This is from 2009. I think I could make a series of "the more things change, the more they stay the same," because I still feel the same way about piercings, tattoos, and underwear. I still don't know where to look. But I still maintain none of those things are sufficient criteria by which to judge a person.
I don’t mind piercings. I don’t love them, by any means — I nearly fainted the first time I got one. That was the first ear with a darning needle and then I had to go ahead and have the other one done. Then they were crooked and I let them grow back, vowing never to do it again. But I did, and then one more time just because I wanted to wear two sets of earrings. I’d like to do the cartilage thing, too, up in the top of one ear, but I’m too big of a chicken, so that’s not going to happen.
I don’t mind tattoos, either. Some of them are beautiful and meaningful to their wearers. I’d even kind of like to have a little shamrock tattooed somewhere not obvious, but in addition to being a big chicken, I’m also a cheapskate. I’d rather spend the money required for a tattoo on something else. Probably earrings. Maybe purses. Or shoes.
Now that I think about it, there are a whole host of things I don’t mind. Drooping pants with
boxers and body parts peering out. Skin tight pants with body parts squeezing out. Skimpy tops with body parts hanging out — although I must confess to jealousy here; I’d give my whole earring collection to have the kind of body that looks good in those tops.
It doesn’t bother me that people wear pajamas in public. Truth is, the pjs seldom expose any body parts and they’re really comfortable. They’re often color coordinated with a hooded sweatshirt and a stocking cap and gloves. I don’t have a problem with chains. You know, the ones looping from people’s pockets that are attached to ... something. Of course, whenever I see them, usually on a guy in a close-fitting black cap, I spend the next hour singing, “Ch-ch-chain ...” This would be all right, except that I don’t know the rest of the words, so I just say, “Ch-ch-chain ...” over and over again.
I don’t mind comb-overs. As someone who has had recalcitrant hair for ... oh, lots of years, I understand that you do what you have to do. Every now and then, though, the wind will catch hold of a comb-over and suddenly you have a nearly-bald man with hair standing a foot or so straight in the air on one side of his head, starting from a part that’s right over his ear.
Which brings me to my problem.
I don’t know where to look.
When dealing with people, there’s little that’s more important than eye contact. It once took me months to go back to a fast food restaurant because the cashier who took orders took mine without once looking at me, much less saying Please, Thank you, or Have a nice day. But you can’t maintain a mutual gaze all the time. You have to look at something else.
If a person doesn’t have facial piercings, you can look at his or her face. You can notice if you like her makeup or if he should have shaved and you can ask if they have any weekend plans. But if there are little gold rings in their eyebrows, nostrils, and upper lips, you catch yourself staring in a heartbeat. Same goes for tattoos of teardrops slipping down cheeks. Your query about weekend plans comes out something like, “So, are you backing the Cardinals in the Super Tattoo?”
If hair is just, you know, hair, you can think, “Oops, roots,” and go on about your business, but if the comb-over is misplaced, you absolutely cannot tear your eyes away. Your fingers itch to just give a little flip of that chunk standing Alfalfa-like where the wind left it.
Drooping clothes give you parenting urges, even if you no longer clock in daily as a mom. You want to offer a belt, a cover-up hoodie, sweats to wear over the sprayed-on jeans. You want to say, “Just get up?”
Chains make you think in stereotypes. Gangs? Truck drivers who thunder past you on icy highways and scare the snot out of you? Even worse, in my case, is that they make me sing and gaze vaguely at anything except the serpentine length of metal looping from a pocket to...something.
However, I think I may have something figured out. And I owe it all to the name tag I wear at work.
The name tag is so that people will know what they can call me aside from “hey!” or, even worse, “hey, lady!” It’s information, and if I didn’t want to share that information, I wouldn’t wear the tag. (This is assuming I wasn’t required to wear the tag, and I’m not even going there.) I think this means it’s okay to look at facial piercings, obvious tattoos, attention-calling clothes, and chains.
What isn’t okay is to look at all those things and forget to see the person behind them. Just as there is a whole lot more to me than a chintzy plastic name tag, there’s more to everyone than what meets — and calls to — the eye.