Piercing the mainstream

Mackenzie Bush

Over the weekend, a friend and I went into the Allendale Screaming Needle parlor and got piercings. I now have a stud in my nose, a tiny surgical steel thing. It was really spur of the moment, but we had a great piercer, and I’m glad that I did it. (But in case you were wondering, even though it barely hurts, your eyes will water like crazy and you’ll have a needle hanging out of your nose for a couple of minutes, so you’ll look a little ridiculous.)

After I got my nose pierced, I was expecting some pushback, or at least some comments. I thought my parents would freak out, but they just asked me how much it cost and how I was planning to blow my nose. When I saw some friends on the fourth, it took them a couple of hours to notice that I’d even gotten it done.

And when I went into my waitressing job today, none of my coworkers (much less any of my managers) even noticed it, or at least they didn’t say anything to me about it. And I wondered if there was a chance it might lower my tips or that older clientele wouldn’t approve, but I had my highest tip day yet. Of course, it’s too soon to make any definitive assessments, and my piercing is pretty minor, but it seems like piercings don’t have much impact on job performance, even in settings where what a customer thinks of you is the main component to your success.

I’ve always thought it went too far to forbid any holes in your face or unnatural colors in your hair in a workplace, especially one where you’ll just be operating a cash register or waiting tables. It doesn’t seem right for an employer to be able to dictate an employee’s permanent appearance. I’ve seen enough to know that it’s hard to find quality employees who won’t eventually stop showing up to shifts or make everyone’s lives miserable, and it seems limiting to not consider a certain aesthetic of people.

But I’ve started to notice more people with more alternative looks working behind counters, and I’m wondering if, as a society, we’re moving away from the stigmatization of piercings and tattoos.

At my past two jobs, several of my managers have had arm sleeves. At this one, there are a few girls with nose rings, and one who has huge gauges and her tongue split, and I haven’t heard a word about it. Maybe there are simply more tattooed and pierced individuals in management now, or enough young people are getting them that it’s made it difficult to condemn them altogether.

Although I don’t think we’re quite there yet, I think our society is changing its views of professionalism, defining it as behavior and attitude rather than an appearance. Of course, it will never be okay to walk into a job interview in jeans, but maybe in a few years, a lip piercing or some pink highlights won’t be a dealbreaker.   

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