In the few short years that I’ve known Andrew Duff, I’ve tried to talk him out of a few things… bloodletting, scarification, dermal punching his nostrils and eating the bits of skin – yeah, seriously.
More recently, I’ve been playing mom and saying no to his zany ideas of getting his eyeballs tattooed and surgically removing his pinky finger. When he mentioned his desire to have his tongue split, however, I was fully on board: I knew that this grotesque experience would be worthy of publication.
We linked up at the now defunct Witch Cult Modifications shop on New Gower Street, where Vancouver based modification artist and self proclaimed “human pincushion” Russ Foxx was prepping for the bloody butchering that was about to go down.
I huddled into the corner and sat down, just in case I happened to faint or puke. With his tongue pulled out, marked up and clamped, Duff gave me a reassuring nod – because I’m the one who needed a vote of confidence right?
Foxx began slicing, back to front. The moment the blade sliced the through the tip of the tongue, I thought the worst was over. Nope. Duff spent ten minutes getting stitched up. He was told to keep his mouth shut, as his mouth would be continuously filling with blood for a while. Yum.
This all went down in May of 2016, but you’re reading about it now because I wanted to wait until Duff had fully stopped drooling and slurring before I conducted the interview. Now fully healed, we linked up and I forced Duff to lick lollipops, eat Pixie sticks, and slurp up noodles at a Chinese restaurant – a whole new meaning to playing with your food.
The big question here is why, of course. Why go through all this?
I first saw something on Maury when I was 12 or 13 years old. I thought it was cool at the time, but never thought it was something that I would actually get to do. I guess my mindset at the time was that you’re kinda all or nothing with that, but attitudes have changed. I wanted to do it, so I did it.
Take us back to that fateful day. How were ya feeling?
It was very nerve wracking at first. Once I met Russ, he calmed me down and reassured me. The nerves were definitely the worst part of it. Other than that, it was all thumbs up.
What was the healing process like? What about that first day?
The first day was awkward, just the excessive amount of drool and swelling. You could feel the stitches, pulling it tight. If you keep drinking cold water, it helps. I drank 8-10 bottles of ice cold water every day. For the first week, there was no communication. I tried once, about four or five days in, but no one could understand me. My speech was really slurred and drawn out. I was lisp, personified.
I’d say speech returned to normal at a little over a month in. There was this weird thing happening where one half of my tongue would fall out of rhythm, like, slower than the other half. It made me jumble my words up. Now it’s just muscle memory. It doesn’t feel any different.
So what does it affect? Is using forks slightly dangerous or what?
I haven’t had any complications eating. I was back on eating solid foods after a week, but tiny, tiny pieces. The first week, I lived off multivitamins and meal replacement shakes. They’re like really bad milkshakes. I was starving the whole time. The first thing I ate was three sips of a bowl of tomato soup at about day seven.
What did your family think?
I couldn’t tell my dad. He probably would have stormed down there and stopped the whole thing. My mom was pretty OK with it, actually. She’s all into freedom of expression … It took a solid month and a half before my grandmother would even look at me again. She wrote me a big, two page long letter of concern. I ended up framing it next to a picture of me and Russ. In the frame, I also have all the sutures that came out of my tongue. Well, most of them. I definitely ate some of them. (laughs.)
Generally speaking, I don’t stick my tongue out at strangers. I didn’t before I had my tongue split and I don’t now. Unless I really want people to know, it doesn’t really come up. Even people I spend a lot of time with, like people at work, it took them weeks before they noticed.
Do you have a favourite sensation?
When I’m eating soup, yogurt, or something I eat with a spoon, there’s so much satisfaction in licking both sides of the spoon at once. It’s everything I ever wanted. (laughs.)
Not overly. The first month was a bad month, but no real regrets. It’s a satisfying feeling, I guess, to know that I could get through that month and go through that process.
What’s next, mod-wise?
I don’t even need this one! *wiggles left pinky* As it stands right now, I’m going to re-evaluate my life every two years and see if it’s the right time to get my eyes tattooed. Maybe lavender. Or pale yellow. So I can pass it off as jaundice. (laughs)
Great. Don’t count on me attending that appointment, bud.