I guess in a way, not very many of us are truly not body modified. Every scar and hair cut changes who our body from a supposed natural state. What I found interesting in ANTH01- Physical Anthropology, is Modern Homo sapiens show the first evidence of body adornment. Why do we have a need to take our body and try to claim it as our own: conform it or differentiate it? While I cannot answer this question for others, I can answer this question (incompletely) for myself.
I was born and raised in the deep south. My parents are devout Catholics, so between location and religion, I had a very conservative upbringing. Hair cuts and ear piercings were the only changes one could intentionally do to their body. (But in my grandmother's generation piercing one's ears was a sign of sexual looseness).
Mosquitoes. They bite. No, literally, they do. From the age of five on, I lived in south Louisiana -- notorious for mosquitoes and standing water. Running outside, going camping, and visiting my grandmother meant my legs were covered by mosquito bites. They itched so much, and I scratched so much. My legs as a child were covered in scabs, and I scar easily. My mother often tells me that she used to be worried about the scars on my legs, because my legs would be "ugly." In a way, I'm thankful that my legs are not "ugly" in society's eyes. But as a child, I did not care scars. While the scars have faded, I still have the habit of picking.
Growing up, I could not wait to turn 10, because in my family when a girl is ten, she can get her ears pierced. Both of my parents have a problem with babies getting their ears pierced because they find this cruel. I wanted to wear earrings so much because I thought they looked so grown up. My mother had her ears pierced and my best friend had her ears pierced. Shortly after my 10th birthday, my dad took me to Iota to visit my grandfather, a general practitioner, who pierced my ears in his office. He pierced my ears with a long, thin needle after applying general anesthesia. I remember watching my older sister getting her ears pierced, and I felt like I was being initiated into something greater than myself. After all, I was in fourth grade, the next year I was going to middle school like the big girls. I remember going home with my head held high, because I was finally a big girl like Laura.
Fast forward a year, I am in middle school. During the yearly school eye examine, I receive a paper to give my parents. I did not read the paper, but considering not many other kids got the paper, I did not think it was a good sign. Apparently, I couldn't see very well, so my dad took me to the opthamologist and he gave me my first prescription for glasses. I still remember my first pair of glasses (I actually found them over winter break). They were large, round, tortoise shell. I associated glasses with smart people. My dad wore glasses, and he's a doctor. My friend Nicole wore glasses, and she was in 8th grade math as a 5th grader. My friend Sydney did not wear glasses, but I knew she was smart. Laura, my older sister, wore glasses, and she read all the time. But, deep down, I was not excited to wear glasses. I felt like something was wrong when I wore them. They set me apart. I was dorky. The fact I did well in school didn't help this image. The gawky days of middle school did not go smoothly with acne and glasses. As soon as my parents permitted me to try contacts, I got rid of the glasses. I do wear contacts now, but I learned to love my glasses. I appreciate the fact that I can change between the two. Glasses restricted with me because I had no choice now I do.
Blending in was all I wanted to do in middle school, and I was good at it. I don't mean that I wanted to fit in with the popular kids; I literally mean that I wanted to blend it. I wore browns and grey. Dark colours, nothing flashy. I wanted to unnoticed. I wanted to slink by. By high school, I was tired of this. I was ready to start coming into my own. Which might be a little unusual that I decided to stand out after I had to start wearing a school uniform. The way I stood out was to paint my nails black. No one expected it. I was little, sweet, and innocent. The paint my nails black made people turn their heads. It made my friends question some assumptions they had about me.
May 2003, I just graduated from high school. My then boyfriend finds out that I wanted to pierce my naval. He freaked. He's from basically the same southern background I am, and he was adamantly against me getting any piercing. He basically reacted as if a piercing were akin to a toxin that would transform me into a sexual deviant. We almost broke up over this piercing. I refused to relent. Eventually, he did. That October, following my parents rule of no body piercing under their roof, I got my navel pierced. And the boyfriend, he actually liked it.
I think it shocks my friends that I pierced my navel. Some are finding out about it four years after the fact. Covering my midriff, the piercing is rarely visible to others. My mom, who still doesn't understand why I wanted this piercing, asks me why did I get it if no one sees it. Frankly, I got this piercing for me. It was something I wanted. I just like it. The piercing is a part of me. I got it because it amuses me. There is nothing wrong with it. It's like my secret. I am more than what you see. People don't expect it, and I like it that way.
Oh scars, the scars from my childhood are gone. They have faded to nothing, but I'm still accident prone enough to acquire new ones. I have two on each lower arm where I burned myself on the exhaust pipe of my dad's Volkswagen during the summer of 2003. It's a long story how I burned myself. I remember being upset at first because I felt like I damaged my arms. I kind of grew to like them. I'm sad to see them fade. They were a story to tell. And now they are almost gone. I have another scar from the summer of 2005 when I burned myself on the pizza oven at work. It was the corner of the over. I had a "flag" like scar on my lower stomach. (Some of my friends said it looked like a penis, but I'll agree with my mom on this one -- it's a flag). This one is quickly fading as well. I guess while some body modifications can disappear; the mental effect can remain. Even if I am the only one who see the mark of the modification, it is a part of my personal narrative.
There are some here at the Claremont Colleges who think I'm a red head. I used to dye my hair red. Not to brag, but it looked rather natural. Most people thought I was a natural red head including one of my friends who is a natural red head. Junior year, I got tired of dying my hair. I missed my brown hair, so I let it grow out. I enjoyed my red hair because I felt like I could be more wild as a red head. It made me stand out because not too many people have red hair. Now, I've found two white hairs. Women in my family grey early. Some have told me to pull it out, but I refuse. I kind of like them. They have character.
I mentioned earlier about mental body modifications. I think these are also important. Every body modification (save the bug bites) changed my relationship to my mental self and my body. I viewed myself differently. I put on a new persona. When I made a change in my life, I physically showed it on myself whether this was clothing, scars, or piercing. The map of our life is laid on our bodies, the only think we cannot leave at home.