Yesterday I encountered a situation that I find all too familiar on a personal and professional level. I thought I might share the story because I'm sure I'm not the only person who can relate.
It actually started 4 days ago when a young college student came in to get the right side of her lip pierced. She was twenty years old and had just finished her final exams for the semester. She informed me she had been planning the piercing for some time now and she was buying this piercing for herself to celebrate the semester ending. She was quiet, polite and friendly. Their were numerous piercings on her ears and a piercing through her left eyebrow. She wore all black clothing and a leather cap. As she got rung up I walked back to my station to set up for her. Everything went very quick and smooth with her piercing. She looked very excited upon looking in the mirror and told me she liked it very much. I explained the after care and sent her on her way.
Yesterday, she came back to the shop looking uneasy. Following her was a young man who I later found out was her boy friend. It was busy when she came in. She fidgeted and was unable to stand still as she waited for her turn. When I finally was able to speak with her I asked her how she and her piercing were doing. She said nothing at first so I asked her how I could help her. Immediately she began to tear up and asked me if she could have a refund if she didn't want the piercing anymore. I told her our shop policy was not to give refunds, especially if their was nothing wrong with the piercing. With her boyfriend right behind her I ask if she really wants to take the piercing out. She looks at me in the eyes with tears streaming down her face and shakes her head. Right away I knew the situation in my head. I was taken back to my first years of high school. I had started piercing myself pretty frequently and had proudly pierced my own septum. My very first real boyfriend and love of my life at the time told me the piercing looked disgusting and I, of course, took it out right away. This happened 2 more times until I finally kept it. First, I ask if she wants to go back to my station and talk to me about the situation in private. She sort of mumbled an unsure reply. I look at the young woman and tell her that I would be in the shop all day and perhaps she would like to walk around for a little bit and think about it some more. She tells me "no" and that it has to come out. I tell her that I have a piercing to do first but then I will help her take the jewelry out. When I return from doing the piercing I see her boyfriend nudging her out the door and I assume she changed her mind.
A little while later she comes back by herself telling me she must take the piercing out, and so I lead her back to my station. When we get in the room she keeps her backpack on and does not sit down on the massage table. I ask her if she is absolutely sure she wants the piercing out and she replies "No, not at all". I ask her if her job or parents are forcing her to remove the piercing.She shakes her head and begins to tell me that her Korean boy friend and his family do not approve. Again, she begins tearing up and tells me she loves the piercing and does not want to get rid of it. I knew exactly what she was feeling. I hand her a paper towel and tell her that if the piercing is this important to her she should do what she wants and keep it. She explained if she keeps the lip piercing it will ruin her relationship. I had been in this exact situation with at least 4 boy friends in the past. This was making me sad. I understood that intense wanting to make your significant other happy. The dilemma was confusing for her and irritating for me to watch because I knew that in the end I had always regretted not going with my gut and taking control of my own body. I felt like consoling her and comforting her but I did not want to butt into a customers personal life. I wanted to keep the situation professional but at the same time it was so hard for me to contain myself because I felt so empathetic. I wanted her to stop crying, so I tried to soften the awkward situation by telling her about an ex boyfriend(different one) of mine who was disgusted at the thought of me getting my nipples tattooed; something I had wanted to do for some time. I stalled the tattoos to try and salvage the relationship, but of course it ended up crumbling. As soon as we broke up I ended up getting the tattoos and have been ecstatic about them ever since. I told her that while I could not tell her what to do, in my personal experience I felt too much resentment towards the man I was with to make the relationship work. I could see in her face she knew I was right.
We talked for about 15-20 minutes until I recommend something I wouldn't normally do this to a 3 days old piercing. I suggest a sterilized quartz retainer, and that while she would have to be extra gentle with the piercing(the retainers fall out easier) that she may be able to have her cake and eat it too. She goes back outside to ask her boyfriends permission and she comes back in with her. I get out the appropriate retainer and put it in her lip piercing for her, all while her boyfriend stands close by her. The jewelry transfer went smoothly. Her piercing had hardly swelled. Her boy friend keeps telling her the entire time we are in my room that the retainer wont work and his parents will still notice the piercing. The woman kept looking at me so I tried to reassure her that it was worth a try and that she could easily remove the retainer herself if she changed her mind. She left looking slightly hopeful, but I have not heard from her since.
I feel for women who constantly alter/keep from altering their bodies just to please a significant other. At a point in my life where I am finally comfortable in my skin and I am in love with my job and the fact tat I am fortunate enough to be able to look however I want, I just want to help other people feel as confident as I do.