You just want attention, and
You’re just trying to be different
In some recent columns I have addressed common questions that modified people often face from the general public. Along the same lines I thought it would be interesting to tackle potential responses to some of the more commonly made statements and assertions made to or about modified people. To get things started, here are two that I commonly hear and see, especially in online forum discussions, about myself and other visibly modified people.
When I hear this the first thing that comes to mind is, “Yeah, so what?”
Everybody wants attention; nobody likes to be completely ignored. It is the type and source of attention desired that varies from person to person. There is nothing wrong with wanting attention. The real offense, in my mind, would be to be undeserving of attention i.e. wasting the time of people who are nice enough to give attention. Through body modification you are at least increasing the odds of there being something interesting enough about you to warrant the attention.
The next thing, and this should be apparent by the fact that someone is commenting at all, is that any effort for attention has obviously been successful. Therefore, by making this particular comment the speaker is simply congratulating the modified person on their achievement of a perceived goal. Perhaps a simple “thank you” is in order. Then again, probably not.
What really sets this comment out as an attempted insult is the qualifier ‘just’. The impolite jerk — I mean, the speaker — is trying to imply that the only reason one would modify their body is for attention. Even if this were the case, this is still a very weak and shallow attempt at an insult for the very reasons I mention above. The incredibly simple view that any behavior, especially one with as many possible cultural and personal significances as body modification, could be reduced to only one base motivation indicates immediately that you are not dealing with a member of the intellectual elite. Even trying to introduce a concept like quantum causality or merging influences would be futile unless it were an attempt to elicit the all encompassing “Huh?” so common to their ilk.
It is far better to utilize a response more suited to the audience in question. One avenue would be to point out to the person the salient points of how we all seek attention and that it is not a bad thing (unless you are terminally boring). Another, and in my experience, more fun route is to turn things around. I like to suggest that it is the impolite jerk, oops I mean speaker again, that is seeking attention and doing so very likely out of jealousy for the modified person’s ability to attract and command attention. They are only making the comment in order to draw attention to themselves in a way in which they think will win them favor for being astute or clever, something they are clearly not. Unfortunately though, they are probably preaching to an equally ignorant choir. But in the event you can’t educate them, you can at least amuse your self with their mental fumbling.
Never refuse a microphone.
I have often commented on how trying to be different is redundant at best since by nature we are all unique individuals. However, that ‘big picture’ view notwithstanding there are many instances in which separating one’s self out can be beneficial if not essential. This is only exacerbated by the fact that not everyone recognizes or operates in light of this fact. An environment where there is a large degree of commonality of characteristics only makes it that much easier for a person within it to lose track of their inherent uniqueness.
By purposefully decreasing the level of shared characteristics a person can help themselves to remain focused on their individuality and to develop and cultivate it. Furthermore, that person makes it far less likely they get lost in the shuffle by becoming more noticeable, for both good and ill, to others. And even ignoring this, the question remains as to what it is that is so bad about trying to be different? If we are all different then when someone implies there is something wrong with being different they must necessarily imply that there is something wrong with them as well. Toss that out and watch the confusion set in.
In theory, free thinking and going your own way are often celebrated and allegedly encouraged. However, in practice, we often see any significant variation or failure to comply with “the norm” is promptly denigrated and crushed whereas minor contextually non-threatening variations will be glorified under the guise of those alleged celebrations and encouragements.
As with the previous statement we also see the ‘just’ qualifier in play here again. And much of what I noted for “you just want attention” can also be applied here. Additionally, it can be pointed out that there are any number of methods which could equally or even more successfully garner attention and/or separate one from the crowd such as mode of dress or any number of behaviors besides body modification. And many of these would have the additional potential benefit of being far less likely to attract negative results such as these and similar statements. So, one might make the case (and I think often successfully) that the real motivation being evidenced is that of trying to be one’s own self.
If someone wants to tell me that I am just trying to be different I believe that I can more accurately show that I was already different and through my modifications I am simply trying to be myself on my own terms. But of course, I’m not surprised when at the end of my discourse I am greeted with another “Huh?”