I had a job interview on Monday. I was dressed neatly, I had relevant experience, and I was informed I had been given “glowing references”. The interview went quite well, and the man who conducted the interview seemed satisfied, if not impressed with me as a potential candidate for employment. I have to admit, I was feeling quietly confident. There was just one thing that apparently was holding me back.
“That piercing, does it come out?”
“Well obviously if you are successful, you will have to remove it. We have a girl here with a nose piercing, but a lip ring is just…not the way we do things here.”
There it was. The one tiny, insignificant detail about me that would be the difference between me potentially getting a job, and being rejected. The piercing in question is a vertical labret; a small, unobtrusive little metal bar that goes through the centre of my bottom lip (though I had a clear bar in at the time). I have had this piercing for seven years, and it has never once affected my ability to do any of the number of jobs I have held during that time. Now of course, I could understand if the job were at a law firm, or a doctor’s surgery, or some kind of factory where there was an inherent risk of injury resulting from jewellery/piercings. However, the job I applied for was a retail position.
The thing I found almost as silly as the notion of having to remove my piercing in the first place, was the apparent distinction between a nose piercing and a lip piercing. They are both on the face, after all. Why is one piercing more or less offensive than another? Why should I be expected to remove a lip ring, when someone else is permitted a similar kind of jewellery in their nose? Needless to say, after a lot of thought and reflection, I opted to withdraw my application for the job. In the end, I realised that it just wasn’t for me.
Here’s the thing; it’s 2020. We are living in a time where it’s probably more unusual to not have any kind of body modification. So I find it really difficult to understand why there are people and businesses out there who still subscribe to this outdated idea of professionalism. In all my years of working in customer facing jobs, I have only ever had the odd question about a piercing or tattoo. But I have never received a complaint, or been told that someone finds it offensive. I mean, it’s not as if I had some obscene phrase tattooed across my forehead.
At the end of the day, any job that requires me to remove a piercing or cover my tattoos, is not a job that I want. I am wholly, unabashedly myself, body modifications and all. And I have no intention of stamping my personality out just to fit into someone else’s idea of what a retail employee should look like.