A few thoughts on piercing and the workplace

I am, as they say, lightly modified. This is to say that there are objects on and in my body which I was not born with, and most of them were intentionally introduced for personal reasons too complex to delve into here. I am in an odd position, though. I don’t have enough modification to work in a tattoo parlor or hipster store, yet I have just enough to give conventional employers pause.

For this reason, when interviewing for jobs, I remove my facial piercing which is the most visible and potentially offensive piercing I have. After securing a job and going through probation, I find out if it’s ok to wear in the workplace. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t, and that’s ok. I respect the needs of my employers. For me, it is a piece of jewelry which can be removed, although it’s somewhat more time consuming than changing earrings.

Yet, I notice something interesting.

For some reason, people seem to think I give excellent customer service. In every job I’ve had, people have talked to the manager about my exemplary service, and my tendency to go above and beyond the basic requirements of my job to keep people happy. I’m really not trying to boast here, that’s just how I am. Tonight, for example, a woman almost cried when I told her that if I found her earring, I would make sure it got mailed back to her. To my mind, this is what customer service is. Customers and clients should be happy with their experiences in my workplace. They should want to come again. They should remember me as a cheerful, helpful, and wonderful person, not as a surly clerk who discoloured their experience. Indeed, at a previous job, I had a loyal client base of older Jewish ladies who would always ask if “the sweet girl with the thing in her face” was available–and if I wasn’t, they would leave.

Tonight as I was working, it occurred to me that I often work extra hard when I leave my facial piercing in at work to please customers. I’m not sure if this is because I’ve hated the few jobs where I was forced to take it out, or if it’s part of some inner desire to put my best foot forward as a member of the modified community. It is important to me that people not make judgments about others based on something as trivial as personal decoration. I work with a lot of wealthy people, I work with a lot of judgmental yuppies, and I work with a lot of people who are just plain assholes. I have yet to receive a single customer complaint. Sometimes my first interface with customers is a little stilted, and I believe that this is because they are perhaps put off by my appearance. This saddens but does not surprise me. However, I’ve had many more very positive interactions with customers, even those bold enough to ask about it, and that makes me happy. I want someone to see a modified person and think “oh, look, another human.” I want someone to walk into a business with modified employees and think “hooray, a wonderful person who will assist me with what I need today.” I understand that sometimes we seem scary, and that’s ok. We might pleasantly surprise you by being willing or even eager to talk about our modifications with you, because we, like you, want to be comfortable wherever we go. Sometimes we fear the unknown, and that’s alright, but take the opportunity to make the unknown a part of your life.

Try it. The next time you interact with a modified person in a workplace, say “that’s a really lovely labret you have in,” or “I am really impressed with the gauge you have your ears stretched to,” or “who did your tattoo, it’s superb” Research. Learn. And through knowledge, perhaps we won’t seem so scary to you–maybe we’ll just seem like ordinary people who want to make your day positive and excellent wherever you are. While I realize that complete acceptance of the modified is a day far, far away, I do what I can to bring it closer.

[body modification]