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Janis Ian Advocate Cover

Holier Than Thou

Originally published in The Advocate
Issue #7433, April 1997

Maybe I'll get something pierced, I thought, idly staring out my motel window at the sign across the street. I was three weeks and eighteen cities into my spring tour, and this was only my second day off. My spouse was in the middle of a law school term paper and unavailable except in an emergency.

Would a piercing constitute a crisis? I wondered. Maybe I could commandeer her full attention for the first time this semester. It was worth a try.

The sign had caught my eye when we checked in last night. Body Piercing, it proudly proclaimed. Walk-Ins Welcome. Stuck in a strange city, the rest of my gang probably still asleep, the blinking neon promised mystery and romance on a slow afternoon.

I headed out the door, wondering if someone like me with no prior experience could just waltz in off the street and get a sharp object inserted in her flesh without signing a waiver. Or at least taking an eye exam.

"So do you take crawl-ins?" I asked the blonde behind the counter, in a vain attempt to establish a relationship.

"Yeh, and fainters, bleeders, chokers. About the only thing we don't take is people who enjoy it too much."
Did that mean some people came just for the pain, time after time? Was every thirteenth piercing free? What were chokers? I was out of my depth.

"Mind if I look around?" I asked.

"It's a free country" she replied, returning to her welding bench. I casually stared as she held a blowtorch against what looked like a giant chip clip. Why are there packages of surgical gloves everywhere? I walked over to an earring rack and lifted a hoop to my ear. She looked up.

"It doesn't go there. It goes lower." Trying to be helpful, no doubt. My belly button tightened reflexively as I realized what she meant -- thank God it was concealed by my pants and shirt. I had a sudden vision of being kidnapped by a gang of piercers, and trying to convince them I'd been born without a navel.

I stared at the price list on the wall. Ears $29 Tongue $60 Nipples $50 – holiday special, two for $90! Genitals $75 up.

"Do the two nipples have to be on the same person?" I asked. She smiled. Good, we were developing a rapport, perhaps her studded choke collar wouldn't end up wrapped around my throat.

"You ought to try it," she said. Gee, thanks for asking, but I'm not big on pain. "It doesn't hurt." Oh no, she was reading my mind. Possibly the large amounts of metal thrust through her flesh acted as conductors, picking up stray thoughts. I would be on my guard.

"Look," she thrust her tongue out at me, "thith wath painleth".

Yikes! God only knows what she did to her other lips. And what if the person making love to her had braces, could they interlock? Pat's wearing braces for another year, we could cause serious damage. How would you explain that to the paramedics?

She grinned at me. "Want to try it?"

Try what? Kissing? What if I inhaled too hard while that tongue was in my mouth? A punctured lung at least, the stud detaching during our frenzied love-making and flying down my esophagus...

Hold on, she's not even your girlfriend. Phew. Reality finally checked in. What a relief. Weak-kneed, I sat and waited while she fit the tongue back behind her teeth. Poor thing, she probably had all those holes put in her body to get attention -- a deprived childhood, no doubt. It couldn't hurt me to be polite.

"Um, thank you but I have other plans for that part of my anatomy today."

She started to undo the collar. "It only hurts when they clamp it -- then it numbs right up."

I winced and thought, You can't fool me, that clamp I saw you soldering was the size of a beartrap. She laughed, enjoying my discomfort.

"I bet you have a cute thing. Want me to show you some labial rings?"

Labial rings? What were those. Oh. Events were definitely moving too fast. "That's a little personal, don't you think?" I mumbled, staring at the large needle jutting out of her wrist. At what point does acupuncture become piercing? I thought wildly. When you can fit a cap on both sides of the needle.

She was still moving toward me.

"Why are genitals $75 and up?" I asked, stalling for time.

"Enjoyment costs extra – there are pleasure nerves in the clitoris, you know," she smirked.

No shit. Just not when I've got a 3 pound weight attached. I began sidling toward the door, feeling like a character in an Ed Wood movie. Any moment now, I'd trip over a convenient root and fall helpless to the ground, while she and her gang devoured my flesh and danced on my bones. I began to panic in earnest now, babbling questions like "How do you blow your nose with all those rings in it? Can you still wear bikini panties? Maybe we should be introduced before you thrust anything alien into my flesh?" and the stalwart Southern fallback, "Who are your people?"

Finally reaching the exit, I flew across the street and up the motel stairs two-at-a-time until I reached the safety of my room, where I checked the shower and under the bed before calling my manager and asking him to cancel all remaining days off.

Or as Mr. Lesbian says, "Don't screw around with your bellybutton, your butt'll fall off." And that about sums it up.

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