By: David Tulloch

Kate Giles, 19, started getting body modifications three years ago. Though her parents were initially apprehensive, they have come to accept it.

When imagining someone with body modifications, certain images come to mind: a young person with neon-coloured hair, facial piercings, and full sleeve tattoos. It is easy to forget, however, that even the housewife with a single pierced ear and dyed blonde hair has undergone body modification.

Body mods include any type of modifications done to the body: piercings, tattoos, dyed hair, gauges, etc. They date back almost as far as mankind itself, and have been practiced by nearly every culture.

Kate Giles, 19, a fine arts student, got her first piercing three years ago when she pierced her own ear with a safety pin.

“I wouldn’t recommend it,” she said, laughing.

She was influenced by her siblings. Her older brother and sister were both into body mods, and their interest rubbed off on her. As she read up on the subject, her fascination grew, and she quickly followed in their footsteps. By the time Giles started getting piercings of her own, her parents were no longer very concerned.

“My mom had told my brother that if he got lip piercings, he’d be kicked out of the house,” said Giles. “So he went and got lip piercings. He didn’t end up getting kicked out.

“By the time I started doing everything, my mom just sort of begrudgingly accepted it.”

Now, Giles has numerous piercings, red and yellow streaks throughout hair, and a tattoo of the Death Star on the side of her neck. She doesn’t regret any of her mods.

Fellow fine arts student Megan Bulger, 18, is no stranger to body mods, with 13 tattoos and 12 piercings.

Yet, this has not harmed her chances of getting a job. Bulger said that the only time her mods affected her potential employment was when she was 16 and she applied to Starbucks. She was informed they only allowed two piercings per ear, she said. Bulger wasn’t particularly bothered by this turn of events.

“If they want everyone to look the same, I think it’s okay,” she said. Other than that, however, she hasn’t had any difficulty with getting a job.

“It depends on the employer,” said Bulger.

Karine Diotte, a keyholder at Trivium, feels that young people should experiment with body mods if they want, without fearing any sort of prejudice.

“If you want to do it, it’s truly up to you,” said Diotte. “It doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks.” Diotte has a nose piercing, a septum piercing, and doesn’t regret either.

As for social stigma regarding body mods, Jason Tierney, an employee at Universal Tattoo, isn’t too concerned about it.

“It’s not nearly as looked down on as even a decade ago,” he said. Still, he knows of numerous friends and coworkers that have had negative experiences with prejudice. Mostly, young people should make sure that they understand what they are getting themselves into when getting a tattoo, a piercing, or anything else, he said.

“Generally, young people don’t put as much thought into it as older people do,” said Tierney. “Young people think social stigma isn’t there at all. It’s lessened, but it’s still there.”

When it comes to tattoos, Giles agrees.

“Make sure you actually want to get it,” she said. Giles has a simple solution for anyone that is not completely comfortable with the idea of showing their tattoos to the world.

“There are places on your body where you can either show or hide piercings,” she said. When she is concerned about showing her neck tattoo, she can easily hide it underneath her hair, she said.

So what advice does Giles have for those who are considering getting body modifications?

“I know a lot of people don’t feel complete without their body mods,” she said.

“If it’s something you really want, don’t worry about what other people think.”