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Suffering for Beauty - Lip Plates
How far would you go to be attractive to those of the opposite sex? What modifications would you make to your body? Is there anything that you would refuse to do?
Lip plates are pieces of jewelry that are used to modify the body, specifically the lips. In my opinion, they look painful, inconvenient, and are not the least bit attractive. The lip is stretched way out of proportion. For me, it would be a living nightmare.
The Mursi, Suri, Chai, and Tirma tribes in Africa disagree with me. They consider the lip plate to be very attractive. For them the wearing one or two of them is a ritual. Yes, some wear one in the upper lip, as well as one in the lower lip. To them it is a thing of beauty, and it is also a source of income. Tourists flock to see them and will pay money to take their pictures.
When a girl reaches puberty, her mother or another woman close to her, cuts her lower lip. This cut is held open by a wooden plug until it heals. Ouch. I don’t know about you, but I would not like that. Apparently it is up to the girl to decide how far she wants to stretch her lip. Some girls stretch the lip up to 12 centimeters or more in diameter. If a female does not wear the plate as she is expected to she is considered lazy.
Not a lot is said about when the men begin wearing their lip plates, but it is my understanding when a boy is young his lip is cut and a small, wooden peg inserted. The size of the peg is gradually increased until he is wearing a much larger lip plate.
When the plate is removed, the lip hangs down like a rope.
There are no major health issues that come from stretching one’s lip out so much. But once it is stretched, it will never shrink. So as well as being considered a form of body art, it is also a way of disfiguring the body. One would have to learn how to eat and drink while wearing the lip plate or else get very wet and messy. Talking might also prove to be a bit difficult. The lip plate also causes the teeth to start bending back.
It is thought that maybe these people began to wear lip plates to make themselves unattractive to slave traders. The tribes say this isn’t true, but it would make a good story, so you could come up with other reasons for this disfiguring form of body art. You could write a fictional tale about how you think this bizarre practice began.
Maybe one of these tribes that wear lip plates has captured a young girl from a tribe where this is not done. She grows to love those who are raising her now, but refuses to have her lip cut. Even though she would be considered lazy if she had been completely raised by them, since she is a “foreigner” her refusal is overlooked. But she marries one of the men of the tribe, soon becomes pregnant, and gives birth to a little girl. All is well until her daughter reaches the age of puberty and her lip is supposed to be cut. What does the mother do? Does she give in to this ritual and cut her daughter’s lip? Or does she refuse to do so? Whichever way she chooses, what is life like for her daughter?
Now turn the above situation around a bit. A young lady who has already had her lip plate inserted is rescued from kidnappers and willingly travels to the United States with her rescuer. They fall in love and are eventually married. When her daughter reaches the appropriate age, she wants to cut her lip and insert a lip plate even though she knows the ridicule her daughter will receive here where this practice is looked upon as unusual. The daughter does not want one. What happens? Does the daughter give in and allow this to be done? Or does something happen that changes the mother's mind?
Content copyright © 2013 by Lisa Binion. All rights reserved.
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