Body Mod… Danger and Regret

Brent Moffatt has experienced some of the highest highs and lowest lows that a life in body modification has to offer. You may recall him as a former world-record holder for his piercing exploits, as well as for his Golden Palace casino URL forehead tattoo, something he came to deeply regret — you can read his thoughts on that in an earlier “Skinvertising” article. After Brent read the story of Lesya getting her husband Ruslan’s name tattooed on her face, he felt obligated to talk about his own experiences as a cautionary tale. Those thoughts follow here as he sent them to me, with minimal editing. Brent and I have not always seen eye to eye, but I share his deep worry that it’s very difficult to predict one’s future, and that the excitement of youth often leads people down body modification paths they later find incompatible with their later lives. -Shannon

Above: Brent Moffatt over time.

Body Mod… Danger and Regret
By: Brent “The Human Pincushion” Moffatt

I was reading an article by Shannon Larratt about a young woman that had tattooed her husband’s name across her face. I was also read the comments after said article, and I was horrified that Jim Ward and I were initially the only ones to openly say that this was a bad idea. So I decided to tell a bit of my story of dangers and regrets as it pertains to “my life in body mod”. I have had many many modifications and have been involved in the world of body mod for a long time, and in that time I have gotten both good work and work that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Unfortunately in the days when I first became interested in mods there wasn’t a meaningful internet — it was just in its infancy — so there really was nowhere to turn to know what to do and how to do it. Luckily young people today have so many more resources. Most of my bad modifications came from lack of understanding, immaturity — #1 fault — and the use of drugs and alcohol — #2 fault. My early misadventures include,

  1. Scratcher tats done at parties while very drunk or stoned
  2. Self-done piercings on my arm that turned septic and almost required amputation
  3. Self-done tattoos while deciding if I had the talent to be a tattooist — I didn’t want to scar anyone else

Now these might not sound that serious in and of themselves, but they have left me with thousands if not tens of thousands of potential cover-ups, while the botched self piercings very well could have taken my life. I should also say that during this time I did have some minor professional tattoos done — for example, a small peace symbol on my arm, as well as my first facial piece, a small tribal design along the crest of my nose.

After all this I decided that piercing was to become my future career and after much training — thank you Keith Kennedy, and Wink Jefferies — I was off to work in Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada). At the same time I unfortunately got hooked up in the rave lifestyle and started taking ecstasy on a daily basis in very large doses, so my thinking had to have been affected — drugs and mods don’t mix! In the midst of new friends, a new city, and a mountain of drugs, I became quite famous within the community, especially after breaking four World Records in piercings as a publicity stunt (at first) to increase my customer base. With my life in a crazy whirlwind the thought came to me that I needed to “look the part” and I started designing a full facial tattoo while harassing my local artist to do it for me.

After many talks he agreed to do the tattoo, and the deal was done. Looking back I only remember one person trying to talk me out of my decision. For that warning I have to say thank you to “Big Scary” Bob Wilson even though I didn’t listen — I admit I have a thick head even when not under the influence! Low and behold I was one of maybe two or three people in all of Winnipeg to have a full facial piece, and I definitely stood out in the crowd. In a way, I rather enjoyed the attention, both good and bad. I truly believed with all my heart and soul that this was to be my lifelong career, and in this career a facial piece seemed a must-have, like a three piece suit for a banker. The consequences of this fateful decision were yet to come.

After working in Winnipeg for a couple years I met a nice woman who I thought would be my lifelong mate. I wanted to do more for her than just have a 9-5 job, so after reading about a gentleman online who sold his forehead for advertising space — with temporary tattoos in his case — the thought came to me that I could do the same, but with a real tattoo. Maybe I could even make enough money to start my own piercing studio, which I thought would be much better for me and my lady.

My boss, Bob Wilson, told me I was crazy and that if I did this I’d be fired. Looking back I wish that I had listened, but since getting fired was basically the idea, the threat didn’t faze me in the least. Did I mention I’m stubborn? I went ahead and posted the ad on EBay and waited, but to my surprise there was absolutely no interest in the ad. A week passed after I’d posted it and I truly began to think that it wouldn’t happen — but then in the last ten seconds of the ad a place called Golden Palace snapped up my tattoo offer for the price of $10,000, and with that bid, I was jobless. My lady and I packed up our belongings and moved back to Regina Saskatchewan to open our own small piercing studio, and even though I had this idiotic tattoo across my forehead, I was sure the dream was coming to light.

Right when I thought my life was taking a turn for the better, to my great surprise it went just the opposite direction, and shortly after we got the studio up and running, our relationship ended and with it the studio folded like a cheap suit. I was left with nothing but this stupid tattoo for all my troubles. Shortly after this hit I also had the “good fortune” to learn that I had two forms of kidney disease and my days of being able to hold down a job were at an end — employment is impossible when your troubles start with ten surgeries in a one year, and get worse from there.

So there I am, with a full facial tattoo and “” across my forehead in big block letters, the money long since gone, with no ability to support myself and no savings, living in bible belt Saskatchewan, the only person in the area with this much ink above the neckline, trying to cope with both a serious illness and the aftermath of a horrible ecstasy addiction. Are you at all surprised that I ended up in the hospital due to depression? Amazingly, this turned out to be a good thing — while there met the current love of my life and we were soon dating. Of course the universe wasn’t going to make it easy for us though! She comes from a very straight-laced family who believes “money rules over all” and the minute they met “the freak” they did everything in their power to get me out of her life as fast as possible.

Luckily there is nothing love can’t conquer. However, it’s not as easy as that, because when you love someone you would rather have a truck run over your nuts than have them in pain, and I knew that her family’s disapproval of me was putting her in pain. In an attempt to ingratiate myself I asked a friend of mine if he would remove my forehead tattoo. So off to Calgary I go in hopes that this gesture would help bridge the gap between her family and myself. I knew there would be some pain involved and was prepared for that — you’ve probably clued in by now that I have a very high threshold for pain — but little did I know the whole new world of pain that tattoo removal would introduce me to. After the first treatment was done I woke the next morning to my face swollen to the size of a basketball. I could barely see out of my swollen eyes and crawled back to Regina and the loving arms of my fiancée. I felt like I hadn’t accomplished because even though the tattoo was much lighter, it was still for all intents and purposes there.

A few years later my kidney diseases eased up a bit and I desperately wanted to get back to some form of employment. By then the body mod scene in Regina was overrun, like most large cities, and the probability of making a living were slim to none so I took every last cent that I had and went back to school to become a phlebotomist — classic choice for a body piercer don’t ya think? After about a year of living on Kraft Dinner so that I could pay for school I graduated and began looking for work. With my past achievements I thought I had a impressive resume and truly believed I would have no problem getting a job, but after dropping my resume at every possible place and never ever receiving even a call back, much less an interview, it finally struck me that the only thing holding me back were my tattoos. There was no way in hell anyone was going to hire me as a phlebotomist looking like this. I don’t give up easy so I’m going back to school again but this time as a youth drug counsellor. I believe this field will be much more accepting of my look and my past, but damn, it would be so much easier on so many fronts if I had just left my face alone.

Ultimately I’m writing this for the youth of today, but it’s a message for anyone thinking of getting any sort of permanent modification. Don’t let any twit out there try and tell you that a tattoo isn’t permanent, because it is. Yes, we have ways of removing some tattoos, and some colors are easier than others, but when you have a tattoo removed it’s painful, you risk scarring and other complications, and it is never 100% guaranteed successful. If you want a tattoo expect it to be there for the rest of your life.

To be clear, I am not against large scale visible tattoos and or any extreme modification. What I am against is the myriad of people out there that seem to think it’s acceptable to promote things like facial work to the masses when a lot of the readers are young impressionable youth who do not realize that life can turn on a dime and who you thought you were yesterday may not be who you are tomorrow. Who reading this can say with 100% honestly that they KNOW what they will be doing for a living in ten years? Or can say that they know without a doubt that they will be with that same person in ten years? In twenty? In forty?

Referring back to the Russian couple who tattooed there lovers names on their faces, I’ll give some Canadian statistics.

  • 41% divorce rate in Canada in 2008
  • Russia has the third highest divorce rate in the world behind the U.S.A and Puerto Rico
  • Average adult in Canada will change careers once every ten years

None of those people got married planning on getting divorced — they all thought “till death do us part”. All you have to do is look at these FACTS, and if you are honest with yourself you will say that putting a lover’s, husbands/wife’s, or GF/BF/etc’s name anywhere on your body — much less your face — is a bad idea. And again, if you look at the facts and are honest you can’t say with 100% certainty that you will be in the body modification industry (or work somewhere that tolerates it) for the rest of your life. A facial tattoo or any extreme visible mod is something that should take a lot of thought. Of course I hope that couple are together for the rest of their lives, and open a studio that is around till the end of time, but statistically the chances of this are slim. What happens if they break up? Do you think her next boyfriend is really going to want to stare at another guys name while making love to her? And what if god forbid something happens that she isn’t able to tattoo anymore? Could she get a job as a nurse in Russia? These are the types of question you MUST ask yourself before you get anything like this done, plain and simple.

I wish I would have asked myself these questions years back!

Thank you for listening and now I will wait for the hate mail.

Brent “The Human Pincushion” Moffatt

25 thoughts on “Body Mod… Danger and Regret

  1. Interesting story but I have a hard time sympathizing with Brent. I can empathize, but sympathy…not so much. I appreciate that he is sharing his experiences of making hasty, irresponsible choices with his body mods in light of all media attention the Russian couple is getting in order to make others think twice about doing something so radical.
    I don’t know if I agree with how hard his struggle for employment has been. I am currently a lab tech who works with the public performing phlebotomy among other things and my mods have never held me back. I have multiple visible tattoos, stretched ears, and multiple facial piercings. I also live in super conservative Alberta, Canada. While Brent seems very intelligent and eloquent, maybe his personality is lacking somewhere. I know I am lucky to be working for a company that allows me to fully express myself but I also choose to carry myself in a way that demands respect. I don’t get that from him, even through reading his story.

  2. This is important. This should be translated to any language in the world.
    Why? because young people do stupid things.
    that is true. BUT with today’s mod scene being available anywhere, it’s much more easy to make mistakes that will hunt them for the REST of their life like Brent’s story.
    And this hunt cannot be solved by the police; this is something permanent FOREVER.

  3. I hope you don’t get too much hate mail/e-mail Brent. Thank you for sharing your story. I have similar concerns about both the Russian couple (along with the fact it seems a lot like an ‘ownership’ brand on his part) but I also think it taps into wider concerns about young people getting ‘extreme’ modifications. I have heavily tattooed arms and legs (which I can hide) so I can of course, only speculate on the lives of young people who have facial tattoos which I know many folk will say isn’t particularly helpful. But it is interesting to hear someone talk about the difficulties – it’s good to have the balance I think much more realistic and outward looking. I truly hope those young heavily modified teens/20-somethings can find independence (and employment) in way that makes them happy.

    Thanks for posting and for sharing.

  4. I do like that he repeatedly said *all* tattoos. That’s typically the issue in cases like this, and why I found myself immediately rushing to defend her decision: it’s not just the “weird” tattoos, it’s not just the big ones, it’s not just the necessarily-visible ones. If you get ANY modification that cannot heal quickly, completely, and on its own, you’re risking regret. Maybe you grow to hate whatever that particular mod is, or you hate mods in general, or maybe you grow to believe mods are immoral (I’ve known a number of people who got some sort of mod, converted to a religion that frowns on such things, and found themselves stigmatized). There’s a million different reasons you might grow to hate something you once loved, and none of them can truly be ruled out, not 100%.

    TL;DR: I find myself agreeing with Brent. I just wish this discussion was more prominent in the modification community as a whole, rather than popping up when someone does something *we* don’t like and otherwise being viewed as an argument only people who hate self-expression would make.

  5. just a huge THANK YOU for sharing your experience 🙂
    The world is becoming more tatto-friendly (and mod-friendly in general), but it is a really long process
    As a 20 year old, I really appreciate articles like these, reminding me (and people of my age) to take it easy and not getting done all of the work I want done on me straight away, and I think this is very important, so thanks 🙂

  6. thanks for the props guys and gals…if i reach just one person maybe my mess was worth it.

  7. NatD….first off you are quite a bit less modified than I am so our employment stories are different and yes maybe you got lucky and found the place that had sympathy for a modified person but reality is itsa not the norm.

    was I looking for sympathy writing this? NO!!!!

    I was hoping that young ppl might read it and decide to think about mods for a while before they plunge into them.

    And you are making a few assumptions about me for not knowing me…rude

  8. I think this is a great article for anyone to read, you dont have to be young to make bad decisions. Im in my 30s & Im still evolving my mods but have ALWAYS given a lot of thought to my tattoos & would never have concidered my face, I actually have more piercings than tatts BUT NO FACIAL. Im a manager in retail & our company was recently bought by a bigger corp. There new rules said no visible tatts & no piercings, now I diddnt loose my job BUT I will not be promoted to any higher position w/ my piercings I was grandfathered in. I have a tatt on my arm you can see part of but all of my piercings are in my ears & none of them streched to any extreme. I guess my point is your mods dont have to be that extreme to be enough to stand in your way.
    & yes I could take my piercings out but I diddnt have them put there just to take them out for a promotion I know I wouldnt be happy in. the only way ill take them out will be for MY reasons. a lil pig headed I know 😉

  9. This is a great read for anyone considering any tattoo, especially, but not exclusively large scale and heavy work. I may only be 21 and comparatively new to the body mod scene but seeing just how much my opinions have changed to my own modifications in the last year or two has been a real experience; I don’t regret them, I just feel differently.

    In the end though it’s a decision everyone has to make for themselves, you need to be aware of any future implications of your actions and be willing to take responsibility for them but you can’t constantly live your life scared of what could be waiting just around the corner…

  10. Thank you for sharing your story. There need to be more “nay-sayers” in the modification field. Not every modification isnsuited for every person, and some people get things they really havent thought through and end up paying a huge price.

  11. What an excellent article. It was good that brent shared his experience. The current state of body modification is an interesting one. When i first started stretching my earlobes anything around 0ga was unemployable in most fields. Now I routinely see people working at stores that have 1″ earlobes. The same for tattoos.

    I think it is cool that people are pushing the bounderies of what is acceptable in society but it comes as a risk to them. Has anyone ever studied the increase or effect regarding intraoccular pressure re:eye tattoos? This is just one example.
    I doubt people will change their minds reading this article. But hoepfully at least one person has been talked off a “ledge”. Being around the industry for a while I know of plenty of homeless or suicides due to body mods.

    One more thing, like Shannon pointed out the russian couple’s tattoos look a lot like gang tattoos here in chicago. They would have difficulty here or other places in that aspect.

  12. Very interesting story.
    I’m 42, i have both my arms and my legs heavily tattooed, i started at 13 playing on myself with ink and needles but i start get professional tattoos only in my mid twenties.
    I’m keeping getting tattoos and i enjoy always more, probably due to my age.
    Nowadays i see a lot of kids with ink only on the neck, on the hands or in the face. Internet (thanks to Shannon, in a large way!) is a wonderful resource and i feel that this increased knowledge of tattoo (and mods in general) helped a lot of young guys to discover what is good from what is bad.
    On the other side i fear that it can be a sort of “race” to have more and more extremes tattoo and modifications, but often forgetting that, as Brent said, things tend to change, ink tend to last much longer than love.

    Plus i think in a young kid the will to “be different”, or “rebel” can lead in some big big mistakes!

    I tried to be as open as possible, and i believe that the only way to make the world accept all the colours, and shades of body mods is…. getting them! So i’m not against facial tattoos or heavy/visible mods.
    But there are a lot of mods and tattoos i simply don’t like and a lot of them are on kids, that in a percentual i can’t say but not so slim they’re gonna regret.

    I’m waiting (sweating) for my sons to get older enough to listen to what kind of mods they’re gonna ask me the permission for!!!

    Forgive my english, but my italian is worst!

  13. thanks brent this is great. i agree with you and some of the other posters. tattoos and body mods have 2 be taken carefully. The one thing is we could all die tomorrow and so why put off what you can actually do today. That is sort of my attitude now with my tattoos and piercings. I got my 1st tattoo when i was 16, and its since been covered up, ive been experimenting with simple piercings for years but now have some very visible non mainstream piercings. I didnt get tattooed for awhile because i couldnt afford the quality work i wanted and im real glad i waited until i was in my later 20′s. Im now in my early 30′s and am heavily tattooed and have visible facial and body piercings and work steadily in a profession that doesn’t care. I am also female and being a heavily modded woman is different in some cases for women than men. There’s a strange double standard and you have to be really strong to ignore. I believe in true love, totally. It is absolutely possible but I have also been in relationships where after years with someone you realize you really don’t know the person. And also lastly my tastes have changed somewhat and some tattoos and body mods i would have gotten when i was 22 i would hate today. So you really have to tread carefully. That tattoo that leysa got is only going to be reversible with makeup coverage maybe.And that tattoo is also going to become a sense of control over her life and her choices by a man that loves her. Love is not about control. Love is about carefulness, patience and hard work.

  14. Well written my friend. At least you went to a decent high school… 😉

    This is a great “cautionary tale”, and I hope that the industry itself pays attention. Marketing anything that is both personal and permanent to anyone under 25 is really akin to marketing cigarettes to the same age group.

  15. I remember hearing this story about the tattoo advertisement and had always wondered what the result was. That being said, a lot of people end up regretting their more extreme body mods but these cases are rarely publicized. It is good to see some people do care about others and their decisions.

  16. Avant tout merci à Brent pour ce témoignage étant un jeune modifié de 20ans ça ma fait beaucoup réfléchir pour mes projets futur et je réfléchirais d’avantage avant de réaliser des actes irréversibles tel que le tattoo facial ou modification extrême encore un grand MERCI à Brent et au site BME pour cette article .

  17. We went to the same high school…with more in common than either of us is happy about…

  18. umm who are you BigJim?

    Im guessing we ran in same crowds and such???

    wow would highschool look diferently at me these days LOL

  19. I really liked this article quite a bit. I myself have tattoo regret because of decision I made when I was younger. Dont get me wrong, I still love my tattoos, the art of tattooing, and the art of body piercing. Unfortunately, not everyone does and this WILL effect you life; like it or not. I am a business professional and have full sleeves and a back piece and covers the majority of my body. Now, I must wear a long sleeve shirt to work regardless of the temperature outside as well as to cover up my work from my patients. I would truly hurt my business if my patients looked up to see the person working on them was very heavily tattooed. I really wish they would not, but people are judgmental and that is just the world we live in. Like it or not, people/society will make judgement calls and decisions about you based solely on your appearance regardless if it is right or wrong to do so.

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