In here: Pierce the pain barrier

God, I feel old. Suddenly I can't handle a teeny bit of excruciating pain

The perils of modern living increase apace. My friend Richard shares an office with a designer who tends towards the dreadlocked. One Monday, she turned up having undergone a complete personality change. She had suddenly turned into a mother: complaining about untidiness and suddenly yelling, "Shaddap when I'm talking!" in the middle of conversations. The next day she started labelling the mugs so everyone could take responsibility for washing their own. Soon after that, notices started appearing about spilt sugar in the kitchen and people ignoring the smoking zones. Her colleagues crept round her and talked behind her back. We won't be able to live with this much longer, they said; does anyone know what's going on? Richard was deputised to ask if everything was OK. "Of course everything's bloody OK!" she yelled. "Have you got a problem or something? And why are you always so late every day, anyway?"

After two weeks, the entire office was dreading work. Then on another Monday she appeared wreathed in smiles. "Hi," she said. "I'm really sorry I've been so foul the last couple of weeks. I took my belly-button ring out and everything's great now. I think it must have been going through a mood line."

I was talking to this heavy metal geezer on the train the other day. It's always wise, on long train journeys, to sit opposite the heavy metal geezer with the tinnies, because you can guarantee the surrounding seats will remain unfilled. He was showing me his tattoos - he had a lovely green-and-red snake a bit like the lost king in King Solomon's Mines and a Pamela Anderson that stuck her chest out when he flexed a bicep - and we were discussing body piercing. He had eight holes in one ear, a stud on one side of his fine aquiline nose and a ring hanging off his eyebrow. He hauled up his T-shirt to show me his nipple rings. "Have you got any others?" I asked. He stuck his tongue out. "Euugh, god," I said, "doesn't that hurt?" "Well, it did at the time," he replied, "and I've had to give up bubble gum."

And snogging, too, presumably.

The subject of self-mutilation has been high on my agenda recently, as I decided a while ago, that, now I am an adult and possess the odd (the very odd) piece of decent-ish jewellery, it was time I got my other ear pierced. I thought it might be nice to be a little less asymmetrical to match my fabulously balanced personality. So after a few weeks' procrastination I got out of bed one lunchtime and headed in to town. I found a jeweller who also plunged staplers through the ears of the general public, a bit like Sweeny Todd, though less useful come suppertime. Hung around while she practised the nefarious deed on the customer before me. Felt increasingly sick and tried to comfort myself with the racks of Genuine Gold Studs. And when a small child was carried wailing from the cubicle, lobes bloody and newly trimmed with tiny sleepers, I realised that I simply could not go through with this. My left ear has had a network of four holes in the shape of a lozenge (the man who did them slipped with No 2 and put it very low down the flap of skin, which provided a lovely space for creative placement of hole No 4) since I was 14, but at 33, I'm too much of a wimp to handle the thought of a needle going through my virgin lobe.

I guess this means I'll never get that fleur-de-lys tattoo, either. God, I feel old. Suddenly I can't handle a teeny bit of excruciating pain. It's less that my pain threshold has gone down - evolution would be on a sticky wicket if women's pain thresholds dropped while they were still in their childbearing years - than that my squeamishness has shot up. I don't think all those ads on the telly featuring the epidermis help much. Every time I slice a finger open on a piece of paper these days, those cod-medical diagrams illustrating how Synergie keeps your skin looking young flash through my mind, complete with knobbly bits and whiskery nerve endings. It was probably more the thought of all those skin cells bursting beneath the needle that anything else that preserved me from getting into hard drugs in my youth.

Of course, like picking a scab, I am unable to leave these thoughts alone. It's a form of saturation therapy: if I expose myself to enough pictures of tarantulas then the British house spider won't seem so bad. My house is scattered with photographs of bound feet, Amazonian Indians with frizbees under their lower lips, Dinka with their lower front teeth bashed out, close- ups of raised-scar tribal markings, anecdotes about tooth piercing and dermabrasion and removed ribs and pumped-up lips. None of this was having much effect, though regaling people at dinner tables was ensuring a steady supply of leftovers. Then I started flipping through Jean Sasson's Daughters of Arabia.

Be warned: if you're squeamish, you might want to read this paragraph with your eyes closed. Although the circumcision of women has been largely abandoned in Saudi Arabia, it still goes on sporadically among some strata of society. Now, we all know about female circumcision. Barbaric. Disgusting. Think of the infections. Something should be done. But did you hear about the other practice outlawed by Abdul Aziz Ibn Al'Saud earlier this century? The flaying circumcision of men. To do a flaying circumcision you remove all the skin of a man's body between his navel and the insides of his thighs.

And to think I couldn't handle a bit of sissy ear piercing

Arts and Entertainment
TV Review: Sabotage, a meltdown and, of course, plenty of sauce
News
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
i100'Geography can be tough'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Louis van Gaal looks dejected after Manchester United's 4-0 defeat by MK Dons on Tuesday night
sport
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
Video
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Network Security Engineer, CCNP

    £200 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Network Security Engineer, CCNP Lon...

    SEN Teacher

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teacher required with Early Years...

    C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

    £40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

    C# Swift Payment Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.N

    £45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...

    Day In a Page

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?