When I got my ears pierced in 7th grade, all I wanted was to wear cute dangly earrings like my friends. When I asked my parents about getting my ears pierced, my dad thought it was stupid, something vapid women did to draw attention to themselves. My mom was more sympathetic, she said she knew that all girls like to look pretty, but she also warned me that this would be it. She was giving me her approval to get my ears pierced, but never my lip or my bellybutton. I would not get more piercings or plastic surgery or tattoos. “You’ll look like a hooligan,” she said to me, “like a free woman” (her way of saying prostitute).
It turned out that both of my ear piercings got infected and I had to take them out. I tried again a year later, but the same thing happened. My mom told me she was allergic to cheap metals (notably nickel), and that I probably was too, and maybe I just wasn’t meant to wear earrings. This was disheartening, but I didn’t completely give up. Last winter I went to a body modification shop and had two hypoallergenic surgical titanium hoops put into my earlobes. Just two weeks ago, I had to go back in and get one of them taken out due to an infection, but the other one healed just fine (victory!). As for the infected ear, I’ll let it heal over, and maybe try again in a year or two.
This weekend (or maybe the next or the next…) I’m considering getting a cartilage piercing. I’m not much for flashy jewelry, and I’m wondering if anyone will even notice if I have a small stud or hoop in my ear. That coupled with greater risk of injury and a much longer healing time, not to mention having to wear my hair down around my mother for the next 6 months (thank god it’ll be winter in Ithaca soon), it’s hard to figure out why I’d want to do this to myself. I know “just because” isn’t an acceptable answer, but it’s the closest to a true answer. Yes, I’m doing it because I like buying jewelry. Yes, I’m doing it just because I’m an adult now and I can, without anyone’s permission. Yes, I’m doing it because it’s loosely associated with certain countercultures/lifestyles and I want to show that I’m not as straight-laced as I always appear (although a single cartilage piercing is pretty tame). But none of those reasons are a deciding factor in my choice. I just want to.
I also want to mention tattoos. I know tattoos get a bad rap, and it’s understandable as so many people choose to get shitty tattoos (tramp stamps, mistranslated asian characters), and tattoos are often associated with gang membership, but I really like the idea of a tattoo – not one on me necessarily, but the idea that there are certain words or images meaningful or interesting enough to a person that they would get them permanently inked onto their skin. Or sometimes tattoos develop significance long after they’re done – that the tattoo becomes a part of someone’s identity. That fascinates me too.
I’ve seen some pretty incredible tattoos. Large and intricate ones (I once saw a peacock…. and a pretty detailed one at that), but also simple ones (a girl at my high school had this tattoo link to image here). When a student at my high school died in a car accident, a number of his friends got tattoos to commemorate him. There is no image that I am personally attached to enough that I would get it permanently inked into my skin, but if there ever is, I hope I will not hesitate from fear of the judgement of others.