Allegra got her ears pierced
I just got my ears pierced last week for the first time. I’m 27; I feel like this should be an embarrassing fact, another piece of evidence proving how I’m an immature dork. Was I really too scared to get my ears pierced for that long? Even babies have their ears pierced.
Yes, I know! All my little cousins had their ears pierced their whole lives; I remember asking my mom about this when I was little, too. She said it was just a choice their parents made, to have their girls’ ears pierced when they were too young to remember any of the slight pain that comes with it. But my mom has always been
different from her relatives, and so has my dad, the ones who strayed the path of familial expectation to end up on a literal island, away from everyone else they knew. Thus, I was one of the only cousins who didn’t have her ears pierced.
The option was presented to me before now, before I became an adult who could make her own choices. When my mom received some heirlooms, including jewelry, she asked my
sister and me if we would get our ears pierced so she could give us the earrings. Heck no, we’re not doing that, we said. That’s for … girls. Girly girls. Don’t forget who you’re dealing with, mom—we don’t do that girly stuff.
That was my position on many things for the first 18-plus years of my life. I wouldn’t wear dresses; I hated pink; I didn’t watch The Disney Channel or listen to music made by women, even. I subscribed heavily to that trope of “outcast,” of being performatively anti-mainstream in an effort to take ownership of my lack of popularity. It was a choice I was making to be disconnected from all those popular kids. It was not a personal failing that no one liked me; it was that I chose to reject all of these heteronormatively female-coded things, as a sign of my enlightenment.
All of that is boring and a story everyone has heard before from someone in their life, who has also outgrown this unnecessary disdain for other people and instead embraced all those cutesy Pantone Colors of the Year, found a version of themselves they liked in a dress. I am wearing a dress and a full face of makeup as I write this, for what it’s worth.
Evolving past the whole “I hate girly girls” thing did not result in an overnight transformation into an earrings-having person. Clearly! I’m 27, as I said. I have not been a brat like this for that long. But the anxiety about coming across as someone who had no hope of fitting in developed into anxiety about being someone I didn’t want to fit in with, but had no choice but to live with. Another trope-y, basic thing is that I have hated my body for most of my life. Thank you, white suburbia; thank you, mass media. I had made peace with being a girl and the things that our society attaches to that, going bra shopping for fun and crushing hopelessly on dudes with abandon, or whatever. But I had not made peace with the permanence of my body, and I had no interest in trying to do so.
My friends in college were getting their second holes, their cartilage, their noses pierced; my roommate had a tongue ring and several tattoos. How could I ever volunteer for something like that, something as everlasting as a hole made through my earlobe? Or an ink drawing on my shoulder, god forbid? To walk into a store and show someone my body, instructing them to decorate it, as if I cared enough about it to want it to be adorned with something that may attract attention. I wanted to minimize every inch of myself, not reinforce my physical boundaries.
Tiny as ear piercings are—and you literally can’t even see them if you’re not looking in a mirror, cuz they’re on your head!—even that was a big step toward committing myself to this fleshy tomb I didn’t want to be a part of. That’s a stupid way to feel about yourself, but it’s also sometimes an unshakeable one. I don’t think I’ve shaken it, but I’ve come long enough away from it that last week, I found myself ready to commit.
Now that I hardly ever get dressed most days of the week, I have no time to dress up or become acquainted with myself and my body as things that could be considered “attractive.” This was something I’ve worked long and hard on, and the pandemic has done some serious damage on my mindset. So, truly and simply, I thought: If I get my ears pierced, that’s one “pretty,” decorative thing that’s handled for me, even when I can’t put on pants or change my shirt from three days ago.
So, I walked in, and I did the thing. And now my ears kind of hurt! I hate to place my value so much on how I look, or how jewelry looks, but I will say that every time I feel these tiny studs in my ears, or feel my sensitive lobes throbbing with slight pain, I feel a little bit more like the person I want to be. Or, at least, the person I hope I continue to evolve into: one who is not afraid to commit to being whoever she wants to be, physically or fashionably or socially.