Many Goths have piercings and/or tattoos (I have fifteen piercings and *drum roll, please* have just made an appointment for my first tattoo!). Whilst these, or any other, body modifications are not necessary for becoming part of the scene (no, reader, there is no secret initiation ritual involving a needle through the septum and a spiderweb tattoo) you may feel that there is something - or lots of somethings - that you would like to get done.
DO - be certain. Yes, tattoos can be removed, but it's painful, costly, and will probably leave scarring, especially if you've chosen a large design. Johnny Depp had his 'Winona Forever' (Winona Ryder) tattoo changed to 'Wino Forever', and likened the sensation to having 'a giant elastic band stretched all the way to Mars and then snapped on your arm'.
Piercings will heal if the jewellery is removed, but it takes a while, and, again, will scar. A colleague has a dent in the side of her nose from an old piercing from her shaven-headed tie-dye-wearing art student days - she complains that it looks like a blackhead and she has to fill it in with foundation every morning.
A tattoo or a piercing should be regarded as a permanent addition to your body and treated as such. Be sure that the design or piercing you have chosen is right for you. If a tattoo has personal meaning and is important to you, you are less likely to become tired of it, but make sure you take time to think about it rather than having it slapped on in the first rush of excitement.
Also, I know everyone says this, but think of what it will look like when you're eighty. These young people with Playboy tattoos or designs that say things such as 'Delicious' or 'Sexy' are going to be the laughing stock of the nursing home.
Plus, there is a big difference between 'a tattoo' and 'a piece of body art'. Having any old flash design slapped onto your body (young men with their macho tribal designs and young women with stars and butterflies are the most obvious repeat offenders) because it's 'cool' or 'hard' is a whole different ballgame than working with your tattooist to create a unique design that means something special to you. Your tattoo should be nothing less than a work of art that flatters the part of the body it's on.
With piercings, be sure to do your research - some piercings, such as eyebrow and anti-eyebrow, are what is known as 'surface' piercings, which means that over a period of about six months, your body will reject them and they will grow out. If a non-permanent piercing is what you want, fine, but remember to care for it properly as it grows out to minimise scarring. If you want something permanent, make sure that the piercing you have chosen is not in an area prone to rejection - any piercing can possibly be rejected, but in areas such as your ears, nose, navel and lips it is relatively uncommon.
DO - be aware of the potential risks. If researching the dangers puts you off, then perhaps body mods aren't for you. You need to know what sort of things can go wrong and what precautions you can take, as well as aftercare (your piercer or tattooist should give you aftercare advice, but it never hurts to read up on this in advance).
DO - make sure your body piercer or tattooist is reputable. When making your appointment, check that the studio is clean. There should be boxes to dispose of sharps, lots of pairs of rubber gloves, and somewhere that the piercer or tattooist can wash their hands. Find a practitioner that you can trust - I was recommended to both my piercer and tattooist by word of mouth. You may be putting your life in their hands (yes, really. Hepatitis. Look it up.)
DO - take a friend or parent with you for your first body mod. Piercings - speaking from experience - are generally not too painful, and tattoos by all accounts are bearable, but either way, it's nice to have moral support. You're allowed to be a wimp if a strange person is sticking needles in you.
DON'T, for the love of God - go DIY, unless you (or whichever willing friend has offered to stick needles in you) have the proper qualifications (and even then, piercing or tattooing yourself is not likely to be an easy job). Yes, it's quicker. Yes, it's cheaper. But it is going to bloody hurt, and if you don't know what you're doing you could sever an artery, get all kinds of infections and skin diseases, and even put yourself at risk of paralysis.
DON'T - ignore the advice of your piercer/tattooist. If they say don't fiddle with your new body mod - don't fiddle. They are qualified professionals who know what they are talking about. If you don't listen to their aftercare advice and follow their instructions on, say, cleaning your new nose ring, you risk harm to yourself. And guess what? You can't sue them, because you will have signed a contract stating that it is not their fault if you fail to comply by their recommendations.
Just to round this off, here's a nice video of me getting my tongue pierced a couple of years ago - don't worry, there's no blood and guts, and it actually didn't hurt at all. I'm talking funny and drooling all over the place because of the numbing stuff used on my tongue. Thanks to Dan (my lovely moral support) for videoing this clip for me, and thanks to Tony (the piercer) for not minding. By the way, I only had to have the HUGE bar shown in the vid for about a week to allow swelling, I now have a nice neat little tongue stud.