Needles terrify me. A looming syringe is a nightmare more horrifying to me than the threat of an imminent bear attack. Need my blood? Not without a sturdy fainting couch and the promise of a cookie, buster! This fear has made me famous for my ability to sit serenely through unspeakable tortures of grotesque modern cinema (here’s looking at you, Cannibal Holocaust) while at the same time cowering behind large throw pillows whenever a loaded hypodermic glistens on an episode of House. Safety pins? Not safe enough. Booster shots? I’d rather contract tetanus. And don’t even get me started on the spastic, biting monster that is a sewing machine.
And, oh yes, I happen have 20 piercings. 20 piercings and counting. 21 by the time you read this. 23 by the end of the week.
If the body is a canvas, then mine is knitted together in a metallic display of body art brushstrokes. You’ll never catch me donating plasma, but the battle cry of my greatest enemy turns to melody when it’s singing into my skin on the piercing table. And this is no casual fling of flippant means; each stab is a long-anticipated love affair, one more piece of my own, personal jigsaw puzzle. I am being rewritten in barbells, chains and captive beads. And I am, by no means, alone in this venture.
The history of human body modification is a long and decidedly varied one, indeed. Remote villages still engage in a myriad of ritualistic tattooing, scarring, piercing and gauging that has provided personal and cultural identity for countless generations – and fodder for many a National Geographic documentary. But modern incarnations of the practice owe their roots to the inquisitive – and decidedly ballsy – experimentations of one man who, quite literally, launched an entire movement from his living room.
The odds are pretty favorable that the name James Mark “Jim” Ward doesn’t have a terrible amount of significance to the average Louisvillian – regardless of the number of piercings in their flesh. But the captive bead in your cartilage? The internally-threaded barbell speared through your scaffolding? The – ahem – more tender areas winking a metallic hidden hello? That’s Jim Ward’s legacy. And this legacy continues as the pioneer of piercing turns 71-years-old this Thursday, June 28, a birthday noted with a worldwide celebration of body modification enthusiasts as International Body Piercing Day.