Wednesday, April 22, 2009

'Not Everybody Bleeds': An Evening With G. Jinx Masilotti, BodyMod Artist

Jinx, after the piercing.

I’m here in Dead President’s Lounge on Madison Avenue in Albany about to get my navel pierced. Can you tell me your name?
My middle name’s Jinx. That’s what everyone calls me.

Okay Jinx. Is this navel piercing going to hurt a lot?
No. On a scale of one to ten, I’d say it’s a four. At most.

I’m tough. I think I can handle it.
If you’re tough, then I’d say three.

People like you and I who deal with the public on a daily basis – I work at a McDonald’s – all find customers annoying sometimes. Do you have any specific pet peeves about things that customers do or say?
My biggest pet peeve is when people say, “I want to gauge my ears.” There’s no such thing! A gauge is a unit of measurement! So that would be like saying “I want to inch, or centimeter my ears.” You know? [Laughter] It drives me fucking crazy when they call the jewelry “gauges.” It’s like, no, that’s the unit of measurement! That drives me nuts. And it’s only been in the last three or four years people started doing that. I have to tell somebody every day, “It’s not gauging your ears! It’s stretching!”

This is a very unique profession. What inspired you to be a BodyMod Artist?
I found a book when I was 16 called Modern Primitives, and it was when the modern primitives movement was just starting. It showed me a whole different world of stuff that I’d never seen before. This book had scarification, branding, and suspensions. I got into it immediately when I was 18, right out of high school. I found a guy who owned a studio who would teach me.

I lucked out, because I ended up getting two mentors: the shop owner mentored me, and a guy named Jack Yount who was mentoring the owner also mentored me. Jack was one of the first piercers in the U.S. He opened one of the first shops here. He died in 1997 at the age of 75 after 40 years as a piercer.

But things have changed a lot. It’s completely different now. It’s super commercial now. You can buy body jewelry anywhere. It’s just different.

So how many piercings do you have?
I don’t wear jewelry in many of them anymore, but let’s see… [Counting on his fingers] Fifteen?

Fifteen! What was the one that hurt the most?
Nipples. It hurts men a lot more because we have the same amount of nerves in a smaller surface area. Most women say it’s nothing!

What was the first piercing you ever did and what was it like?
A tongue and it was terrible. We used to have a release form that asked if you had any disorders. The girl was epileptic and didn’t tell us. I pierced her tongue and she had a seizure and I freaked out.

Did you cry?

Oh, I would’ve!
Well, I had EMT training. So that popped in and I did everything I needed to do.

What’s the craziest piercing you’ve ever done?
Trans mandible. Through the jaw. It comes out underneath the tongue.

Ow! Would you ever get that one done?
[Chuckles] No. I don’t really wear a lot of jewelry any more. I get tattoos now. I don’t get pierced anymore. I have my micro dermals [on each cheek bone] but that’s it. I screw things onto them once in awhile.

Isn’t it awkward when you have to pierce nipples or genitals?
Not at all. It’s all the same.

It’s all the same!

I don’t believe you! I think that would be so awkward!

After 15 years, it’s all the same. I’m pretty desensitized to everything. But right now you’re gonna feel me drawing on you, I swear it’s not a needle yet.

Oh my God, so this is the moment of truth? I won’t be able to watch this. I can’t. I hate stabbing. [Chuckles] That’s fine. Stand up. I’m just gonna mark you a little more right now.

I seriously have a phobia though. That’s why I had to bring my roommate with me, just in case I pass out so she can drive me home!
I’m sure you’ll be fine! I’m gonna have you look in the mirror okay? I need you to stand perfectly straight, put your hands to your sides, and keep your head straight. When you move so does the center of your body. We want to get a nice perfect center, since I guarantee everything I do. All right, take a look!

Beautiful. I’m so scared!
Just lay on the table. Don’t be scared. I’ll do it really quick, I promise.

Do people scream a lot?
Nah. I don’t think you’ll scream.

I’ll probably just be like ah! [I make a crazy face.]
You might say ouch really loud. That’s common.

Okay. [Nervous giggles]

I’m just darkening your marks right now. [Holds up metal clamps] I’m gonna put these on. They’re gonna pinch a little bit.
[I gasp] Told ya!

It feels so weird! [A noise of terror escapes my lips as he moves toward my belly button.]
Okay, take a deep breath in. Let it out. Take a breath in. Let it out. Last one. In. And let it out, and…

AH! Ah ah ah ahhh!!
That’s the worst of it.

That hurt!
I thought you said you were tough?

I am tough! But it still hurt.
Well, the worst is over. Okay, you’re gonna feel a little tiny pinch right now.

Is it bleeding?
Not at all.

Is that a good thing?
Sure. Not everybody bleeds.

--Samantha Smith