Kink in exile

Notes from a kinky nomad

Identity and belonging

A little more than a year ago, I was sitting in a beer garden with some friends, a couple of people I was dating at the time, and maybe even some new kids I didn’t know well, and we were talking about, academically, marginalized youth.  Actually we were talking about traveler kids, punks, and different ways of being poor or in poverty.  And what it meant to be “in” with an out group.

Someone mentioned facial tattoos.  In the early days of punk rock, when things were more radical, and probably still today for people who are much more radical than I will ever hope to be, a facial tattoo was a way of affirming one’s commitment to the edge.  You have not only opted out of the status quo, but you have effectively shut the door on ever being able to access it again.  This made sense.  In fact, I had always wanted a facial piercing, but hadn’t gotten one because I had also wanted a job.

The day after that though, I was in the bathroom, looking in the mirror, and I realized I had reached a point in my career where no one will ever question my competence or right to be there based on a facial piercing.  So I got my eyebrow pierced.  I joked that it was my job security piercing and I adored the cross-signals it was sending.

Unfortunately, today I had it checked out, and sure enough it is growing out.  Eyebrows are surface piercings so this is not entirely unexpected.  I can re-pierce it after a few months if I’d like, but before I leave the west coast – and my piercer – I have to get it removed.  I’ll miss my little symbol of not-belonging.  For both reasons actually: as a celebration of my career and as visible deviance.  For now I’m thinking about what role this little bit of surgical steel plays in my identity.

I’m also thinking about what it might feel like to be so sure of a thing, so passionate and committed to it, so as to close the door on all the comforts and privileges of a past life.

Written by kinkinexile

December 8, 2013 at 11:45 pm

One Response

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  1. I look pretty conventional, but am pretty unconventional inside, and so I’ve always had this internal conflict about external markers of deviance. On one hand, I have always felt fairly insecure about everything – my job, my status, my financial position…and so I have an urge to pass as mainstream for the added protection it offers. I also don’t think I should “have” to get a piercing to be able to be seen and acknowledged as part of an alternative culture – in the same way that I don’t think I should “have” to buy the fancy shoes or cute purse to be seen as acceptably dressed. On the other hand, an external marker of deviance would be accurate, and advertise my internal identity and therefore can be seen as more authentic than the conventional appearance that I have now. And sure, maybe in an ideal world people would see me instead of the symbols of my appearance, but we don’t live there and we never will, because symbols are important to humans. So I might as well use them to get what I want out of it.

    In my mind, there is a clear distinction between “who I am”, which is not at all tied to appearance, and “how I present”, which is all about appearance. So “how I present” is a choice that I have to make every day, when I sort of would rather not have to think about it and just have people interact with the “who I am”. It’s sort of like, am I performing mainstream, or performing deviance, or performing something else? None of it actually feels authentic – it all feels like branding and performance to me. And I guess I just haven’t found a group identity that I feel so engaged and passionate about that I want to jump in and brand myself as that.


    December 10, 2013 at 7:06 pm

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