• Tabitha Frazer Blanks

The bar is out

It's weird.

I've taken out the bar that has run right through my tongue since I was 21 years old. I'm now 40 by the way. I had it pierced when I was living with a man who also had his tongue pierced. We were involved in a passionate affair and I thought he was the bees knees.

It's a traumatic memory. It was autumn 1999; I went to a piercing studio in Lemmington Spa on a Saturday lunchtime with the boyfriend and it cost £21 (which he paid for, as a present to me). The piercing itself didn't really hurt at all from what I recall. A numbing spray was applied to my tongue and it seemed to be all over without any drama.

That afternoon, I took the train down to Bristol to meet up with my friend Alex. He was a sound engineer at the Lakota night-club and we'd regularly hang out in the back on a soggy brown sofa, smoking and chatting all night. Various DJs, groupies and who's whos would pop by for intermediate 'refreshments' before bouncing back out on the dance floor throughout the night. It was a great little gig and much fun was had.

Alex was an old friend from where and when I grew up; we'd been pretty good buds for years, bonded by our love for partying and our easy-going natures. As I journeyed down that day from the Midlands, my new piercing began to throb. My tongue had swollen massively and the pain was beginning to kick in.

It's not too far a walk from Bristol Temple Meads to the Lakota and en route, I stopped off for a packet of Amber Leaf, a bottle of vodka and some cranberry juice. Man, it was really throbbing now. Swallowing was starting to become a hugely concentrated effort. I was starving too - not having the foresight to stuff myself well in advance before the stupid affliction. No chance of eating anything now; besides, my appetite had completely diminished.

I found Alex and we settled down to a night of drinking and catching up. Danny Rampling stuck his head in and gave us a thumbs up. Various others came and went and I tried to numb the pain by drinking more and more vodka.

It soon dawned on me that of course, alcohol thins blood so now even though the pain was improving slightly, I was agitating the wound as I became more talkative and it began to bleed. Yikes. It didn't occur to me to question what I'd done. I mean, I'd had piercings before and this is what they did - they hurt. At first. And then they healed. It's just...I hadn't expected the swelling and the throbbing quite so much. I was sure it would pass soon enough.

The next day, it still hurt. And the next. And the next. I'd returned home, back to the Midlands by now. The swelling had grown from the inside of my mouth all the way back down my throat, following the length of the entire organ. I can still feel it, I have a very strong memory of the pain – my whole throat swollen from the inside.

It hurt so much.

My other housemate had managed to bring back some super strength pain killers from Egypt and I would go to his room, whimpering in the night, like some hooked-on junkie, begging for some pain relief. I have absolutely no idea what they were - but I'm telling yers, they worked like a charm.

It was ridiculous. At the time, I'd just started work in a bar and we were allowed a choice from the menu at lunch. All I could cope with was mashed potato and I can still remember placing the tiny amounts using the tip of the fork just inside my mouth and waiting for it to dissolve before slowing, painfully, swallowing it down. My tongue was so swollen, I couldn't move the food around my mouth from side to side, so I'd end up biting up and down in the same place, like some kind of human robot. It's not chewing, it's just chomping. The food stays lumpy and it doesn't work.

My colleagues thought I had an eating disorder as it appeared that not only would I only eat mash, but I'd eat it in such tiny quantities and so slowly too. This rumour could not be further from the truth. I'm a massive food fan and consume more than my fair share of the stuff. It was just so incredibly painful to eat.

This insanity lasted for around three weeks. The biggest insanity of it all was:


Not once.

I'd like to think in hindsight it would have stopped the pain within hours and the healing would have begun and it would soon become a distant memory. But I stuck with it, thinking it would have to stop hurting soon and... of course, it did. The three weeks of madness began to fade as the piercing did begin to heal. Soon the swelling had gone down so much, the bar that had been used to pierce it became way oversized and I felt very much like the rancor in Jabba's Palace.

Truly, this is how I looked. It was stupidly massive.

I went back to the piercing studio but the guy refused to change it for a smaller one. I have a ridiculously child-sized mouth and the bar was kind of clanging around in there, wedging my jaw open and generally being an issue. In the end, I purchased a new, much smaller bar myself and swapped it over. And that was the end of that. It healed, life was good.

That Was The End of That

The boyfriend turned into an ex. I moved away, and on with my life. I kept the piercing as it was still pretty cool and I'd been through too much to remove it - it was a battle scar of my trauma. Time passed and I then met Mr B, who seemed to be on good terms with the stud in my mouth. I was 25 at this point.

So 25 turned into 29, when I became pregnant. And 29 turned into 36 when I returned to full-time education. I carried on wearing the metal bar, as it had just became part of me and blended into my body. It required no maintenance and was no bother at all.

However, over the last few months, I've suddenly become aware of it again. People I've just met, asking 'have you got your tongue pierced?!' and me saying 'yeah' but where I used to feel slightly kooky and a bit leftfield, just feeling slightly embarrassed instead. No shit - I'm a 40 year old woman rocking a 90s fashion accessory. It's dawned on me that all my friends who also rocked piercings from the 90s took them out a LONG TIME AGO. I know the fashion is all coming back around again, but really, this is old hat.

So today, on my way to work, while I was stuck in traffic, I took it out.


Goodbye old growing-up me. I think I'm now entering adulthood. Or is that middle age?

#piercing #tonguepiercing #removingpiercing #movingon #growingup #adulthood #piercedtongue #tongue #memories #pain #nopainnogain #memoir #1990s #suffering #gettingyourtonguepierced #gettingolder #comingofage #oldraver #whenpiercinggoeswrong #abadidea #youth #recollection #tonguestud #tonguebar #rancor


• by Tabitha Frazer Blanks •

An expert on being right most of the time, arguinging the toss and partial to the odd daydream, Tabitha is also a hard working designer with a love of travel and food.

copywrite Adventures Big & Small 2020 •

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