Speaking of piercings, my mother informed me recently that in our culture, women used to wear the noluk (septum piercing) to indicate that they were newly married. If the women weren’t already pierced, the bridal party would puncture the ring through the septum on the very day of the ceremony.
Septum rings have never appealed to me aesthetically, though I do think they look better on darker skin. When my mother told me this, however, I was so enthralled to know of it, the somehow novel idea that facial piercings are not taboo in our culture, that in my mind I romanticized the tradition for a few seconds.
“It was absolute torture,” my mother said, wincing. “I’m so glad women stopped doing this.”
“When did they stop?”
“With your great grandmother, I think. My mother didn’t have one. It’s such a relief.” She shuddered.
It was, of course, a patriarchal tradition, and my momentary fascination borne out of a longing for connection explains the egomaniacal mindset of diasporic men and their counteractive behaviors. This was a practice traditional women ended on their own agency, and suggestions of revival are regressive to the legacy of tradition in the exact same way that colonialism halts social progression in the societies it terrorizes. What men of color like this do, essentially, is recolonize. Of course, they won’t see that, because women are the powerless gatekeepers of tradition.