5 Historical Body Modifications Claire’s Refuses to Do on Me
In the 1990s and early aughts, if a child or young adult decided they’d like to have their ears pierced, we all knew where they were headed: Claire’s. Off to the mall you went, with a parent or sympathetic unrelated 18-year-old ready to sign a form giving another teen carte blanche with your earlobes. Food court Mr. Pibb clutched tightly in hand, with the snap of a plastic press, you joined an aesthetic tradition almost as old as civilization itself.
Body modification has been around for millennia, and it extends far beyond cheap butterfly studs. That, unfortunately, seems to be where the lily-livered Claire’s employees draw the line, despite my repeated requests and bribes. I’ve tried to explain to them that all these stylistic skeleton adjustments are part of our species' proud history. Still, they rebuff me, report me to their managers, and take Polaroids of me to include in their employee training.
To that end, here are five historical body modifications the cowards at Claire’s refuse to do on me…
Look, you’ve already buttered your bread by punching holes in prepubescent skin. So, please carefully and calmly explain to me why my requests for scarification go unfulfilled. Is running a thin needle through an earlobe so different from peeling back patterned swaths of skin from my back and then irritating said wound to produce raised scars?
Your weak, modern stomach may find it less appealing than a tattoo, but it’s time to get over it. The practice of scarification, creating intentionally raised scars on the skin, has been recorded all the way back to the year 2000 B.C., and existed in many cultures, especially in Africa. I’d like to see you tell the Maori people of New Zealand that they’re “being weird” and “are spilling curly fries everywhere!”
Ah, bones, the sticks of the body. None longer than the spine, a feature of our skeleton meant to keep our neck and asshole aligned. Also a body part that is often associated with swan-like grace, something I’m severely lacking. A problem I thought would be answered when I arrived at my local Claire’s with a series of metal rings and a picture of Geoffrey the Giraffe from the shuttered Toys ’R’ Us next door for inspiration.
Now, I have to be honest here: I realize that the “rings” used to stretch necks in the pasts were actually increasingly longer coils. The origin of the coils is debated, with tales saying it was meant to defend the neck from tiger attacks or to make women less attractive to neighboring villages. You might also say, “Well, actually, the neck isn’t made longer, the collarbone and ribs are compressed” and I’ll accept that. None of this changes the fact that I want to look like a goose and the spineless (no pun intended) Claire’s employees won’t even give me a ballpark price on that.
As a bald man, I am infinitely more aware of the exact shape of my skull than most. Staring at that horrid thing at a minimum of twice a day in the mirror has made me realize one thing: BORING! I’ve had enough of my top being a circle, by far the most goody-two-shoes of all shapes. “I have no corners, and I’m exactly as tall as I am wide!” Shut up, nerd!
Luckily, I’m not the only one to reject the hegemony of round-headed culture in search of more interesting head shapes. Cultures across the world, from Africa to France, have practiced what scientists call “artificial cranial deformation,” encouraging the lengthening and shaping of human skulls by restricting their growth and encouraging deformation with constricting devices. The very same sort of device that I watched a mall security guard smash to pieces and throw in a clown-shaped trashcan right in front of me in response to yet another “Code Eli” called in by Nicole, the meanest Claire’s employee I have ever met.
I’m an empathetic man. I’m not going to sit here and devalue centuries of torturous pain enacted on Chinese women in search of beauty standards. It’s unlikely that the young Chinese girls put through this process were doing so of their own accord, and it left them debilitated for the rest of their life. For those reasons, I’m glad that it was outlawed in the mid-1900s, and it should remain that way — for them.
Me, on the other hand? It’s my body, and if I would like to pursue the peak, 3-inch foot known as the “golden lotus,” that should be between me and my tootsies. Nevertheless, my instructions to a Claire’s employee were roundly rejected. Piercing an ear hurts, right? Is it such a jump to think that the same business would be willing to break all my toes for me? Once again, I left the mall not on my e-bike, but in the back of a police car with, ironically, my hands bound tightly together.
Removing My Genitals
Well, this is it. The one that finally got my picture and collection of aliases emailed out to every Claire’s franchise in the U.S. I ask you, where else am I supposed to go? Specialized adult piercing shops? Everyone who works there is scary-looking and covered in tattoos! All I want is an angelic voice and the ability to gun my electric moped over rough gravel without it hurting. All I receive, as always, is a more specific and extensive restraining order. Those eunuchs of old don’t know how good they had it.
Eli Yudin is a stand-up comedian in Brooklyn. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @eliyudin and listen to his podcast, What A Time to Be Alive, about the five weirdest news stories of the week, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you get your podcasts.