To join the mainstream, have your body pierced

December 01, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

Although I'm not certain what the "mainstream" is, I've always thought I was part of it. Family, home, mortgage, job, dog, beer, pizza, Cub games, button-down shirts, stained ties, minivan, Ping golf clubs and a nerdy watch.

But now I have serious doubts. Whatever the "mainstream" is, I appear to be outside of it.

I realized this the other day when I read a news story in the New York Times.

The headline said: "Body Piercing Moves Into the Mainstream."

And the story began: "It is easy to pinpoint the moment when body piercing went mainstream. Christy Turlington came out at a London fashion show, her midriff bared between two slices of creamy knit. And there in the middle of her navel was a ring.

"The next day, Naomi Campbell was tugging at the waistband of her Vivienne Westwood micro-mini kilt to show the world that anything Christy could do, so could she. A gold ring set with a small pearl pierced her navel."

The story went on to say that body piercing has become the rage. And not just navels, either. Nostrils and all sorts of places, public and private, if anything is private these days.

The story quoted a Los Angeles body piercer as saying that she has been kept very busy piercing eyebrows, nipples and even her own tongue.

One pierced person said she was inspired to have her navel pierced after seeing the "beautiful decoration in the nipples of the actor Jaye Davidson, who appeared in 'The Crying Game.' " (I didn't see that movie, and that's good because I'm impressionable and easily inspired.)

The story offers some sociological analysis as to why so many people are dangling jewelry from their noses, navels, nipples and other body parts.

"With the fragmenting of the former communist empire, the not-so-gorgeous mosaic of New York, and demands for secession from Ukraine to Staten Island, maybe it is not surprising that fashion should reflect tribalism."

I suppose that makes sense. The Soviet Union collapses, and the natural reaction is to go out and get your nose pierced. Or one day you notice that New York is crowded and messy, so you instinctively start wearing gold rings in your nipple. After all, you have to do something to show you care.

The story also gives some history of this sort of thing.

"The idea of decorating the body is ancient history. Nose rings were worn in India, throughout the Middle East, and by tribal groups like the Berbers as a sign of wealth and status for marriageable women. The more metal weighing down the nose (some nose rings had to be attached to an ear piece), the bigger the bridal dowry."

Those were the good old days. And now they're returning. We live in exciting times.

After I read about this new main stream trend, I went to lunch. As I strolled through downtown Chicago, I looked closely at other pedestrians, but I didn't spot even one nose ring.

And I was embarrassed for myself and my fellow Chicagoans. Why are we always so far behind? We're only 800 miles from New York, an hour or so by plane.

Yet, the New York Times story said: "In the downtown street scenes, both sexes display rings through the nostrils and multiple earrings. . . ."

But here in the third-largest city in the United States, I didn't see even one ring through a nose, or even bells on their toes. As it was a cold day, I can't speak for nipple rings, but I didn't see anyone who looked the type.

When I got to my lunch place, I took a stool at the bar and said to a couple of acquaintances: "With the secession of Ukraine and other former Soviet states, have you felt a surge of tribalism that might lead you to having your nose or nipples pierced and wearing gold chains?"

They stared at me, then got up and moved to the end of the bar. Some people are indifferent to global affairs. Little wonder they are out of the mainstream, the hicks.

But on my way back from lunch, I had a flashback. And the memory made me again proud to be a Chicagoan.

I had remembered a story I wrote at least 12 years ago. And that story proves that Chicago was many years ahead of New York at being in the mainstream. And I exclusively reported it.

It was about a young man named Adolfo, who was the leader of a Northwest Side street gang. A tribal group, of sorts.

One night, Adolfo forced his erotic attentions on a young woman. She had him arrested, and they went to court.

Adolfo denied everything, but the woman said she could prove it. She said a rather private part of Adolfo's body had been pierced, and that was where he wore a gold ring.

It was not the sort of thing a woman would forget.

The judge asked Adolfo to lower his trousers. He did, and there was the evidence, gold ring and all.

Of course, the judge didn't realize that Adolfo had leaped into the mainstream. He thought he was just a creep and sent him to prison.

It just shows that a person can be too far ahead of the times. Had it happened today, Adolfo could have said: "The secession of Ukraine made me do it."

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