Stretched ears: Past and present

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stretched ears past and present, gautama buddha

Stretched ears are becoming more and more prevalent in America. However, while body modifications tend to be frowned upon, it is a practice that has been around for over 5000 years.

Stretched ears

The number of places on the body that can be pierced is quite astonishing. It makes me a little lightheaded to think about because I am certain I have undiagnosed trypanophobia; which is the fear of needles. While piercings make me queasy, ear stretching does not; it is one of the most common types of body modification. It begins with a regular piercing, whether with a gun or a hollowed needle, and you gradually increase the size of the piercing until you reach the desired diameter. The skin has extraordinary elasticity though and may be able to shrink back to its original size if it has not been stretched too far. What defines “too far” depends on the person. In cases where the ear lobe has been stretched to the point of no return, surgical procedures may be required to revert it back to a somewhat natural shape.

The history of stretched ears

The first historical sign of stretched ears is Ötzi the Iceman, who was found over 5000 years ago frozen in the Alps. Other historical figures such as King Tut and Gautama Buddha also practiced the ancient tradition of ear stretching. Nowadays, especially in America, ear modification is almost purely for aesthetics. Although, if you look into other cultures both past and present, you will find that it is a practice meant to gain social status or to look more intimidating during war. The Lahu tribe from Thailand practices ear stretching and consider the ears to be sacred. Aztec and Mayan males practiced this body modification for social status as well. The jewelry you wore would determine which class you were in. Higher-class Aztec men would wear gold and silver, whereas lower-class men would wear copper, shells, or wood.

Stretched ears isn’t just for the youngsters

Anyone who has ever stretched their ears has already heard every negative comment under the sun. Our earlobes can’t be THAT interesting, but people seem committed to offering their opinion on our choices. For those of us that chose to let our loopy lobes shrink back, don’t tell us “I told you so,” or “you’ve grown up,” because that is sort of rude and unnecessary. And while some of us are reverting our body modifications, older generations are adopting the trend!

Once upon a time, I met a lady who could’ve been my grandmother. I noticed she had plugs (earrings for stretched ears) in her earlobes and I couldn’t help but ask her what size they were. I had never met an elderly person with body modifications. As it turns out, her REGULAR piercings had stretched her earlobes over time and her earrings kept falling out. Her granddaughter suggested wearing plugs instead.

Body modifications and the business professional

Many companies are relaxing their policies on piercings and tattoos in the workplace. Some retail stores are allowing unnatural hair colors. This is good news for the younger, alternative generation as they begin to enter the workforce, but some of us Millennials are reversing our modifications or halting the addition of more. My husband, for example, has 14 tattoos across his chest and back. He has Jesus’ face smackdab in the center of his back. If it weren’t for his career, he’d be laced with ink. Although society has accepted tattoos and piercings, many business corporations have not. I do, however, find it interesting that a practice meant to attain high social status in other countries was adopted by Americans and is now considered unprofessional in modern America.

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