Then management called to inform me of the “no tattoos, no piercings policy.” I could tell they felt bad and didn’t really care, but they wanted to keep clients happy, which made sense.
Actually, I had no idea this policy existed. I’ve been substitute teaching there for a few years, and the client feedback has always been incredibly positive. No one has ever said anything to me about my jewelry.
So I called and left a message: “Oh, no problem at all. I had no idea about the policy. I’ll cover up the tattoos. I’ll take out the piercing.”
I hung up. I was the picture of absolute maturity. Sort of. I chuckled. What I really wanted to say was this: “Change the policy, then.”
In that particular class, clients had gone out of their way to write positive feedback on my sign-in sheet. They said they loved my style, but management later called about the complaint, not the positive feedback. However, sometimes you have to suck it up and follow the rules. Right?
Alone in my room, I thought about my body art. I thought back to my Rites of Passage class in college.
We read about young African girls, how some painted their bodies, celebrating the first days of menstruation, later dancing naked. We looked at countless pictures. In one, a California teenager stuffed her bug breasts into a padded prom dress. And as I write this column, in the alley next to my apartment window, drag queens are fixing their wigs, rehearsing lines for a weekend show.
I have 10 holes in my ears.
I use only two. My navel and nose are pierced. I have six tattoos. Each one has significance.
For instance, I have a star on each ankle. I got one when my ex-boyfriend died of a heroin overdose. I got the other one last fall over a broken heart that still hasn’t healed completely.
We all have our rites of passage, our looks and our ways of expressing what we’re going through. Sometimes people wear starched suits. Sometimes striped knee socks and painfully short skirts. Sometimes people get inked. Then we have the hipsters wearing ironic T-shirts or leggings or whatever’s hot.
Practically speaking, with expensive body jewelry, the nose rings are difficult to remove and hard to get back in. In the process, you often lose the little silver ball that holds the ring together.
I have not been promised a permanent position at this club. I wondered, “Was it worth it to remove the ring?” Yes. These are hard times.
But, ironically, the nose ring is a symbol of the very thing that I am teaching. It is a spiritual thing to me.
No, I’m not full of shit. It symbolizes my yogic life, a key player in my spirituality. I thought, “If I were from a different culture, would they still have said something?”
I live in Clifton. Mostly I hang out here or in Northside, so I see more people with tats and piercings than without. It’s common.
Sure, in some environments it’s necessary to look conservative. But I am a yoga teacher, not a lawyer. Last time I checked, many yoga teachers have tattoos and piercings.
Many of my buds are decorated. In fact, it’s been a helpful marketing tool. There have been many times when people stopped me on the street, studied my tats and nose ring, commented on them and then asked about yoga and asked me for my business card.
Even at 34 years old, I am grappling with my old-school rebellious nature. But if I act rebellious, whom will that hurt? Me. And my bank account. For now, I keep my “rites of passage” to myself.
I do not live and work in a perfect, artistically liberal world. It is 2009, but in any given environment I will still find a few knuckleheads that don’t like the way I look. So I go with the flow.
One thing’s for certain: If I had a yoga studio of my own, I might offer people tattoo discount cards. I wouldn’t give two shits what someone had on her left bicep if she taught a rocking class. Show up, do your job, add some creativity and flair, hell yeah.
I’m not stupid. I’m broke. I’ll do whatever the hell they want. But I would like to thank that client wholeheartedly for this topic. Maybe my nose ring is evil after all.
Thinking back to Rites of Passage, I remembered the photo of a Jewish boy getting his first haircut, how he started to look like a man. Apache girls lathered their bodies with yellow cattail pollen, turning their palms up, asking the sky for fertility. Congolese Kota boys painted their faces blue, turning childhood into a ghost.
Here’s what I did: I took my nose ring out and taught for an hour. Then, in my car, I put a stud right back in. I smiled. My secret compromise.
CONTACT C.A. MACCONNELL: firstname.lastname@example.org