The Wonderful World of the Bodyartforms Forums – Part One
I go from page two thousand and something of the What are you wearing in your piercings today? thread, where the posts tend to be about gorgeous jewelry, to page three thousand something of TTOAT:Unmoderated Edition, where folks are posting about stomach problems and vacation homes. It’s a lurching shift from the moderated to unmoderated side of the forums, and from very jewelry centric discussions to a place where you can talk about almost anything. TTOAT stands for “The Thread of all Threads”, and is kind of a catch all discussion place.
The kind of place that makes the forums the weird and wonderful world they are.
Places where I tend to lurk, rather than post anything, for fear of being called out as a one post n00b by someone with 16,000 posts and a decade of history on the boards. Some of these people haven’t even been around that long: two years, three years. I do the math on their post counts and realize that some of these folks are here all day, sort of virtually living here.
I sat down via FaceTime with Ann Bailey, the forums Moderator, and talked about what the Bodyartforms Forums are all about. We start with how she ended up there in the first place.
This is Ann Bailey. I think we can end the interview right here.
“I think a variety of people find them in a variety of ways, and it’s kind of become its own entity over the years. I think I stumbled on the boards when I was shopping one day. I started shopping at bodyartforms in 2004, and then I went to college in Savannah and didn’t have a lot of friends, so one day I just kind of got on the message boards, you know, kind of whatever.”
Ann’s ‘kind of whatever’ knocks out my FaceTime and I have to call her. She’s leaving work at her day job, where she’s a project manager. She has a background, she tells me, in anthropology. One of maybe a half dozen anthropology majors they’ve hired at her office. I ask her if that’s a normal distribution of anthropology majors in a project management office.
She doesn’t really say. I’m supposed to be talking to her about the forums, but I can’t leave this detail alone. That’s a lot of anthropology majors. A statistical anomaly, I think.
I try to follow this up for a while, finally saying, “But so, like, you wouldn’t necessarily be more qualified to do that as an anthropology major, would you?”
“No, I think it’s just coincidence,” she says.
It’s just a coincidence. I let it drop. I ask about the forums. What are they? What are they all about?
Ann has two dogs. The large one is Paisley, and the little one is Brewster.
“I think it depends,” she says, “on the perspective that you’re looking at it from. There’s so many different kinds of people that find them in so many different kinds of ways. I think for a certain person it’s just a message board where you can get answers about body modification or jewelry. But I think for the people who stick around long enough to figure out what the boards are about, it kind of becomes this catty little community where, like, the people that have been around long enough are probably going to make fun of the people that haven’t been around very long.”
Not to be mean, she says, but people do get frustrated being asked the same questions over and over again. But once you’re past the hazing, “You’re kind of welcomed with open arms.”
“If somebody’s having a really bad day, it’s like a private place where you can go to rant. I think that’s part of why it’s such a cool community, because not every message board is as broad or encourages the users to be as broad in their topics. I think once you’re embraced into that community it really does become a place you can go if you’re having a bad day or if you just want to talk about, like, ‘I just stubbed my toe and it hurts’ and you just want to complain about it. Or like, ‘I’m getting married and this is awesome!’ and everyone gets excited. And that doesn’t happen everywhere.”
This is a real person that Ann met on the forums and became friends with.
As is traditional in this kind of interview, I ask her about her piercings.
“The visible ones: I have my nostrils pierced… I don’t really wear a lot of jewelry right now, I don’t know if it’s just ‘cause I’m too lazy to put it in or what. But last time I had plugs in I was wearing, I think, three-quarter inch and then I have my conches punched at 4 gauge, but those have closed some. I think I can get an 8 gauge in there now. I have an industrial, and I have my tragus pierced. And I have some that are, like, under clothes.”
I tell her we don’t have to worry about those. This isn’t that kind of interview. Although there’s no telling what will happen in Part 2.
We could talk about anything.
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