The Irritations of Modern Life: 63.

PIERCINGS

MM-MMM, THAT'S attractive. Here's a 19-year-old girl with a circlet of metal sticking out of her left eyebrow, a second encircling her right nostril, a metal pearl in 18th-century-beauty-spot position on the corner of her upper lip, a mini-dagger clamped to her chin, and a stud like a miniature weightlifter's barbel protruding through her tongue. This good- looking young woman has got more gratuitous lumps of metal on her face than The Man in the Iron Mask.

She is called Naomijo Hughes. She comes from Devon and has been selected by Cheltenham borough council for a campaign to persuade the young to use their votes in local council elections. "Make your mark," say the posters carrying pictures of her with her tongue sticking out. "Live by your choices, not someone else's."

Far be it from me to intrude on anyone's private habits, but the only mark Naomijo is making here is the mark of a sad self-mutilator. Her only "choice" is choosing to look like a sufferer from metallic acne. Having her face pierced over and over again means you're an impressionable ninny, driven to desperate behaviour by boredom and pushy friends. It's about as "independent" a mode of personal expression as wearing blue jeans.

Haven't we had enough of body piercings yet? Isn't it all over now with the studs, the navel adornments, the teensy nasal sparklers, the serried ranks of ear-flap embellishments? Contrary to reports, piercings do not make you hip. They imply subservience. They give the impression your face is chained, branded, flayed, scarified, nailed, invaded and made not your own.

But piercing is clearly doomed. Now it's been co-opted by Cheltenham borough council, it's had it. It was bad enough when Zara Philips had her tongue pierced. This is the final nail in the coffin. Or at least the final stud in the groin.

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