This is the story of a British gent in his late twenties. He appears normal: kind of scruffy, sports a plaid-shirt and jeans. The only thing that seems curious about his appearance is his scarf. It is light, flowery, and clashes with his style entirely. While this could be seen as an indication of flamboyance, in this case it is not. This scarf is not a display of pride, but a veil of shame.
Two friends of mine, Matt & Alex, moved to the UK a few years ago to experience a different way of life. During their extended stay, Alex’s friend Cynthia paid a visit. They hit a pub where the taps looked like little alto saxophones and ended up sitting with a peculiar– yet entertaining– scruffy scarf-wearing bloke. Or as Cynthia eventually starting referring to him, “Necky”.
At one point that evening, Necky returned from the bar’s bathroom and sat down. Cynthia looked at him and yelped, “Hey, your neck is bleeding!” He played it off as if nothing had happened. Every so often, tho, he would take a napkin from the table and pat it down subtly. It was blatant that he was bleeding profusely from the neck, but the group decided to keep it off the table, as I’m sure he hoped to as well.
They managed to keep their lips pursed for a while. Although, as the evening progressed, lips loosened and the subject slit out. It seemed to make Necky skittish, building up to a point where both Matt and Alex followed their new friend to the restroom in an effort to console/comfort him.
After the pub shut down for the night, the fivesome somehow ended up going back to Necky’s place to keep the party going (and to jam). They were met with a substantial Bowie collection on display and the view of an organ in the bedroom. They also met his roommate, who seemed relatively normal. Matt decided to head to the loo and stumbled upon Necky, topless in front of the mirror, cutting his neck with a razor-blade.
“What the fuck are you doing?!” Matt belted out. Necky didn’t give much of a response, just closed the door in slight embarrassment.
Matt proceeded back to the shin-dig in the living room, where the roommate informed him that Necky had not only just lost his job, but that his girlfriend had left him. The drinks kept flowing and upon Necky’s return, in a blood-spotted handkerchief and a new shirt, everyone decided to take the lighter route to dealing with this unfortunate revelation: they made fun, telling him that he was an idiot. With jamming ceased and Matt on his way out, Necky handed him a copy of Hitchcock’s Rebecca.
About a week after sharing this story with my photographer-friend Dawn, I get a text from her: “Shooting a model from London with scars all over his neck. Could he be…?”
Now from what was described to me, Necky was no model. But another neck-cutter? No way! Totally ignoring my sense of coincidence, I set off to research this lesser-known trend.
A Google search for “neck cutters” will bring up a New York salon of the same name and several links for big-ass neck-cutting swords. “Neck cutting” produces the Yahoo! answer for “If i cut lines under my neck can i breath under water?” which apparently you cannot, and something called “Neck Cutting Rafaees”, which would be the “big ass neck cutter swords”.
Neck-Cutting Rafaees are used in a ceremony as part of an annual Pakistani celebration of various body modification techniques. In one ritual, a child is placed on a mat with their eyes covered. The cutter then punctures the skin, and after a few strokes, he steps back then rushes toward the child and leaps into the air, pushing the blade deep into the neck.
Hang on, I feel sick… Okay, obviously, I wasn’t getting the direct answers I was looking for. So, I had to think. Could it be a form of scarification?
Scarification (source: Wikipedia)
French term: cicatrization
Scarification is a ritual/body mod that can produce “euphoric” feelings in the cuttee. The term does not apply directly to “Neck Cutting” for self-harm.
No such luck… As much as it pained me to do this, I knew it was time I sought out some cutter forums. It wasn’t hard. People in that amount of pain seem to want to share it with others and the Internet provides anyone with something they want to say, no matter how self-indulgent, the venue to do so (see: provocativepenguin.com).
The first piece I read was actually quite interesting. It was a person recounting how they were a cutter for 15 years and had little shame about the practice. It was a part of their life because they had a rough upbringing and didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of their siblings by taking it out on anyone in the immediate vicinity. Respectable, I suppose.
Then I found something that almost answered my question:
“Why do people cut their wrists? I mean I do too, but why is that the popular place? I also cut my lower stomach (because I hate how I’m so fat, 108, GAG!!) and legs (I can cut deeper there and wear jeans. So why not those places? They’re easier to hide right? Cuz I don’t know about you guys, but I burn up during the summer with my long sleeves!”
108 (lbs)?!?!?! OMG that’s disgusting… This was the kind of thing I expected to find in a cutter forum (it was on experience project, by the way). So, this girl, I assume, is cutting herself as a release of her pain. No surprise there. But she’s also taking it further by literally cutting the places on her body that add to that sorrow. Which is by far the most literal application of self-inflicted Emo I’ve heard of as of yet. Could this be what Necky was doing? Was he cutting his neck because he didn’t feel like he should be able to breathe anymore? Was he unable to go all the way?… Did he just want gills?
Cutting isn’t such an unfamiliar thing anymore. Many have dealt with people close to them going too far, whether it be with razors, pills or just self-destructive behaviour. Although, why would someone who is obviously not proud of their affliction cut themselves on such a prominently exposed area of their body? The reasons still kind of elude me. It could be to escape the constraints of societal norms, however that’s probably not the case. Going through hard times, whether they are perpetual or just a phase, seems to be the broad answer. As with scarification, the practice of neck cutting with Rafaaes produces what is described as a euphoric state for the cuttee. One would expect that with any forced parting of skin, there would be a release of endorphins that would lead to something of a high. Perhaps there’s something special about the neck.
Personally, the more I delve into the subject, the less I want to know. As for Necky, I hope he finds some form of happiness. And like the aforementioned poster who’d been cutting for fifteen years, I hope he doesn’t live in shame because of his odd compulsion and manages to get past it.
Next up: Bugchasers