The Great Rural Social Experiment: Part 1

I have just returned back to my little hometown after spending a weekend in the “big city” of Minneapolis at the Villain Arts Minneapolis Tattoo Convention.


Last year, my boyfriend and I went, and I got a tattoo of a pretty snowflake on my shoulder. When I returned home to the small, conservative, religious town, only those who asked to see my new tattoo could see it. i.e. it was not visible to the naked eye. Most of my 10 tattoos are fairly hidden, so I haven’t had any major issues with my body modifications, especially from an employer.


This year, I decided to go another route. I decided to get my septum pierced. This was my first piercing besides my ears, ever. I’ll get to the experience itself, but more importantly, I’m here to discuss the interesting responses I’ve received from my friends and family so far.


Immediately afterwards, my beloved partner said it looked beautiful. Even his mom was fully supportive and asked me questions and talked about it. She, so far, has been the only adult who has shown any decent sign of supporting my choice to modify my body as I choose. I am so thankful for her for that. Once posting onto my Snapchat and Instagram, I had an outpouring of support from my friends (who are all mostly “Millennials”. They love it, as do I, and the way it looks. It’s cute. It’s hardly noticeable. And most importantly, it was what I wanted to do. However, my cousin, who has supported my tattoo habit since she was there for the first one when I was 18, was grossed out. She said she could never do that, and I can see that from her.


“Balls in your face” were her exact words, talking about the metal spheres that hang from the ring in my nose. I found it hilarious.
As I began my drive from the cities back down to my tiny little conservative town, my mind began to realize that I would be having much different conversations with the folks in my town regarding my new facial hardware. The people I see on a daily basis are not Millennials, and most don’t understand the sociological and psychological rationale behind body modifications. That’s fine, it’s their choice not to want to learn about it.
My job is not necessarily in a back store room, or a night shift, or working from home. I work in broad daylight, speaking to many people, mostly with older folks who were born and raised in this area, and this area has a history of conservative and religious views that most of my generation does not reflect.


My first victims of my little social experiment were my parents.
When I got home, it was close to 10 p.m. and I heard my mom say from her closed bedroom, “Hello?” when I got in the door. I said hi back and went to go say goodnight to her. I hid my nose from her until the great reveal.
“Ohhhhh boy,” was her response. She then asked questions like if it hurt and how long it takes to heal and the like. She wasn’t excited about it (nor did I expect her to be in any sense.) What I didn’t expect was to see my dad come in as well and wish my mom a goodnight.


“Look at your daughter’s face.” Wow. Thanks, Mom. You know, as a woman who grew up in a strong Catholic family in southern Minnesota, I should expect nothing less of her to deny her genealogical ties to me. I am always surprised, however, at how she is able to point the faults in others while holding an unobtainable standard of herself. She can’t even hold her own standard. She still smokes in the house for her Christ’s sake.


“Oh geez,” was Dad’s slow and almost guteral response. “Well, I suppose this was how my mom reacted when I came home with my ear pierced.” Dad grew up in the height of the hippie movement in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He had got one ear pierced (and it still can hold an earring), and I guess Grandma Mullaly wasn’t too pleased over his decision either. He’s got a ton of stories that are even worse than an earring. Dad made me feel the most comforted when I came home. Sure he was slightly disapproving, but he put his humanity at the forefront and chose not to judge me any farther than he can throw me.


But, the feeling I got from my parents were kind of a “well, there’s nothing I can do about it, and I’m gonna love you anyway” vibe; which is what I expected. And exactly what I needed.
Some kids come home with tattoos, piercings, or other cultural or social “abnormalities” and get kicked out. I’m 31 and they still haven’t kicked me out. (lolol can’t afford housing on my own, lollolol.)


Going upstairs to my room, I unpacked my weekend bag, got my tools ready for cleaning my new piercing, and did the routine. I got into my pajamas and laid in my bed, dreading the discussion at work tomorrow.
Maybe I should’ve thought this through. Maybe I should’ve checked my employment policy. Maybe this. Maybe that. What’s my backup plan? Where can I find work in town if I do get fired?

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