Teenage Mutant Ninja Librarian

Shhhhhh!

Donatello (iam:Don) either is or has been a motorcycle riding, experience reviewing, beer dishing, late developing, retired lesbian librarian. As BME’s #1 article moderator, he has confirm-ably read and reviewed literally more personal experiences of modified people than anyone on the planet, giving him a broad and intimate view of modification and the modified community that few others have seen.

Sit down at the back and read the following interview, in complete silence of course.

It's a Mage Hero thing. You wouldn't understand.

ROO: 

Good morning Don! Do you mind if call you Donatello, just for fun?

DON: 

Ha! You’ll make me sound like a cross between a pizza and a flavour of ice-cream, but sure… why not?

ROO: 

So Donatello, tell me a lot about yourself..

DON: 

Well, let me see…

♦ I’m English. I’d better not say ‘proud of it’, which would make me sound like a football hooligan, but for all its faults there’s nowhere else I’d rather live.

♦ I’m a biker: currently riding a Honda NSR125.

♦ I got my first mod (a PA) at the age of 40: I was a ‘late developer’, you see.

♦ I have a wife, a dog and a cat, none of whom are modded (unless you count the animals’ microchip implants, of course).

♦ I started my IAM page on Bonfire Night 2000 but it hasn’t (yet) gone up in flames.

♦ I was for many years a librarian, but have also at various times been a builders’ labourer, a barman, and a football pools collector.

BME BOY

ROO: 

You’ve been a long-time reviewer of experiences for BMEzine.com, what was it that got you started? And more to the point what kept you going?

DON: 

As I recollect, experience reviewing started off life as one of Shannon’s ‘toys’. I gave it a go to see what it was like, found I liked it and more than somewhat to my surprise that I was good at it, too.

As for what kept me going I’ve simply enjoyed doing it!

It’s still fun, but you learn a lot, too: I think I can safely say I now know as much about female genital piercing as most people who’ve actually got one! I’m now coming up to twenty thousand experiences, making me BME’s No 1 reviewer in fact. Which is cool — I think everyone should aspire to being Number One at something.

ROO: 

20,000! Cor blimey, how many “Don hours” do you think it’s taken to reach that amount?

DON: 

According to my logfile, I take an average of 275 seconds to do each one. That works out at… *goes and gets calculator*… a little over nine weeks altogether. Of course, I do go off and get the occasional cup of coffee now and then!

ROO: 

Did you know that at nine weeks a developing baby is no longer an embryo, but a fetus.

Anyway, there’s obviously a huge chasm between knowing the theory behind a specific piercing procedure and having the practical abilities to carry one out.

How do you think the exeriences on BMEzine.com should be viewed? As recreational reading, an informative yet fun way to pass the time, or hints and tips for the wannabe piercer?

DON: 

It’s very much up to the authors, but some of the best ones — the ones we feature — I think incorporate elements of all three.

There’s a definite chasm between acquiring the know-how and putting it into practice safely and with a satisfactory end result, yes. I often wince at the mental image conjured up by these authors who write about buying a piercing kit and an instructional video off eBay and cheerfully assume there’s all there is to it. And of course now with YouTube, everyone and his dog can be a piercer after watching a few five-minute video clips. I don’t want that to sound as if I’m knocking DIY piercing — I’m not, but I do think people should wise up to the fact that it’s not by any means as easy as it looks, and I hope some of the scarier stories we publish on BME illustrate that.

Don's four year old wrist piercing

ROO: 

Have you ever been asked or tempted to perform a modification on someone else?

DON: 

No, I’ve never been asked and I’d say no. I wouldn’t want the responsibility if anything went wrong.

ROO: 

Can you drag up a particularly doomed experience from the recesses of your mind, and the lessons you learned from it? Theoretical lessons of course..

DON: 

I don’t know that I can: what comes across a lot of the time is that the human body sometimes reacts in the most unpredictable way.

It’s a shame sometimes that more authors don’t wait until they can give a longer-term assessment as to the success (or otherwise) of their mods.

As for “doomed”, I need look no further than my own abortive attempts at getting a guiche: five times altogether, with the right “theoretical” attention to reputable studio, qualified piercer, careful placement, proper aftercare… the works. And each one rejected! Sometimes your body just isn’t having it no matter what.

ROO: 

How about piercing yourself?

DON: 

Again, no. The only scenario in which I might be tempted is under the instruction and supervision of a properly qualified piercer.

ROO: 

Safety first eh! How does it make you feel therefore when people submit experiences where they obviously don’t have the expertise to carry out a piercing, but feel they do from reading experiences you may (or may not have) approved? Knowledge in the wrong hands can sometimes be a dangerous thing.

DON: 

You should see some of the experiences we throw out!

Seriously, though, there’s a limit to the extent to which we can shield people from the consequences of their own foolishness. “But it won’t happen to me” is one of the classic lines of all time. Realistically, the most we can hope to do is to say “Look, this is how it’s done: these are the risks. It’s up to you whether you’re willing to accept the consequences”.

ROO: 

What was it that inspired you to add a Prince Albert to your wang at forty years old?

DON: 

I read about one day it in a library book! Seriously — that’s how it happened. The book had a chapter on genital piercings, commenting “Some people find the whole idea totally revolting, and if the very thought of it makes you cringe, this is not for you”. On the contrary, I found the whole idea a complete turn-on, and of course there was only one way to find out….!

ROO: 

That’s fantastic! Do you think that chance encounter brought the inevitable forward slightly, or that was the sole catalyst in your decision?

DON: 

Oh that was it, pure and simple. Whether something else at a later date might have happened to have the same effect I’ve no idea but nothing springs to mind.

ROO: 

Now, regarding these book things you mention. You’re a librarian (not to be confused with a lesbian), is that correct?

DON: 

Was — I’m officially retired now, although I still work Sundays just to keep my hand in. And since you’ve asked, I’ve always found that interestingly enough it’s one of the most tolerant and accepting of occupations as far as sexuality goes.

ROO: 

That doesn’t surprise me really as your career is
centered around literature, which by it’s very nature is all-encompassing.

DON: 

That’s true up to a point. The landmark publication of Lady Chatterley’s Lover back in the 1960s heralded the end of literary censorship as such in the UK. But that’s not to say everything’s freely available now. I can’t imagine any public library in this country stocking the BME ModCon book, for example. And when a few years back we got hold of a couple of books of Tom o’Finland artwork on special order for a customer, they came in sealed brown paper wrappers and we were instructed to hand them over unopened!

ROO: 

Have you ever encompassed someone passionately in the anatomy section?

DON: 

I wouldn’t dare — not with the all-seeing all-knowing CCTV watching me! Actually, its main purpose is to watch for thieves: I’m sorry to say that books on tattooing and body piercing suffer from a particularly high loss rate.

ROO: 

Do you have thoughts as to why that might be?

DON: 

I haven’t got a clue, to be honest — I’ve never come across any proper research into it. Before anyone starts drawing any analogies with lawless tattooed biker types, let me just point out that one of the other most “sought-after” categories of library books is religion.

Make of that what you will!

King of the Kid's Club

ROO: 

I’m dying to know, when you lay down to sleep at night and gently close your tired eyes, do you fancy yourself as an old-age mutant ninja librarian?

DON: 

I don’t know that I do, but I think other people have been known to latch on to that concept (ROO: And there I was thinking I was being original).

Some of my bosses have not been slow on occasion to see the potential for a pierced biker librarian to project an image geared at attracting younger users for whom libraries have not exactly had a huge element of street-cred.

I’m not saying this would work for everybody, but if you’re worried about the effect of visible mods on your job prospects, it’s worth researching what clientele your employer is trying to attract, and making sure you sell yourself on that basis.

ROO: 

A point well made if I may say. Can you give us an example of how you’ve had to ‘shift your image’ during your time as a librarian/bar tender/labourer?

DON: 

In one library where I’d just started working, the other staff were quite friendly and receptive towards my mods: at the time I’d got almost thirty, the majority of which were hidden. There was quite a good deal of friendly banter surrounding their attempts to find out what I’d got hidden away. As it was getting near to Christmas, I got as far as coming up with the bold idea of a mock-up Advent Calendar, with pictures of the mods hidden behind the little windows and ‘opening fees’ with the money going to charity. Perhaps fortunately, I left before the plan reached fruition.

But then in the next library I worked, the contrast couldn’t have been more marked: none of the staff said a word about mods. I can’t say I detected any hostility, and I suspect part of it was just that no-one else had any — or if they did, they kept them well hidden. It was then that I started wearing my septum CBB visibly: it fell down one day and I “forgot” to tuck it back up out of harm’s way. But again, nothing happened, and no-one appeared to even notice. Strange… but you just have to adapt to the different climate.

ROO: 

The Advent Calendar idea was wonderful, personally I think it’s a shame it never happened. Which piercing would have been under the 25th? Your baubles? Can you remember where these two libraries where geographically and did the surrounding neighbourhood have a bearing on the attitude towards your modifications?

DON: 

You’re too kind! The 25th was to have been the PA: the jewel in the crown, so to speak.

Where was I? Hope I’m not going to incriminate myself too much by naming names… Rugby and Stratford-on-Avon. Rugby’s an average English industrialised town much like many others mod-wise: Stratford of course is Shakespeare’s birthplace more or less to the exclusion of everything else — and that just seems to eclipse mods (and many other aspects of modern society) completely. But then places like Brighton, or Camden — or even Birmingham — seem to be different again, although people who live in those places may well disagree with that comment.

ROO: 

Not so much these days but libraries have always had an air of, how should I put this, solemnity about them.

Have you ever encountered any ‘prejudices’ in these settings surrounding your modifications?

DON: 

Oh yes, the image of “Shushhh” with the dragon ready to pounce at the sound of a pin dropping still lives on in peoples’ minds, whatever we do and however hard we try to dispel it.

I’d say I’ve only experienced prejudice indirectly.

The worst example that springs to mind was a woman one day who quite obviously avoided me serving her and went to one of the other staff instead. I found out afterwards that this woman asked my boss on the way out why they employed people with piercings, and to her credit my boss simply told her that my piercings were my business and not hers. She said she was surprised at the woman’s rudeness and she too was curious as to whether it happened a lot. It doesn’t really: sometimes you can sense a definite undercurrent of unease, for want of a better word.

But there’s a still whole generation of older people, particularly, who were firmly brought up in the belief that it’s extremely rude to make personal comments to people about their appearance.

ROO: 

I totally agree. Although ‘kids’ can sometimes be a little rude I often feel it’s genuine curiosity that they’re they’re not quite sure how to put across?

DON: 

With young kids, I’m sure a lot of it’s just natural curiosity. They just ask or say whatever occurs to them, sometimes to the acute embarrassment of their parents.

DISCIPLINE

ROO: 

I was a parent once, oh wait that was my father (I always get us mixed up).

Moving on, How do the ‘younger generation’ outside of the (visibly) modified community react toward you, on the street?

DON: 

On the whole either positively or neutrally. When I first got my ears pierced, which were my first visible mods, I was acutely self-conscious for quite some time afterwards.

I’m sure I’d have taken them out at the first sign of ridicule. Fortunately, though, there wasn’t any. There’s always the occasional asshole of course, but if it’s not your mods it would be something else that attracted their scorn. No, the only real time I’ve really felt vulnerable was from a group of drunken clubbers on a late-night train, and even then it was psychological rather than physical.

ROO: 

Unless you’d rather not talk more about that, what were their tactics?

DON: 

No, I don’t mind talking about it — I’m sure lots of other BME readers have had worse things happen. Initially it took the form of unnecessarily loud pointed comments amongst themselves — the “Just look at that over there” type of thing. Then it developed into direct but largely rhetorical questions, and with the odd “poofter” thrown in.

You’re never sure in these situations whether their aim is just to have a bit of ‘harmless’ fun at someone else’s expense, or to goad in the hope of provoking a reaction and starting something. But then the train reached its destination, we all got off and I lost them in the crowd. I daresay when they sobered up the next morning they wouldn’t even have recognized me. It was just a bit of a downer to an otherwise really good day out.

ROO: 

Do you find the types of people who frequent libraries are more open to such things and more willing to ask questions?

DON: 

Some are, some aren’t. If customers have piercings themselves, then yes — there’s often a definite empathy and they’ll ask quite openly without any real hesitation.

Working in a town with high percentage of students I think tends to create a greater level of acceptance as well. But don’t let’s forget:


Receptiveness cuts both ways. An awful lot depends on how you project yourself and how you do handle the odd double-edged comment that does come your way.

ROO: 

Empathy is a wonderful thing, if used correctly. I remember my first piercing and how I felt walking down the street with my friends immediately after. Head held high and smiling at people who passed me by. Nowadays I do that with or without a bruised and swollen nostril.

I find it takes a lot less effort to be cheerful than it does miserable, even if sometimes you’re not feeling particularly chipper.

My rather blurred point is this, if you can hold on to that feeling and ‘conjure’ it up at any time, it’s a wonderful thing.

DON: 

Definitely! It’s all about attitude, isn’t it? Right from that very first secretive smirk “I’ve got something metal in my pants that no-one else knows about” — it does wonders for your self-confidence.

People shudder and ask “Doesn’t that hurt?”

I say no — I am not writhing about the floor in agony. I am smiling because I like my mods and I like the way I look.

Denied!

ROO: 

We really are brilliant, aren’t we!

OH NOES, HOOKS! Have you ever suspended?

DON: 

No. I nearly got round to it at the Hung Over in London Meet in 2002. But by the time I’d stopped procrastinating over it, it was far too late and I was far too tired. I might, if and when the opportunity arises again, but it’s definitely a case of “when the time’s right”.

ROO: 

I hope you find that time. Excuse my bluntness here but what age would you consider ‘too old’ to suspend?

DON: 

Considering some of the things people do in their seventies, eighties and beyond, I’m not sure there is a ‘too old’.

I find it interesting that suspendees as a general rule of thumb tend to be older than piercees to start off with anyway: the vogue for getting pierced inbetween lessons in the school toilets hasn’t yet spread to getting suspended — at least not in the same way. But to answer the question properly — Do what feels right for you, whatever age you are.

ROO: 

That day will eventually come I suppose, what are your thoughts on that? Can you estimate when ‘immediate expulsion for any pupil found suspending behind the bike-sheds’ will be added to school doctrines worldwide?

DON: 

In my day, the cardinal sin was smoking (and to a lesser extent, because it wasn’t so common, drinking), but a few years back, I did have a six-month spell on secondment at a school and one day a boy in Year 7 turned up with an eyebrow bar and started fiddling with it constantly with his grubby hands.

I told him in no uncertain terms he was well on his way to getting it infected doing that and he stopped. I don’t know what the school’s policy was on piercings: I don’t think any of the other kids had any, and this particular lad was always in trouble over something or other so maybe he just figured one more thing wouldn’t make that much difference.

Maybe one day schools will realize that piercings are not just an automatic symptom of rebellion against authority and take more of a lead in educating kids about them. Even so, suspensions in the bike sheds as a sponsored after-school activity are some way off yet!

CLICK ON DON’S TONGUE TO DISCUSS THIS INTERVIEW!

Don's tongue piercing


This article is copyright © 2007 BMEzine.com and Shannon Larratt and RooRaaah Crumbs. For bibliographical purposes this article was first published February 21, 2007 in Toronto, Canada.

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