sake of making a personal aesthetic statement? That strikes me as the kind of statement that only someone in her twenties, and childless, could make.
Your post reminded me of the Catholic parish I attended back in Fort Lauderdale in the mid-1990s. One day we got a new young priest fresh out of seminary, doing an internship. He had a gold hoop in his left ear. I think I was still wearing my gold hoop then — I was an arts journalist in my twenties, and could get away with it — but I absolutely could not take him seriously as a religious authority because of that. It’s not that the earring somehow drained away his wisdom and insight. It’s that it signaled to me that this is a guy who is so into making a personal statement that he doesn’t care about the dignity of his priestly office. If he were ministering to a young congregation, or to a non-Catholic congregation that didn’t have certain stylistic expectations of the clergy, that might have been understandable. But he was placed in a parish that had a diverse mix of ages. His turning up as a prieset in that parish wearing an earring was like hanging a sign around his neck saying, “I’m an immature kid, you don’t have to take me seriously.”



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James P.

posted February 12, 2010 at 4:45 pm


What does that poor kid do with that awful lip piercing, stuff sausage casings?



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Dan Berger

posted February 12, 2010 at 4:50 pm


By the way, too late for the previous thread but I was recently reminded of the fact that the French government regulates names put on French birth certificates.
You can call your baby “Shaniqua” within your family and friends, but it will not be her official name if she’s a French citizen. It’ll be Dominique or Josette or some other, traditionally French and respectable moniker.
The French are not my favorite people in the world. But they do take formality and respect — for oneself and others — rather seriously.



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MargaretE

posted February 12, 2010 at 4:53 pm


“And, we are self-selecting. When we change our bodies, we know it will exclude us from places and jobs. Often they are places we don’t want to go, and jobs we don’t want to work…. We have the ability to define who we are and we will deal with the consequences. We. Are. Not. Stupid.”
abbykk
February 12, 2010 4:17 PM
Abby, you certainly are not stupid, but you are very, very young. You can’t possibly know, at age 26, where your life will lead you and how your opinions and desires might change. “Places and jobs” that seem awful to you now might not one day. Don’t limit your options. Trust me when I tell you – from the vantage point of being almost two decades your senior – it’s best not to do anything permanent to your body – you might very well come to regret it later. (I know it’s hard to imagine at your age, but bodies change, too… and tattoos don’t look so good on saggy flesh… ) Another think you’ll learn as you grow older is that, while you may, indeed, have the ability to “define who you are,” the way you adorn yourself will have very little to do with it.



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the stupid Chris

posted February 12, 2010 at 5:04 pm


I sometimes have to work to prevent myself from laughing out loud when I see some of this on young people today.
I absolutely could not take him seriously as a religious authority because of that. It’s not that the earring somehow drained away his wisdom and insight. It’s that it signaled to me that this is a guy who is so into making a personal statement that he doesn’t care about the dignity of his priestly office.
I’m as guilty of judging by appearance as the next person, but I’m not sure it’s good to be proud of that.



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Appalachian Prof

posted February 12, 2010 at 5:16 pm


I know I’ve brought this up before, but these issues always make me think of that King of the Hill episode, when Bobby Hill gets involved with Pastor K, who is tattooed and into skateboarding. Here’s some dialogue from that fantastic episode:
HANK: Can’t you see you’re not making Christianity better, you’re just making rock ‘n’ roll worse.
PASTOR K: You people are all alike. You look at us and think we’re freaks. Come on, even Jesus had long hair.
HANK: Only because I wasn’t his dad.
And the greatest scene of all, when Hank shows Bobby the shoebox in which all of Bobby’s previous enthusiasms are kept:
BOBBY: When I turn 18, I’m going to do whatever I want for the Lord. Tattoos, piercings, you name it.
HANK: Well, I’ll take that chance. Come here, there’s something I want you to see. (Hank takes down a box from the shelf and opens it up) Remember this?
BOBBY: My beanbag buddy? Oh, man, I can’t believe I collected those things. They’re so lame.
HANK: You didn’t think so five years ago. And how about your virtual pet? You used to carry this thing everywhere. Then you got tired of it, forgot to feed it, and it died.
BOBBY (looks at a photo of himself in a Ninja Turtles costume): I look like such a dork.
HANK: I know how you feel. I never thought that “Members Only” jacket would go out of style, but it did. I know you think stuff you’re doing now is cool, but in a few years you’re going to think it’s lame. And I don’t want the Lord to end up in this box.



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Beth

posted February 12, 2010 at 5:24 pm


Tattoos and piercings are unfortunately tremendously popular for young people right now. I’m just very thankful that my hipster daughter is terrified of needles. Otherwise I have no doubt that she would join the club.I really hope the tide starts to swing the other way, and it becomes fashionable to be neatly groomed, and free of body “art”.



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Rod Dreher

posted February 12, 2010 at 5:31 pm


I love that “King of the Hill” episode — and Hank’s line at the end is profound.
s.Chris: I’m as guilty of judging by appearance as the next person, but I’m not sure it’s good to be proud of that.
Chris, I’m not saying I’m proud of it, necessarily, and I’m not saying that a guy wearing an earring is a sign of bad character. My memory is fuzzy, but I may have been wearing my earring at that time. The judgment I made about that young priest was that he was immature, because he wore an earring. Again, if he were trying to serve a young congregation, or a congregation in a more liberal part of the country, that might be one thing. But he wasn’t, and his wearing an earring signaled that he was more interested in making a personal fashion statement than in establishing his bona fides as a spiritual father within that community.
His dressing like that in his role as a priest, in that particular community, sent a message to that community. This is unavoidable. If I turned up to work in my office wearing shorts and a t-shirt, I’d still be the same person, and do the same work, but my sartorial choices would reflect a disrespect for the conventions of my office, and would signal to my co-workers that I am perhaps arrogant, strange or immature. Similarly, if I turned up at a beach barbecue wearing a pinstriped suit, a tie and lace-ups, what kind of message would I send to the others at the barbecue, about myself?
How we choose to present ourselves to others says something about ourselves, and something about the way we see others. If you’re a rock musician, you can get away with dressing a certain way that you cannot if you are a Catholic priest.



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R Davis

posted February 12, 2010 at 5:39 pm


I’m an employer and I just have to laugh at someone who comes in looking for a job and has all of the latest cultural adornments, piercings, tatoos, pants hanging below the boxers, hat on sideways and so on.
While they my be cool to their friends they simply are not going to find meaningful work with any kind of growth potential looking like that.
As far as I’m concerned, wear what you want and how you want it, but don’t expect society at large to pick up the tab when you are unable to support yourself because of a choice you made in your appearance.



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Your Name

posted February 12, 2010 at 5:39 pm


What does that poor kid do with that awful lip piercing, stuff sausage casings?
Actually, she sings and plays the trumpet at the same time.
I for one, wonder if this is photoshopped. the gumline seems a bit low.



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted February 12, 2010 at 5:51 pm


Yeah, kids today…well, actually kids fifteen years ago…



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My Name

posted February 12, 2010 at 6:03 pm


Yeah self expression is a terrible thing!! For shame on these young people! How dare they seek to assert their individuality when the whole idea of our current society is to conform. To conform to satisfy everyone else. Think and act and look exactly the same. Creative expression is the devil. They should be repressed or better yet beaten like in the good ole days when cops could hit you with the butt of their shotgun just cuz. When a woman’s place was in the kitchen and children were to be rarely seen and never heard. Oh how I long for good ole days. Oh well. At least I can still hate the gays…oh and kids with awkward piercings and tattoos apparently.



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the stupid Chris

posted February 12, 2010 at 6:06 pm


The judgment I made about that young priest was that he was immature, because he wore an earring.
That’s an interesting judgement, but not necessarily a correct one.
How we choose to present ourselves to others says something about ourselves, and something about the way we see others.
Agreed. And I generally subscribe to the adage “clothes make the man,” but that only goes so far. In my business I long ago learned that sartorial quality is unrelated to competence or maturity.



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Badger

posted February 12, 2010 at 6:07 pm


Having seen what obsessing over what one’s boss thinks has gotten their parents, divorced and broke, today’s youths have seemed to stop obsessing over it. Can’t say I blame them. I can see it now. “Junior. Be careful what you do now, or the people that make you change careers a dozen times, bankrupt you pension, and take away your health care won’t think highly of you.”
That said, tatoos and piercings are ugly and ridiculous.



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Peter

posted February 12, 2010 at 6:20 pm


I do wonder what kind of careers those pierced and tattooed young people will have, but I think they learn to adjust. There are plenty of tats covered up by starched-white shirts on Wall Street and white-shoe law firms. And those stretched earlobe do close a ittle. You can take out piercings and they will close up.
We all have norms. I mean, imagine what people have traditionally said about folks with chickens and livestock in their urban backyards. They were considered trash, or worse. Now, they are hip.
Que sera sera.



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Jillian

posted February 12, 2010 at 6:36 pm


AbbyK, you’ve touched what the real issue is: eminence. Studies of changes in taste have found that people who find themselves to be eminent get fixed in their tastes (and commonly, opinions and maturity) and soon start imposing these tastes and idèes fixés on those around them. People like yourself, who do not regard themselves as eminent, remain much more capable of change.
That being said, the wise know to stay off, or under, the radar of the pompous folk who decide their employment status. Hollywood is put to shame by acts people pull off in the workplace every day.



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Max Schadenfreude

posted February 12, 2010 at 6:49 pm


My Name
February 12, 2010 6:03 PM
Yeah self expression is a terrible thing!! For shame on these young people! How dare they seek to assert their individuality when the whole idea of our current society is to conform. To conform to satisfy everyone else. Think and act and look exactly the same. Creative expression is the devil. They should be repressed or better yet beaten like in the good ole days when cops could hit you with the butt of their shotgun just cuz. When a woman’s place was in the kitchen and children were to be rarely seen and never heard. Oh how I long for good ole days. Oh well. At least I can still hate the gays…oh and kids with awkward piercings and tattoos apparently.
*****
That post is the rhetorical equivalent of a pierced lip and tattooed neck; really doesn’t make any sense but is oddly compelling.
P.S. Extra points for anyone who picked up the Simpson’s refrence.



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Indy

posted February 12, 2010 at 7:35 pm


“Hollywood is put to shame by acts people pull off in the workplace every day.”
Well said, Jillian. Lots of differences often between people’s workplace personas and those they show to friends and family.



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Katie in FL

posted February 12, 2010 at 7:48 pm


What’s funny to me is that half of this stuff used to be in the old Ripleys’ Believe It or Not books. The ear lobe stretching I specifically remember. David J. White has a great point. Teens used to reach a point where they were grown ups, and they changed the way they dressed, wore their hair, etc. Now that rite of passage is completely blurred, and adults are trying to dress as teens instead of the other way around. It used to be that if your underwear showed it meant you were probably not capable of dressing yourself properly. Guys walk around holding up their pants, and only have one hand free. So much of this fashion causes one to debilitate oneself.



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forestwalker

posted February 12, 2010 at 7:54 pm


All I can say is that I expect my stock in a tattoo removal company to do well in the years to come.



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Peter

posted February 12, 2010 at 8:09 pm


Damn kids, get off my organic yard and leave my free-range chickens alone or I’ll throw my Birkenstocks and a microbrew bottle at you.



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Rod Dreher

posted February 12, 2010 at 8:22 pm


Yeah self expression is a terrible thing!! For shame on these young people! How dare they seek to assert their individuality when the whole idea of our current society is to conform. To conform to satisfy everyone else. Think and act and look exactly the same. Creative expression is the devil. They should be repressed or better yet beaten like in the good ole days when cops could hit you with the butt of their shotgun just cuz. When a woman’s place was in the kitchen and children were to be rarely seen and never heard. Oh how I long for good ole days. Oh well. At least I can still hate the gays…oh and kids with awkward piercings and tattoos apparently.
:::Mmmmmmph::: (turns head for as long as necessary to suppress laugh)
I know, son, it’s not fa-a-a-a-a-ir. At least post-graduation, you’ll have something to talk about with your creative and self-mutilated co-generationalists in the basement of somebody’s Mom’s house.
Peter: We all have norms. I mean, imagine what people have traditionally said about folks with chickens and livestock in their urban backyards. They were considered trash, or worse. Now, they are hip.
Look, fashion changes. We all know that. But it’s going to be a long time before the kind of people who run companies that don’t involve delivering pizza, brewing coffee or making movies welcome employees that have metal sticking out of their faces in peculiar ways. You may not like it, but that’s the way the world works. I used to wear Birkenstocks to work in my previous job, because that was accepted within our office culture. I couldn’t do that now, and would feel strange doing it. I don’t consider my new job to be oppressive or stifling of my individuality because I can’t wear the footwear of my choice into the office. What kind of juvenile would? (Answer: me at 17).
Besides, you rarely meet a more slavish conformist than someone who thinks the way they dress and the jewelry they wear is the true mark of a nonconformist. The real rebels you never see coming.



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Jon in the Nati

posted February 12, 2010 at 8:22 pm


The whole tattoo and piercing thing is just one example of all the stuff our parents used to tell us but we didn’t want to believe.
“You are who you roll with,” and “you’ll shoot your eye out” are right up there too. I never wanted to hear it, but it is absolutely true.
I can deal with the self-exclusion thing. People who do weird stuff to their bodies (such as the person in the picture) are excluding themselves from certain sectors of society, certain workplaces, etc. If they realize and understand that and don’t care, then I’ve got nothing to say about it.
But, whether it’s right or wrong, people WILL judge you on how you look. And you will be expected to look a certain way if you want to do certain things. It’s not ideal, it may not even be fair, but it is the way things are.
In high school, I grew a beard, and my boss told me to lose it. He gave me a choice: lose the beard, or lose the job. I went home, shaved, and came back to work. Everyone has choices to make.



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Jon in the Nati

posted February 12, 2010 at 8:24 pm


The whole tattoo and piercing thing is just one example of all the stuff our parents used to tell us but we didn’t want to believe.
“You are who you roll with,” and “you’ll shoot your eye out” are right up there too. I never wanted to hear it, but it is absolutely true.
I can deal with the self-exclusion thing. People who do weird stuff to their bodies (such as the person in the picture) are excluding themselves from certain sectors of society, certain workplaces, etc. If they realize and understand that and don’t care, then I’ve got nothing to say about it.
But, whether it’s right or wrong, people WILL judge you on how you look. And you will be expected to look a certain way if you want to do certain things. It’s not ideal, it may not even be fair, but it is the way things are.
In high school, I grew a beard, and my boss told me to lose it. He gave me a choice: lose the beard, or lose the job. I went home, shaved, and came back to work. Everyone has choices to make.



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Peter

posted February 12, 2010 at 8:29 pm


As I said, Rod, that metal sticking out comes out–just like your earring. Even those big holes in the ear come out.
It’s true that a neck tattoo will be hard to cover, but I know plenty of people with serious tats–even on their necks and wrists–who work at law firms, stock brokerages, and even Congress. People can cover them up if they want to get serious.
Or they don’t. They become entrepeneurs. They go to work for Google or Apple or EA. They become organic farmers and weavers and soap makers. As your previous post points out, not everyone needs to work “for the man” and many of them thrive.



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Lindsey Abelard

posted February 12, 2010 at 8:46 pm


Rod,
I agree with you that anything that is permanent, either a tattoo or stretching one’s earlobes out, for example, is unwise. I assumed that you were referring to all examples of piercing, not just ones that result in permanent changes to the body. I think anything that is temporary is perfectly fine. One can always remove the piercing when one grows out of the fad and moves on.
In any case, I think the piercing craze was most pronounced during the late 90′s and early 00′s than it is today. At least I noticed more women with navel piercing and tramp-stamps then than I do now.
There was a discussion on one of the more socio-biological HBD sites a few years ago (I think Half-Sigma, but I can’t remember) where the blogger made the comment that getting tattoos was an indication that person had poorer value judgment ability, in general, than a person who does not.
I would agree that people who make permanent changes to their bodies for frivolous reasons do indeed exhibit poorer value judgment and have less future-time orientation than those that do not.



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Argon

posted February 12, 2010 at 8:47 pm


Openly visible piercings are so yesterday. When did we lose the sense of mystery and surprise in a romance?



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Art For God's Sake

posted February 12, 2010 at 8:52 pm


I’m in my 30′s and am a parent and a professional having worked as a teacher, a pastor and a chaplain, in each of these professions I have displayed both piercing and tattoos and while I have occassional questions that usually lead to interesting conversations I have never experienced myself as excluded from job and/or carreer advancement because of them.
My tattoos mark the different periods of my life thus far and serve as visual reminders to me of my journey, each tells a story about myself or my experience. The social and business landscape of our culture is changing and as individuals of diverse race, culture, gender and sexuality continue to be empowered and move into all areas of social and bussiness sectors the make-up of our American institutions will be forever changed.
The predominantly male, white European economically secure prototype that has long dictated the norms of the business and social world is being threatened and for those such as the author of this editorial who fit this mold have the most to lose. Instead of responding to these changes and those who are different from you out of fear with judgment and hypocrisy maybe you could consider being in relationship with those that are different from you and find their self-expression in ways that are strange to you.
Thirty-six percent of those ages 18 to 25, and 40 percent of those ages 26 to 40, have at least one tattoo, according to a fall 2006 survey by the Pew Research Center. (http://www.vanishingtattoo.com/tattoo_facts.htm) Change is inevitable, the question is will you respond out of fear or allow yourself to be stretched and even changed as the culture changes around you?



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Kirk

posted February 12, 2010 at 8:55 pm


I wonder if a pierced lip like that would help with snoring.



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Rod Dreher

posted February 12, 2010 at 9:02 pm


The predominantly male, white European economically secure prototype that has long dictated the norms of the business and social world is being threatened and for those such as the author of this editorial who fit this mold have the most to lose.
Once again, ::::mmmmmph::::.
This is what happens when It’s not fa-a-a-air! gets a college education, and convinces itself that it’s self-indulgence (“My tattoos mark the different periods of my life thus far and serve as visual reminders to me of my journey, each tells a story about myself or my experience”) strikes a blow against Eurocentric, phallocentric hegemony.
Fight the power! Pierce your septum! What a meaningless gesture. The commodification and embourgeoisification of rebellion. Like I said earlier, freakish tats and piercings threaten nobody, because after a certain age, most people think they’re ridiculous, and don’t take them, or those who have them, seriously (or if they do, they take them seriously in spite of how ridiculous the body modifications look on grown-ups).



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bd_rucker

posted February 12, 2010 at 9:12 pm


Sooooooo, so glad I never got a tattoo in my 20s, when everyone was started getting them! Believe me, I was tempted, but the permanency of them is what ultimately stopped me.
When I see people my age (mid-40s) with them, they look ridiculous to me. When I see young people with them, I know that many of them will look in the mirror one day years from now and say “Why, WHY?”
The only old person I know who looked remotely cool with a tattoo was my grandfather, who got his while in the navy during WWII.



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Andrea

posted February 12, 2010 at 9:16 pm


Today I interviewed a male biology professor around my age, which is to say about your age as well, who was sporting TWO earrings, one in each ear, and a shaved head. It was an event held in honor of DarwinDay and I think he and the other professors were trying desperately to be relevant to the sea of teenagers and twenty-somethings in the audience. The title of the talk I was covering was “Sex and Vegetables.” I know this guy is a brilliant scientist, a real rain man who brings in all kinds of grant money, and a gifted teacher who also happens to be married to a woman and is the devoted father of two kids. However, his look certainly might have made some people wonder about his sexual orientation (which I’m not knocking, but I really wonder if it’s the impression he’d want to give) or his professionalism in another setting. A college professor can probably get away with that sort of thing and at least he can always take the stupid earrings out. His colleagues were all attired in equally “relevant” jeans and T-shirts while the older prof wore the requisite rumpled tweed jacket. None of the others have noticeable piercings or tattoos. I agree they look mighty stupid and I always wonder how people can breathe or talk around the ones in their upper lips or their noses and why anyone would subject themselves to the agony of having their cartilage pierced. Idiocy as well as unprofessional.



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My Name

posted February 12, 2010 at 9:26 pm


Holy schmoley!! I got a response from Rod!! I’m actually quite happy about that. It’s like getting a hand-written note from Dick Cheney! I mean I can’t stand the guy but it’s a good story! I’ve added it to my tumblr.
For you Rod and for all of you out there that don’t think we’ll amount to much, I’m 26 with a masters in EE (Electrical Engineering) and I work for a video game company. I do very well for myself. I just bought a house, a big ole LCD TV, and a brand spankin new Audi. AND!!!! Unlike your generation I’m putting money away and don’t use credit cards. The company hired me because I’m the best at what I do and they need people like me. The company is filled with people like me. They don’t seem to have a problem with my ear lobes.
I think us millennials will be just fine. We’re a lot more tolerant than your generation and are willing to judge on merits, not solely on appearance.
I will give you a little credit and say that I have thought about the ear lobes not being a good look later on. I looked into it and they can be reconstructed with cosmetic surgery, so I’m good.
Rod said…
“Fight the power! Pierce your septum! What a meaningless gesture.”
Meaningless to you Rod, possibly important to the person getting it. Your view is incredibly self-centered. Just because you don’t understand it and don’t want to doesn’t make it meaningless. (That last sentence can be applied to SOO many of your posts, just sayin) Hey but no hard feelings and good luck with that old and bitter thing.
Max Schadenfreude, thanks for noticing. ;0)



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BobSF

posted February 12, 2010 at 9:33 pm


I don’t get what all the fuss is about. These kids are obviously reaching back into American history and resurrecting a practice long immortalized in our cherished folk music.
Do your ears hang low, do they wobble to and fro…
Besides, it could be worse.



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Ollokot

posted February 12, 2010 at 9:36 pm


My wife wears a septum ring; we’re both in our mid-thirties and have four children, but she has the piercing because as a Salishan indian it’s tribal tradition. She wears it out of respect for her ancestors, as an acknowledgement that we in the present stand on the shoulders of those in the past, it is not any sort of strike against any perceived “Eurocentric hegemony.” Some of us simply wish to raise our children with knowledge and respect for their family; which ever direction the current flow of pop culture is running this week matters little to us, our practice is thousands of years old.



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Rod Dreher

posted February 12, 2010 at 9:41 pm


Well, Ollokot, your wife has a good reason. Brandon from Boca Raton has to rationalize, though.
For you Rod and for all of you out there that don’t think we’ll amount to much, I’m 26 with a masters in EE (Electrical Engineering) and I work for a video game company. I do very well for myself. I just bought a house, a big ole LCD TV, and a brand spankin new Audi. AND!!!! Unlike your generation I’m putting money away and don’t use credit cards. The company hired me because I’m the best at what I do and they need people like me. The company is filled with people like me. They don’t seem to have a problem with my ear lobes.
Good for you, 26 year old dude. Rock on with your nice toys! Check back in with us when you’re 40. Now, for the 999 others who have freakishly distorted their ear lobes and who aren’t lucky enough to land a job in a creative industry where this sort of look is tolerated, good luck with all that.



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michael

posted February 12, 2010 at 9:45 pm


This trend of piercing and tattooing, I find repellant and disturbing. I regularly see pretty girls with fine skin, who have permanently vandalized themselves by tattoos — not a little butterfly on the heel (bad enough) but unspeakably large tattoos all over their arms and shoulders. (I hope that photo at the top of this post is a photo-shop fake.)



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ipcress

posted February 12, 2010 at 9:55 pm


Rod, all due respect, but when you use a word like “embourgeoisification”, which even your readers with years of post-graduate education need to look up, it’s time to uncork whatever vintage you’ve recently imported from New Jersey and just relax.
My rule, as a parent of two teenage boys: pierce whatever (non-genital) you like, it’s a quick fix down the road; any tats are prohibited until after you reach the age of majority.
As for the 15-16 year old with the pea-sized holes in his lobes at the DMV: if his parents were silly enough to allow it, rest assured they are indulgent enough to pay for the minor plastic surgery to repair it when he’s 23-24 and wants to enter an MBA program.



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Indy

posted February 12, 2010 at 9:55 pm


Might have been an interesting topic about which to have a conversation here. . . .



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Peterk

posted February 12, 2010 at 9:56 pm


tattoos, piercings, and other forms of body modification have been around for centuries. what we seeing is that has becoming more accepted by some in our society.
I wonder what the young lady with the hole in her lower lip will think in 10, 20, 30 years? will she decide to undergo reconstructive surgery to close the hole. I’ve seen some young men with earlobe holes the diameter of soda can. same question.
but we do see some regret by individuals as they grow older.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/17/us/17tattoo.html
i’ve talked with several older friends who got tatts when they were younger and wish now that they hadn’t
I suspect that many get a tatt because of the endorphine rush on gets from the process.
but to each his own, I just hope that neither my son or daughter get a tatt. I seriously doubt my son will as you just can’t stand needles



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Brett R.

posted February 12, 2010 at 10:06 pm


My Name,
As Matt Foley might say, La-dee-freakin’-da! And when your video game company goes under and you lose your job and are stuck with your upside-down mortgage and car payments you can’t keep up with, you’ll be looking for ways to cover up those tats and piercing holes when you go job hunting again. Enjoy your body art when you’re living in a van down by the river.



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MH

posted February 12, 2010 at 10:06 pm


I really don’t like tattoos and piercings. I agree with michael, they more like graffiti than art. They also have a self conscious look at me I’m cool vibe, because I look like other people who look different from boring people. Which completely misses the point that what makes people interesting and creative is what goes one between their earlobes and not with their earlobes.
But it doesn’t pick my pocket or break my leg, so have fun.
However, if I have a choice between two coffee shops and one has a clerk with piercings and one doesn’t. Guess which shop gets my business?
Now for a digression about culture. I was in India in 2006 and bored one night. So I turned on the TV and watched an Indian costume drama about the Mughal Empire. The dialog was in Hindi so I had no prayer of figuring out what was going on, but the female lead had the biggest nose ring you ever saw. A Starbucks barista would have gasped. But this was actually historically accurate as the Mughal’s brought the practice to India.



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Peter

posted February 12, 2010 at 10:07 pm


I look forward to hearing how Rod’s children rebel in their teen years. I predict piercings, Christian punk music, and taking on a hip nickname.



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Peter

posted February 12, 2010 at 10:09 pm


Enjoy your body art when you’re living in a van down by the river.
Dude. Other people’s choices shouldn’t make you so angry.



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Brett R.

posted February 12, 2010 at 10:27 pm


Peter, Dude,
Who’s angry? Your sarcasm detector got a broken thingamabob? I was funnin’ on the guy (the thinly veiled Chris Farley reference should have been a giveaway). Lighten up.



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Your Name

posted February 12, 2010 at 10:30 pm


Rod, all due respect, but when you use a word like “embourgeoisification”, which even your readers with years of post-graduate education need to look up, it’s time to uncork whatever vintage you’ve recently imported from New Jersey and just relax.
Or you could learn to figure out words from context, structure and a general knowledge of how words are constructed in English. That works for me.



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My Name

posted February 12, 2010 at 10:35 pm


LMAO Brett!!! I LOVE that SNL skit!! Chris Farley was a freakin genius! As for the company, thanks to the mismanagement of the nation’s economy by your generation we had an amazing year last year and this year looks even better! YAY!! No one can afford to go out or travel or enjoy real life so they come to our cheap virtual alternative. Thanks for that guys.
And you both really missed the point of my post. I wasn’t bragging about my ‘toys’, I was telling you guys, Brett and Rod, that I didn’t end up in my mom’s basement or IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER!!! (Much to your dismay I’m sure. Sorry about that. It’s kinda sad that you both want me to fail in the future. I wouldn’t wish that on either of you)
Besides Rod, really the only reason I had to post a comment is because well I was bored and then with all of these sheeple glad-handing you and always telling you how right and amazing you are, you really need someone to give you a swift kick to boys (figuratively speaking of course…please no one kick Rod’s package should you encounter him on the street) to remind you that in the end you are just a man, a man with a forum and a following but a man none the less. There are many of us and we don’t all agree with you.
Just so you guys know, this is a great deal of fun for me. Thank you! Please remember I harbor no ill-will and all my comments should be read with energy and a smile on your face cuz that’s how I write them…unless I’m replying to cknuck, then I have a scowl of contempt.



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Peter

posted February 12, 2010 at 10:43 pm


Lighten up.
Duuuuude.



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MH

posted February 12, 2010 at 10:48 pm


Go to Google images and search for “real elf ears”



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MJ

posted February 12, 2010 at 11:05 pm


Don’t have time to read everyone’s comments, but I think that you are out of touch, Rod. I see people everywhere working these days with lots of piercings. Yes, they’re not at corporate offices — yet. But I believe they will be eventually, within a generation. I think a much greater hindrance to employment is age. Once you’re past forty, getting a job, unless you have decades of experience in a field, is very difficult. I have already seen that I would have an easier time finding work as a pierced college student than as my aging-mom self.



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Lord Karth

posted February 12, 2010 at 11:12 pm


Tattoos and piercings are, in my opinion, a sure sign of pronounced mental illness. Theodore Dalrymple considered people who had such things to be obvious and visible members of the lower classes. From what I recall, Dr. Dalrymple thought such things were visible signs that their bearers had lower-class habits of thought and action.
Anyone with a tattoo and/or piercings who came into my office seeking employment would be shown the door, with no ceremony whatsoever. (I also would not rule out a call to the police under certain circumstances.) From where I sit, tattoos/piercings are worse than Facebook pages with racy photos; people who have either are fundamentally unsuitable for work in a professional office of ANY sort. Barbarians disfigure themselves, civilized people do not—and what is a tattoo or (especially !) a piercing if not a voluntarily-induced personal disfigurement ?
And call me old-fashioned, but my children (my daughters especially) are already aware that people with piercings or tattoos are NOT considered suitable marriage partners, or even much in the way of reliable friends, by members of my House.
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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Indy

posted February 12, 2010 at 11:46 pm


Rod, dude, what’s the point of slamming people, especially people in the demographic you’re criticizing, who disagree with you the way you did in the comments on this thread? You can disagree with people and push back if you feel you have to, without belittling them. I once saw a powerful man ask subordinates for their opinions in an area where someone needed to speak truth to power, as they way. But he voiced his own take on the topic at the outset in such a way as to tell them there only was one thing he wanted to hear back. That means he shut the door before he “opened” up the topic for discussion on the floor. We come hear to chew over the things you post about, not to fall in line. If you don’t want to hear comments from multiple perspectives, why not post an essay and turn off the comments feature?
I was going to ask, “What were you trying to convey when you got your ear pierced? What do you think the kid with the multiple earrings is trying to convey?” But there seems to be no point in trying to draw you out on this one.



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Indy

posted February 12, 2010 at 11:47 pm


Make that “as they say” and “we come here.”



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Leah

posted February 12, 2010 at 11:48 pm


Since jobs are going to be scarce in the near future (according to The Atlantic) I think I’ll encourage one of my more entrepreneurial young sons to think about opening a tattoo-erasing shop. In about 15 years, it could be really big business, maybe even right up there with the ED racket.



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oldfatherwilliam

posted February 13, 2010 at 12:02 am


This probably is redundant, but I remember the ’60s, and long-haired kids with natural faces and unplucked brows, would tell you, if asked politely, that they weren’t necessarily saying No to the general public, but “yes” to their own kind. It’s a community thing, folks, snd here we go again with bigotry and intolerance.



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Judith

posted February 13, 2010 at 12:06 am


People who do all these grotesque piercings are in a category with pedestrians who walk through intersections talking on their cell phones and don’t bother to look up. Sure hope life works out OK for them.



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Peter

posted February 13, 2010 at 12:18 am


but my children (my daughters especially) are already aware that people with piercings or tattoos are NOT considered suitable marriage partners, or even much in the way of reliable friends, by members of my House.
How about delusional people who call themselves “Lord” and “your servant”? I’d definitely discourage my kids from people who carry on that nonsense. And definitely wouldn’t hire.



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star

posted February 13, 2010 at 12:34 am


These kids really don’t see beyond today and they live in their own reality. I know one girl who was raised in a Christian home, was not allowed to do these things on her own, but when she turned 18 she ran off and has an ugly body of “work” to show for her sinful lifestyle. How sad for her family, to see her in such rebellion, and people think her parents “allowed” her to do these things! When these kids wake up (IF they do live long enough) they have a long and hard life ahead for themselves. Many of them did have parents like the one in this piece, but so many more did not, but sin is sin and one has to live with the choices they make and the rebellion they relish in today.



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kenneth

posted February 13, 2010 at 12:54 am


Extreme body art may well make people unemployable these days, but then so does being American, college educated, experienced, under 25, over 35… Are these kids fools for giving up on the traditional American dream of economic success or are we the fools for encouraging them to spend their lives chasing that mirage?



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jestrfyl

posted February 13, 2010 at 1:01 am


As more than one “kid” has pointed out, the practice is becoming so prevalent, they will soon be the ones doing the hiring, and it won’t be quite so controversial – or even interesting. As happened with designer label clothes, soon the coolest folks will be the ones with no tattoo, piercing, branding, or other modification. Plain can be cool.



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Cultural conservative

posted February 13, 2010 at 2:06 am


oldfatherwilliam:
“Bigotry and intolerance”?
You should be careful how you toss around those words. Using them to describe people who don’t like weird body modification essentially drains them of any meaning beyond being “boo words”.
Ever read the story of the boy who cried wolf?



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Erin Manning

posted February 13, 2010 at 2:51 am


Well, I don’t much like piercings; don’t even have my ears pierced in the normal way–not a fear of needles, just squeamishness about putting holes (even small ones) in my ears. And tattoos–definitely not.
But while I’m perfectly willing to be open to people of all sorts of body decoration (so to speak) in terms of civility and so forth, the truth is that I am making a certain amount of judgment about them. This is not at all surprising–we all do it, all the time, and any reasonably observant person will find himself or herself making guesses about people based not only on their piercings or tattoos, but also based on how they dress, how they speak, how they conduct themselves, and a whole host of similar things. All of these are good clues about people, and being interested in people is being interested in the world around you.
For example, a long time ago (a couple of decades at least) I was sitting in a fast-food restaurant with my sister. Wishing to draw her attention to something (probably some example of “corporate art” on the restaurant wall) I said, “It’s over there, near the table where the journalists are sitting.”
My sister followed my gaze, and said, “What makes you call them journalists? You can’t possibly know that.”
I pointed out that there were four gentleman sitting at that particular table, that all were wearing ties and dress shirts but not wearing jackets, that the sleeves of their shirts were rolled up to the elbow, that they were engaged in lively conversation and that there was at least one notebook on the table (before computers and cell phones, of course). She began to list the number of other professions the men could belong to–until they rose, exited the building, got into a van that had been parked so we couldn’t see its sides, pulled the van out of the parking space and turned it–displaying in front of the restaurant window the clearly marked call letters of a local TV news channel.
So what do I think when I see a person with a visible tattoo or extreme piercing? It depends on the age of the person, location of the tattoo or piercing, etc.–but generally I think of most of them as conformists caught up in a consumer message that promises to sell them rebellion, who have been convinced that doing these things makes them stand out as artistic, creative, independent thinkers, not one of the herd, risk takers, and, ultimately, cool in some way to their peers. Now, I’ve got to be honest about this–the same thing was true back when I was young about the guys who wore one earring. But Rod himself acknowledges this: it was okay for him, the artistic sort, to have an earring, but not for the young priest, because the priest was doing something a little unseemly by purchasing and wearing a consumer message saying he was hip and creative.
There are, of course, huge exceptions to this view of tattoos and piercings–military tattoos, high school athletics tattoos, multiple ear piercings on young women who also have big hair and mechanical smiles and are already embarking on what will likely be a lifelong career in food service, etc. But one doesn’t really benefit from walking into a potential employer’s office with giant holes in one’s earlobes and, essentially, making the employer guess if the person before him is a sensitive soul deep in the existential anguish of unfulfilled creativity whose worst vice is a tendency to watch prime time reality television, or if the person merely came from a high school or college culture where the coolest people were the ones who stretched their earlobes far enough to slide a roll of antacids through them (useful for drinking binges). Unless the employer is in a handful of industries, he is likely not to be bothered to figure it out, but to hire someone whose earlobes won’t frighten or disgust the most conservative clients with whom the company does business. It may not be fair–but it is pretty much how the world works.
(By the way, Rod, Birkenstock does make dress shoes, both for men and for women. They are rather expensive, though.)



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Your Name

posted February 13, 2010 at 7:32 am


On a slightly lighter note, I used to be close friends with a plastic surgeon near Annapolis. He was quite successful and LOVED tattoos.
“$40 on, $4,000 off” he used to say.
I will be the first to admit I just don’t understand them, or the piercings. Someone above said – I’m paraphrasing – that there’s nothing like the badge of non-conformity to show which group you’re conforming to.



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Rod Dreher

posted February 13, 2010 at 8:29 am


Indy: Rod, dude, what’s the point of slamming people, especially people in the demographic you’re criticizing, who disagree with you the way you did in the comments on this thread?
Indy, I was reacting with bemusement to the shrill pushback I got, that’s all. It’s all so predictable. I remember when I was 17 or 18, going into the grocery store in my hometown, and feeling all defensive about people looking at me and judging me for my earring and New Wave haircut … and then being slightly pissed off when nobody seemed to notice. Boy, did I take myself and my pseudo-rebellion sooo seriously back then. What I’m objecting to here is not body modification per se, but the attitude that says, “I have a right to do bizarre things to my body to make myself stand out dramatically from the crowd of sheeple conformists, who had better LOOK AT ME — but they better not dare make a negative judgment about my choice!”
That’s not how the real world works — as they will learn. Reminds me of the unintentionally comic passage in the Episcopal cleric Chloe Breyer’s silly memoir of her seminary years, in which she goes to a pro-choice protest, and finds herself arrested for civil disobedience. She sympathizes with a fellow female cleric she consoles in the paddy wagon, who tells Chloe that she can’t believe she’s been arrested, because she had theater tickets for this evening, and now she’s going to miss the show. People want to be outre, but accept no unpleasant consequences for their decision to defy convention, or, in Chloe Breyer’s case, the law.
Anyway, I wouldn’t have posted on this at all if I hadn’t been troubled by that long Atlantic article predicting psychological trauma from joblessness for young people coming onto the scanty job market. All other things being roughly equal, an employer is going to hire someone who looks like they’re capable of fitting into an office culture over someone who sends a signal that a) they’ll frighten or alienate customers by their look, or b) that they’re so insistent on asserting their individuality that they may be an unreliable team member. Having been part of interview teams before, I know that employers have to go on resumes, yes, but also gut decisions about whether the potential employee would be a good risk. It might well be unfair that the guy with the stretched-out earlobes is at a disadvantage compared to a guy with normal earlobes, but that’s the way the world works.
Along those lines, it’s also unfair (and even tragic, in a way, and I’m serious about this) that you can’t devote years of your life and go deeply into debt getting a Ph.D. in English lit, and expect to find a job upon graduation. You can, as my father says, “eat sh*t and howl at the moon” all you want over that sad fact, but it doesn’t change anything. Julie and I were talking about the Atlantic article last night, and how we are going to have to be very careful guiding our kids into their college majors, and not letting them take on big debt.
When I was a teenager, I thought my father was the meanest daddy in the world for not letting me apply to college at Georgetown, where I desperately wanted to go. He insisted that he couldn’t let me go that deeply into debt for an undergraduate degree. I thought he was a prejudiced old coot who had no idea how the world worked. After all, many of my friends were taking out big student loans to finance their prestigious undergraduations. He just didn’t get it! But he stuck to his guns, and sullenly, I went to LSU on scholarship, and graduated debt-free. It didn’t take too many years of working in the real world to realize what an incredible favor my stick-in-the-mud father had done for me. He could see what I couldn’t: that indulging my youthful passions would cost me more down the road than I could see at the time.



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Fake Fan Base

posted February 13, 2010 at 9:03 am


The greatest artists are probably a bit freaky by ‘conservative’ standards whilst making a greater contribution to the quality of life through diversity, innovation, and personal drive.
Sometimes modification can look a mess, in my opinion, but thats an aesthetic thing.
I wonder what sort of calculation would take place if the ideal candidate (intellectually, morally etc) for the Templeton job turned up with a slightly dangly ear lobe. Perhaps his earlobes would rule him out on moral grounds.
If they did then the poor candidate will have to wait for God to judge him better than the interviewer did.



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Your Name

posted February 13, 2010 at 9:03 am


Rod is right about one thing (at least): when you’re 40 you may find yourself VP or COO of that same operation who needs bank financing, or meets with shareholders, or whatever. And your audience will probably think “Isn’t he getting a little old for that kind of thing?”
You certainly won’t be taken seriously – despite all the material trappings of success – if you have to preface all your presentations with an explanation of your piercings, lobes, ink, etc. and how cool they were back in the day.



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Your Name

posted February 13, 2010 at 9:35 am


Fake Fan Base, I don’t think anyone would wig out over a “slightly dangly ear lobe”. But a giant ear lobe with gauges or the above pictured lip thing – yeah, many employers are going to look askance. Maybe not if you’re a video game designer or a potter, granted.
Same as heavy ink – I once went to a restaurant in NYC with a friend who knew the chef. The latter was COVERED with tattoos except for his face. His arms, neck, and what you could see of his chest were all ink. Grossed me out. I’m sure he was a great chef, but I just couldn’t get past it.



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James

posted February 13, 2010 at 9:36 am


If you knew my background and judged my by appearances (my mom swears the Alex P. Keaton character was based on me), you’d assume I must be one that would rail against this like crazy, but for some reason it just doesn’t get my ire up. As a fellow minister once pointed out, it’s funny that we think blue haired old ladies are sweet and cute but blue haired teenagers scare us. Go figure.
That said, I do agree that the long term issues are not in the thinking of these teens (are they ever? did we think that long term either?), but they should be where parents are concerned. Perhaps that’s why crazy hair doesn’t worry me…it’ll grow back and the dye will fade away. But what is this kid’s ear going to look like when he’s sitting on the porch in Boca in 2070?
Small step, long journey. It’s a parent’s job to pass that vision on, not just indulge the momentary flights of fancy.



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Indy

posted February 13, 2010 at 9:59 am


Thanks for the clarification, I see some of what you’re saying Rod. The only tricky part is that none of us can know what is going on with someone else. That is, whether they are doing something because it’s cool (to fit in with a crowd or clique), because they want to be noticed, or due to a need for self expression related to areas of their life where they feel oppressed or repressed. As most kids did, I made some efforts at non-trad appearance so I have some sympathy for why others might do it. Nothing to extremes, however, and nothing that showed up once I started going for job interviews. I still have something of a non-comformist streak and tend to get uneasy when I think people (not aimed at you in this instance) are judging each other too much on appearances or association rather than “content of their character” which the superficial may not reveal.
On the issue of college majors and debt, one problem nowadays is that some high schools have extremely competitive students and behind them, parents. The pressure to excel, to take AP classes, to get high SAT scores, to get into top colleges, can be intense. Being a teen is tough enough without that, it just adds extra layers of stress to a lot of kids. Parents can try to convey a sense that moderation in terms of college choices is good but when a kid hears other kids obsessing about SAT prep or where they want to go to college, it creates yet one more type of peer pressure. I was lucky, I didn’t have to take on a lot of debt as an undergraduate and graduate student and I ended up in a profession where I steadily rose up in rank to make a very good living. Not everyone is so lucky.
This fits in better with the joblessness essay but I’ll add it here while I’m writing. One thing that helps with job matching is the rise in the last 10 or 15 years of places that offer summer internships for college students. There’s no better way to get your foot in the door and to observe a corporate culture and get a sense of whether you’re a good match for a place and they for you than by doing an internship. Without the worry of getting fired or rejected. You just apply for the internship program, get accepted if qualified, and absorb over the course of two months or so what you can about the place and how it works. You even can get a sense of whether the profession actually is one in which you want to work in a relatively low-risk setting. Some bigger employers put a lot of effort into their internship programs, going so far as to assign mentors, include teaching sessions on corporate culture, and encourage college students to think about if the place would be a good match for them. (As well as looking them over to see if the students are a good match for the employer.) It can be a win-win in that sense.



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Rod Dreher

posted February 13, 2010 at 10:45 am


Also, a friend of mine tells about a girl in her high school who had a cute tattoo of a butterfly just above her hip. Then she got pregnant. After she had the baby, the now stretched-out butterfly was a sad little smudge. That’s actually kind of poignant.



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Your Name

posted February 13, 2010 at 11:32 am


“Tattoos and piercings are, in my opinion, a sure sign of pronounced mental illness”
This of course comes from from a guy who seems to have taken on the personna of stock villian at the Renaissance Faire.



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Your Name

posted February 13, 2010 at 11:42 am


wow. four paragraphs of judgment for gauged ears and any other form of counterculturism. has it ever occurred to you that some people just like that look?
i don’t think jesus would have spent that much time telling the internet about how the kid you saw earlier today was a “freak” and how it’s his parents’ fault. maybe his parents just don’t care about such superficial issues.



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Max Schadenfreude

posted February 13, 2010 at 11:42 am


A tattoo of a dolphin at 25 may grow to look like a blue whale at 45



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Your Name

posted February 13, 2010 at 11:52 am


In light of this discussion, I thought readers would be interested in the above article about a young Japanese Olympian’s unsuitable appearance.



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bd_rucker

posted February 13, 2010 at 11:58 am


A van by the river actually sounds really good to me.



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Fake Fan Base

posted February 13, 2010 at 12:09 pm


If the world were full of people with dangly ear lobes (like the Navi, if this was their cultural style) it might just be a better place.
Who would then pass judgement? The boring suited whitch doctor types perhaps…



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Fake Fan Base

posted February 13, 2010 at 12:17 pm


Is exotic ear, nose, face pearcing more morally reprehensible than genital pearcing.
Prospective employees should steer clear of office magnets.



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Jon in the Nati

posted February 13, 2010 at 12:40 pm


“Dude, I am such a rebel. SOCIETY wants my hair to be short, my ears un-pierced, and my jeans intact, but I’m just not gonna do it because I am such a rebel. I don’t play by SOCIETY’s rules; I play by my own rules. I’m a rebel and I’ll never, ever be any good.” (cue The Crystals’ ‘He’s a Rebel’)
Grow up, people.
Rod is correct, to the extent that, if your body modification represents a true rejection of the values of American-dream, consumer society, then more power to you. You can tilt against windmills all you want, and do it in whatever way you want.
But the problem is when the bod-mod crowd does all the stuff that they do to themselves and is upset because “most” mainstream businesses don’t want to hire them. (cue Rod’s “It’s sooooo unfa-a-a-ir!”) Sorry folks; people (potential employers most of all) are going to judge you on how you look and how you take care of yourself physically. Now, if you understand that, and are cool with that, then great. But everyone has choices to make.



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Jon in the Nati

posted February 13, 2010 at 12:44 pm


And hey, folks, let’s not do the straw-man “spikes and ink are morally reprehensible” thing. I don’t think anyone is saying that (leastways, I’m not, and I would be surprised if Rod is).



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Chuck Bloom

posted February 13, 2010 at 12:56 pm


Tattoos!!!!!!!! What is up with turning your body into a doodle pad?
Don’t people/children/young folks realize that, over time, these things fade, sag, droop and just generally look like something you regret for the rest of your life??????????
When I was young, only circus freaks were THAT heavily tattooed. Disgusting!



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Your Name

posted February 13, 2010 at 1:07 pm


Fake Fan, nobody here is passing judgment on persons. We are, however, passing judgment on actions, manifested in various bod-mods. I am not suggesting that these people are less worthy, less intelligent, creative, loyal, etc. than anyone else. But I am suggesting they may find themselves less employable.
I fail to see how dangly ear lobes would make the world a better place. In no way am I suggesting that piercings – of whatever nature – are “morally reprehensible. I have no idea what a “boring suited whitch doctor” is means.



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Tom S.

posted February 13, 2010 at 2:02 pm


I am going to wait until I retire (if I ever do)in 15-20 years. Then I am going to grow what’s left of my hair long enough to tie into a ponytail, and get an earring. Anything to embarrass my kids…



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MMH

posted February 13, 2010 at 2:03 pm


Rod,
Please ask Beliefnet to vet their ads. People will stop visiting the site if it continues to include such vulgar and distracting ads as the one next to your Ruden/St. Paul post. They’re not immoral, at least not in any narrow sense, but they’re base, and wholly inappropriate for a site devoted to religious matters.
Thanks.
[Note from Rod: I'm not sure how Bnet does its ads, but my guess is that the ads are generated by a robot, which selects them mindlessly according to key words. Somebody pointed out once how silly it was that I'd written a post on the old blog highly critical of Islamic extremism, and the ad bot filled the margins with pitches for Muslim singles, etc. Bottom line is I don't think Bnet has control over which ads get put there. -- RD.]



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Max Schadenfreude

posted February 13, 2010 at 2:04 pm


It’s one thing to be physically ugly by nature, like I am. In such a case one must play the hand as dealt.
But it’s a whole other thing to go out of one’s way and spend time and money to become ugly on purpose.
The irony here is found in the postings of those shocked, SHOCKED, that people would reject choosing to defile one’s body and face because well, those postings are rather explicit that the motivation for said defilement is itself based in rejecting those of us who appreciate the societal norm of looking, ah, normal.
They scream, “How dare you judge me for rejecting what you stand for by mutilating my face?”
Childish.



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Fake Fan Base

posted February 13, 2010 at 2:27 pm


Thanks.
It’s a fact that people who look unusual are less employable. Possibly true about any minority. It’s a challenge to employers to see the whole person and their ability to do the job. Face art, if that’s what it might be call might indicate a range of artistic tendencies but if the customers don’t like it they won’t buy the product. It’s for society as a whole to celebrate diversity and see people holistically. Whether we like it or not, the debate here is driven by a sense of what is right and wrong…
Sorry – boring suited witch doctor is an attempt at a joke!



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JVS

posted February 13, 2010 at 2:51 pm


I can’t help but have my mind drawn to this quote:
“I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy s–t we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”
- Tyler Durden (Fight Club)



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Brett R.

posted February 13, 2010 at 4:55 pm


My Name,
I owe you an apology. So, I’m sorry. I only meant to make a lil’ fun of your apparent smugness, but I really didn’t, and don’t, wish any ill will on you. I realize now I came off as a bit of a**. Must have been my inner Crustacean rearing its head ;-) Glad I gave you a laugh, though.



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Alicia

posted February 13, 2010 at 5:35 pm


I don’t think most body piercings (except for earrings) look good, especially those on the face. And tattoos are painful to get, by all accounts. But, the world would be a less interesting place if people didn’t express themselves in this fashion.
It is turning the body into art, and it is perfectly appropriate for artists or musicians. As long as I don’t have to do it, it doesn’t bother me if others enjoy doing it. To each his own.
Those who are going to work in a more 9-5 profession should consider tattoos that can easily be covered up along with minimal piercings. If I were to get additional piercings (I already have conventionally pierced ears) I would probably get one additional piercing in one ear.



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M.B.

posted February 13, 2010 at 6:24 pm


Well, body modification is not a new phenomena in human history, so I find the “Kids today!” gripe a bit annoying. And several of the posters here are probably right that in the near future such modifications won’t necessarily be seen as deal-breakers when it comes to getting a job, particularly in the new-media fields that I imagine will drive our economy. A perfectly mainstream publication I worked for a few years ago hired an editor who in her earlier days had acquired a great deal of body art (enough that she actually couldn’t hide it with long sleeves and a collar–we’re talking neck and knuckles here). She was qualified and successful in her field and the tats didn’t really bother anyone.
That said, I actually must agree with Rod on some points. These tattooed and pierced hipsters all look the same to me; this isn’t individuality or self-expression, it’s the opposite! I don’t really see how it’s any different from the packs of meathead jocks with their polo-shirt collars up and their monkey-arm walk. (Except, I suppose, the tattoos are more permanent–still, both groups manage to make themselves look extremely stupid and insecure.)
I’m in my early 30′s and live in the Bay Area and see a lot of these folks around. I find it ironic that their main expression of being “counter-culture” is spending vast amounts of money on body art. Wanna make a statement about some of the nastier, more soul-destroying aspects of our capitalist, consumer culture? Then instead of spending thousands of dollars on your own vanity purchase, donate it to Glide or Creativity Explored or something, eh?



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K Williams

posted February 14, 2010 at 12:13 am


“It’s like giving your kid a food-stamp name”. . .I don’t think I would have compared “unconventional body piercings and tats to a name but the writer maybe couldn’t resist an offhanded shot regardless the setting. Many people in our culture have unusual names and have become quite successful and famous. i.e. Kobe, Shack, Diddy, Ice T, Cher, just to name a few. I personally work with several people in an office setting with the so called “food stamp names”. They are all in the younger generation and are not looked upon in any way other than their ability to do the jobs for which they were hired. It is a non-issue through out the office. The food stamp statement begs one to wonder about the writer’s heart rather than any concern for the future careers of any tat wearing pierced or unusually named person.



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MH

posted February 14, 2010 at 8:57 am


I was someone who commented on the hilarity of the ad bot misfires in the Islam threads. The ad bot needs to do more than a keyword match.
On topic the hipster with the hole in their lip above is really haunting me. When I come to this thread I look away until I know I’ve safely scrolled past the picture.



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Jon

posted February 14, 2010 at 5:27 pm


No one has really mentioned this, but is it safe to assume people do not have a problem with old-fasioned, indeed traditional, ear piercing– that is a tiny hole in the earlobe to support a classic earring (whether stud or hoop)?



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Argon

posted February 14, 2010 at 5:49 pm


Ultimately, I think Rod’s issue is one of squeamishness.



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Irena

posted February 15, 2010 at 7:38 pm


Argon,
For what reasons do you think Rod’s issue is squeamishness?



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Your Name

posted February 16, 2010 at 4:33 pm


I personally don’t like tattoos or multiple piercings, and I completely understand where Rod is coming from, but… what’s the difference between an 18-year old girl kid piercing her tongue so someone will pay attention to them and another 18 year-old girl having a boob job so someone will pay attention to her? Is undergoing surgery (during which you could die) more “normal” than getting a tattoo simply becuase they could be natural? Because mutilating yourself for large breasts that are more natural looking than a tattoo, etc is OK? Will all of you who refuse to hire someone with a nose piercing also ask each female applicant over 40 if she has injected poison, aka Botox Cosmetic into her brow in order to look younger? And will you show her the door if she has?



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zac

posted February 23, 2010 at 5:50 am


Having stretched earlobes definitely does not affect whether you will be poor or rich in the way you are saying it does. “leading a successful life” is relative, once you leave the kitty pool of thinking and venture farther into the depths of your mind you will ultimately see the path of life elementary>>high school>>college>>graduate school>>internship>>job>>success is more about the process than the result once you reach this so called “success” you seem so desperate to get to you will find its not so much different than the rest of your life. basically using a analogy of comparing your life to a song, stretched lobes can make your song more interesting and fulfilling than just worrying about those end notes so much.



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Joe

posted February 23, 2010 at 11:42 pm


The way one looks has much to do with social sucsess.
It may not be fair, but its biology. Half my life I have run a business while looking like a “hippy”. When I cut my hair and started dressing better my work load doubled. I find that because I am white young innocent good looking guy, I get more work compared to my competitors who look like ex-felons most of the time. I find customers who have never met me trust me more simply because I look ” normal”
My wife is uneducated but good looking..people cut her breaks ALL THE TIME, even the cops. Woman who are fat or ugly, even if more qualified, will not get the frequency of opportunities than a female with sex appeal and social skills.
Its not fair, but its Natural and even biological.



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Thom Douglas

posted March 4, 2010 at 12:57 pm


“But resign yourself to being able to work only in a certain kind of job.”
Why does it have to be “resign”? Maybe they WANT to work in a certain field that won’t criminalise having a body modification (or several)?
I’m a religious man, too, but your take on this just perpetuates the stereotype that we’re staunch, close-minded bigots.



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tom

posted March 10, 2010 at 7:58 pm


stretched ear lobes can be repaired back to normal by plastic surgeons and sewn shut for around 1000-2000$ if “needed”. a small price to pay if you really enjoy them and the process. If you aren’t willing to pay a few grand for them you don’t have any business having them in the first place.



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Alicia J

posted March 24, 2010 at 5:45 am


“way to go, Dad, letting your kid turn himself into a freak.”
You do not know that kid, or the father to be judging them like that. Calling someone a freak just because of a body modification THEY like and obviously THEY think is appealing, is ridiculous. I’m sure anyone who has extreme modifications have thought about the job process at some point in their decision. A lot of people with those mods already have an idea of what their career path will be. 9 times out of 10 it is probably an art related field where expressing yourself visually/physically is ALLOWED and not judged. I have a modification which I can easily hide while I work my secretarial position. I plan to get more when I am established with my career in photography. Call me a freak. But I’ll always beg to differ. I know who I am. And You do not. Just like that kid knows who he is. Why is it that people like us, don’t judge people like YOU. But we get judged on a daily basis. Body mods are becoming a thing of the present. What are you going to do when everywhere you turn you see one? Oh and about your comment of coming of middle age with body mods. Not everyone is worried about physical appearance like you obviously are. If they are happy with themselves now and not afraid to express themselves via physical appearance, then I’m sure in thirty years or so they will still be happy with themselves. At least they will be able to say they experienced stuff and did stuff they wanted to in their young adult years. People like you need to not be so close minded and so quick to judge. It takes all types of people to make the world go round. And that kid you judge off the fly may have been one of the most intelligent people you ever met. But you wouldn’t of known that. Shame really.



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betterthanyou

posted April 3, 2010 at 2:19 am


Goodness. Whatever happened to “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.”? I just wanted to say that at twenty-one years old, I became the store manager of a particular shoe store.
When I first started working for the company, males were NOT allowed to have earings and tattoos had to be covered. I am now twenty three and have my earlobes stretched to 3/4ths and a huge tattoo of Elvis on my arm. I have never been to jail, never consumed alcohol, tobacco, or any other recreational drug. I am a big part of my church, and my mom keeps begging me to go into some sort of ministry. I love my job, and I especially love the attention when all the corporate big wigs tell me how well I’m doing over the majority of the other stores in the area. It’s not how you look, it’s how you perform.
I deal with ignorant, closed minded, unhappy old farts who are in deep regret of not living their lives for themselves, but for others, on a daily basis. I am the happiest moment of my life now. I wouldn’t change a thing.
The only difference between the tattooed/pierced society and those who aren’t, is the simple fact that we could care less if you are or not.
Just a thought… That kid may end up saving your life one day….



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Mackenzie!

posted April 12, 2010 at 10:56 pm


Ummm excuse me?! Have you noticed that the piercings are becoming more and more popular! So there for WE WONT LOOK STUPID!! It will be very very normal, you older people are the ones that piss me off, you act like its sooo bad to get them, they CLOSE UP when you want them too, and once they are healed, you can easily take them out for ONCE YOU GO TO A JOB INTERVIEW and when you go to work, you take them out simple as that. OKAY? That’s what i do, and i dont see no harm in showing a way to express yourself! Okay thanks!



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DB

posted April 7, 2011 at 5:06 pm


Right,
i’m actually 16. And although this post is really old and out-dated now. It’s annoyed me so much.
Stretching your earlobe. Is NOT permanent.
Whether the earlobe will shrink or not depends on different people/ how well they were stretched/ how well they are looked after.
I have an 18mm hole in my left earlobe. If i felt like it, i could take this out and it would be down to a 10mm hole in about 2 to 3 weeks?
Because i took care of my ears doing it.
Not going to lie, the Rod Dreher guy who posted this, you have no idea. do you have stretched earlobes? didn’t think so. So what do you ACTUALLY know about them.
I already have a current weekend job, considering my ears are stretched, that i’m still in school and education…
My employers aren’t bothered by my ears at all.
Besides, if an employer wants you to remove your jewellery, you simply take out your tunnel/taper, and leave your ear?
If your ear is huge, for example an 80mm, you can remove your jewellery and have your ear stitched back?
They are no major problem, they are becoming increasingly popular so more employers will NEED to employ people with them.
I happen to know people with 40/50mm lobes in decent jobs.

And i noticed, you called the kid a “freak”?
Did you have the balls to say that to that mans face?
No. You probably didn’t. Your one of those people that judges others for how they look. With the educational grades i’m getting, and the A levels and further education i’m going to take/have, i could easily get a decently paid job. If the employers don’t like my ears, and don’t employ me it’s their loss isn’t it? They loose good candidates for their jobs because of a hole in their earlobe.

To be quite honest, i think your hole argument against stretched ears is invalid and rather pathetic, your calling a kid a freak, for something he wants to do. If your life consists of ripping young adults/teenagers for having holes in their ears then i’d consider finding a new lifestyle. You look like more of a child in this thread.



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the guy who thinks that ur an idiot

posted July 26, 2011 at 11:47 pm


ur a fucking idiot for judging other people you can go fuck yourself



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Collective Conscience

posted August 3, 2011 at 11:31 pm


The concept most of you don’t seem to understand is that most of these “kids” you’re speaking of, know -without a doubt- what they’re doing and the consequences of their actions as it pertains to their future, which as much as you’d like to disagree is COMPLETELY shifting towards a collective conscience void of judgment of ones “jewelry”. I don’t think you can fathom the amount of doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS, Emt’s, small business owners, etc etc (as the list goes on and on…and on) I -personally- know that have a plethora of body mods (yes, body mods includes tattoos). Times change, as do the people that have a grasp on what is acceptable in society. You may think that today’s “children” have it all twisted but it’s not the children. It’s the age group of 30-60 these days that are more acceptable TO these changes and are allowing such a beautiful, full steam ahead change of society acceptance. The times are a changin’. And so are our voices. We will be heard, we will not be ignored and we will most certain not die, not yet at least. Enjoy being the last of a dying breed. We know our place. And it’s here, now.



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allison

posted August 24, 2011 at 10:17 pm


fuck you and society i do what i want and for myself as art an expression not acceptance from other “freaks” or as i much prefer not prick or scared to be themselves individuals



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Holly

posted May 26, 2012 at 9:29 am


Add tattooing into that mix – most are just horrid and very difficult to cover up for a professional appearance. AND they are permanent, unless you pay for very expensive removal, which is as painful as getting the tattoo!



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Joe

posted July 3, 2012 at 8:09 pm


ever considered the fact that some people do not aim for high, well paid jobs? and that money is not the source of all happiness. there are many different lifestyles to choose, and fitting in with the ‘generic’ suit and tie crowd and having a one sided opinion is your choice. as is discrimination amongst others.

here’s a thought, maybe one of these ‘freaky’ people may offer a generous kind hearted gesture in the near future and maybe you will see that how someone expresses their appearence is totally different to the person they are within…



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karma

posted August 1, 2012 at 1:42 am


Rod, Dave… we wont change.
Stop hating.



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Preston Abbott

posted February 12, 2013 at 1:48 am


I don’t feel as though you have enough perspective on the matter. Another thing, when you made the statement, “Way to go, Dad, letting your kid turn himself into a freak”, you bring into question the effectiveness of the father’s upbringing as if there are some moral bindings that come into play when letting your child modify their own body in a way they see fit. We’re all entitled to our own opinions here, but I find it somewhat hypocritical and condescending of you to label another human being as a freak. You’re not a very wholesome individual after all, eh? Other than that, well worded, well written article. I appreciate that you were at least articulate about presenting your opinions.



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Allison

posted June 12, 2013 at 8:55 pm


This article is hundreds of times more horrifying than that kid’s earlobes. I take it you are not very well informed about body modifications, well, let me tell you a little something. Stretched ears are not permanent. If they are no longer desired, they can be downsized or fixed with a simple surgery. More professional jobs are willing to employ a modified person.



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Zoey

posted July 26, 2013 at 7:56 pm


I wanted to say that you are wrong. People like you are fewer and fewer. When the “freaky” kid gets out of college it is likely that when he goes to look for a job those doing the hiring will be looking much like him. It is no longer a fad. I have piercings, tattoos and stretched ears. Both of my sons have thier ears pierced (the older one has them stretched). Almost everyone I see has body piercings and tattoos, even the old men. Get with the times- it won’t be long before you are branded the “wierdo”.



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