Body mod, yes or no?
January 8, 2010 8:43 PM   Subscribe

Middle-aged man considering body modification. Good idea or not?

I'm approaching my fifty-fifth birthday. As a birthday gift to myself, to remind myself I'm still alive and capable of change, I'm considering either having my nipples pierced or getting a tattoo. Since I'm single, the only one who will know is me. If you've had a piercing or had some ink done, have you been cool with it, or have you come to regret it?
posted by SPrintF to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I had a small tattoo on my 44th birthday. It's not visible when I'm dressed. I'm very glad I had it done. It's a symbolic tattoo that represents something important to me.
posted by essexjan at 3:25 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can take nipple rings/bars out if you decide one day that you don't like them. But you can't go back in time and be more spontaneous.
posted by K.P. at 4:16 AM on January 9, 2010 [9 favorites]

I'm with EJ. I've never regretted my tattoo.

I'm 26, if that makes a difference though, but I doubt I'd ever regret it. It is too meaningful for me.
posted by jonathanstrange at 4:23 AM on January 9, 2010

Part of why I got some of the tattoos I got was so that I would look at them and think, "What a dumb thing to do. But I'm still living."

I vote tattoo first over any piercings. Big tattoo, maybe three.
posted by dogwalker at 4:36 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love my tattoos, and I miss my nipple piercings, for what it's worth. (Took them out when, after two years, the piercings hadn't fully healed.) That might be worth noting -- you can take piercings out any time you like, and leave only scars, which may or may not be noticeable. Tattoos are rather harder to remove, and even then it's not going to be 100% (I think?)
posted by kalimac at 5:28 AM on January 9, 2010

I got a 'memorial tattoo' in honor of my late mother about 4 years ago, and have never regretted it. The only advice I ever give regarding tattoos is this: make it something personal. It's going to (presumably) be with you for a very long time, so choose something that has personal meaning for you.
posted by Telpethoron at 6:14 AM on January 9, 2010

Yeah if you're getting a tattoo, get something you can't live without. One of the best decisions I've ever made but I made sure I was 100% committed.
posted by pwally at 7:19 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's only shed some everyday ;)

I waited until I was almost 30 before I started getting them, and I have never once regretted anything other than waiting so long. I worried for a long time that I'd get one, and then hate it later but have come to view them as a map not just of who I am now, but of who/where I have been.

The biggest thing people freak about is "oh it's going to be ugly when you're old and wrinkled." I'm going to get old and wrinkled anyway, what difference is it if there's a rorschach blot of color among the wrinkles?

For the record, my tongue is pierced and my ears are stretched and I don't regret those either, but the tattoos are definitely more meaningful. So, a resounding yes ~ it's a good idea.
posted by kattyann at 7:44 AM on January 9, 2010

I posted this last night and it got eaten. Basically I live in a rural area and have a few tattoos. I'm 41. I see people in the gym who are older than me with tattoos and my first thought is always "hey neat!" and not "oh yuck" Some people will, as always, not like them. Some people will think they are cool. Most people will be basically shruggo on it unless they're super visible. If it's the sort of thing you like and you're answerable to only yourself, I'd do it. I think it's a nice birthday idea.
posted by jessamyn at 8:33 AM on January 9, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for your input, everyone.
posted by SPrintF at 9:25 AM on January 9, 2010

There seems to be some selection bias at work here: note that you're hearing only from people who have done it, and who think it's a great idea. (9 out of 10 ten of the 'yes' votes above explicitly mention that they too have done this.)

Without harshing on anybody who's into it (yeah, I'm a liberal, people are autonomous, and can do what they want with their own bodies) . . . as jessamyn said, nobody should much care about others' body mods, especially if they're not visible.

I get all that - - but I'm pretty much exactly your age, and I don't think it's a good idea.
We're old, we're old enough to have missed this trend, and it strikes me as slightly desperate to want to join in. Let the kids go nuts and do whatever they want. We can watch.

(Also note that one of the piercers self-reported what I'd consider to be serious problems with healing. And we're no longer young and robust.)

posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 9:33 AM on January 9, 2010

I have a nipple ring. I've had it for going on 7 years now, and I don't regret it. I got it totally on a whim when I was with a friend who was getting a tattoo.

My philosophy is on this issue is that I can always take the ring out if I start to hate it, but a tattoo isn't so easily removable.
posted by chiababe at 11:57 PM on January 8, 2010

For what it's worth, my mom got her (as of now) first tattoo at 46 or thereabouts (she actually said to me at the time "Before the summer is over, let's get tattoos." So we did). I don't think she regrets it at all, and has thought about getting another nearly 10 years later (or at least getting hers touched up/added to).

I am much younger than you, but I have absolutely no regrets about my two tattoos (and I plan on another at some point). They are markers of where I was in my life -- reminders of it. And I think that's a neat thing. Maybe they aren't what I'd get now, but I'm happy to have them (neither are particularly visible -- most people don't know I have them).

So my take is: Why not? Nipple piercings may be a little bit more reversible than a tattoo since you can take it out, but ultimately, it's not a big deal. You only live once. I say do it.
posted by darksong at 11:59 PM on January 8, 2010

I had piercings pretty much everywhere. Now that they are gone I don't miss them (or regret them). Getting piercigs now I would worry about the elastisicity of my skin. I got a large backpiece tattoo for my 25th birthday. Ten years later I do not regret it at all, actually I rarely think of it. If I had to see it every day I might be sick of it by now.
posted by saucysault at 12:05 PM on January 8, 2010

Best answer: I'm 35. Got the first tattoo at 17. Have 7 now, one spanning the width of my back, plus a number of piercings. Don't regret a single one and intend to get more. The Gods gave you your body to enjoy it. Love it. Decorate it. Celebrate it. So do so!
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 9:07 PM on January 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have two tattoos: The first was a whim at 18, in a place where you can only see it if I show it to you. The other was the product of a pretty awful part of my life. I had the idea in mind for 8 months before I finally got it in a very visible place and half a year later I continue to love it, as it continues to strengthen me and remind me of what I went through and how I survived it. The whim tattoo doesn't bother me, I've never regretted it and never wanted to remove it. It just is what it is and I pretty much forget that it's there.

Between the two tattoos I also got a nipple ring, which I had for 8 years. I, like Chia, figured I could remove it. It was fun while it lasted and I finally took it out last year.

So, I guess the moral is that a piercing is removable and a tattoo, while removable, is a little more difficult to get off. But as long as you love what you're doing to your body, rock on with your bad self. You're the only one that matters!
posted by buzzkillington at 9:08 PM on January 8, 2010

Not me personally, but I know someone who got her first tattoo for her 50th birthday a few years ago. I thought it was cool, and AFAIK she's still happy with it.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:27 PM on January 8, 2010

Best answer: Something to consider, as a middle-aged man: nipple piercings can take quite a while to fully heal - up to several months. Taking the jewelry out during that healing process could mean taking it out forever, because the jewelry could never go back in unless you get repierced.

So think: are you, at age 55, getting any medical procedures done which are of the "take off everything metal" type? Any surgery will require you to take out piercings. So will MRIs and CT scans. If you have any heart trouble at all, that's the area of your body which will be scanned and tested... don't bother getting pierced.

Happy birthday! Your reasons for wanting a piercing or tattoo are ageless ones.
posted by juniperesque at 10:24 AM on January 9, 2010

Don't do it until and unless you're sure. But then do it!

(Not that you asked, but I am, by most normal folks' definition, rather heavily modified.)
posted by box at 10:29 AM on January 9, 2010

I'm 25 and have visible tattoos and do not regret it--neither does my mother regret the small tattoo she got when she was about your age. In fact, she often muses about getting another.

I'd keep in mind, though, that nipple piercings (though they're not) are often seen as a sexual modification, even if someone only notices them through your shirt--and if you wear t-shirts, there's a high probability that they might be noticed. I remember a high-school friend whispering to me about her uncle's nipple piercings, and us giggling about that. Tattoos generally don't have the same connotations.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:47 AM on January 9, 2010

From Ms. Vegetable:

I had my eyebrow pierced for my 19th birthday. It later grew out. I miss it and wish I could get it done again, but I'm now a "professional" who probably shouldn't have interesting piercings. Tattoos... still pondering that one.

Happy Birthday! I think it's a great present.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:50 AM on January 9, 2010

My dad pierced his nipple at about 50. He seems to like it.

Be aware that piercing nipples will cause permanent changes even if you decide not to wear the piercing any more. They will be permanently erect. I'm not 100% sure that this is a certainty, but I know it's extremely common.
posted by cmoj at 12:09 PM on January 9, 2010

cmoj - my nipples were pierced for at least five years, out for about ten years and they are not permanently erect (I am a woman, have have breast-fed, they weren't permanently erect before the piercing YMMV).
posted by saucysault at 1:13 PM on January 9, 2010

Seconding AsYouKnow Bob.

I think it's a bad idea. Just because I think all tattoos are gross and I've never understood why anyone would want one.

Piercings are different. But... if there's something missing in your life, I don't think this would fill it. You'd just be the same guy, with pierced nipples.
posted by moorooka at 3:46 PM on January 9, 2010

It sounds like all the people who wanted to get tattoos/piercings got them, and continue to be cool with it. The people who are not into it, never got them (nor wanted to). You fall into the first category!

I got my first tattoo at 26, I got my most recent ones when I turned 33. The ones I have that I canĀ“t see I rarely think about, the ones I have on my shins I think about often, I have to hide them at work and if I wear a skirt, people stare at them... but I do not regret them in the least. They're pretty, and they (of course) have meaning.

Go for it! It hurts, but it's a very interesting experience to go through, a ritual and a gift. If you don't want more afterward, no biggie, if you like them... you can get more! I'm talking about tattoos.

Piercings are meaningful, too, but they do feel like so much less of a commitment.
posted by Locochona at 6:16 PM on January 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

The metal vs medical problem mentioned here is not a big problem. You can get PTFE barbells and slip them in before you go in for a procedure and replace the original jewellery afterwards (provided they are at least a few months healed w/o major complications). Or you can get them done with PTFE to start with--piercings tend to heal fastest (and with less crusty build-up) with PTFE, but most people don't like the look of it enough to start with it.
posted by K.P. at 5:38 AM on January 10, 2010

I have an ear pierced and a tattoo. I removed a cartilage piercing that never healed. I still like all my mods, and want to get more.

Strangely enough, I'm a weeny about pain..

...but that pain was just yummy and one of the driving forces for my wanting more.
posted by phritosan at 11:00 AM on January 11, 2010

Response by poster: Follow-up: I am now the proud bearer of a tribal lizard tattoo. Thanks everyone for your input.
posted by SPrintF at 4:20 PM on January 16, 2010 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: A few weeks later: response to my tattoo has been uniformly positive. Even the most conservative members of my circle have admitted to having or wanting a tattoo, or having a child or family member that sported one. My only regret is that I didn't do this earlier.
posted by SPrintF at 10:06 PM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

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