All I ever wanted as a kid was to get my ears pierced. I just wanted that little ear stud, that manly thug ring, that dainty lady hoop, that audial bling: I wanted my ears pierced so badly.
I never told anyone, though. My nineties childhood was a looping of various found sound bites playing something to the affect of “GAY ASS FAIRY” or worse: I did not need more cause for unwanted attention due to my wiggly gender. There was also the looming macho phrase of “Left is right, right is wrong.” and, because I wanted both pierced, there was a strong possibility I’d be considered gay. I didn’t need another opportunity to be poked at.
So, I lusted from afar. A boy named Courtney in my second grade class had a little diamond stud. I wanted that. My uncle had a hoop when I was a preteen. I wanted that. My friend Daniel has one ear pierced and I’ve always just starred at it. I wanted that, too.
After twenty nine years, I decided to just do it. What is holding me back? Catholic school? My parents? The threat of not being hired for a job? With my teenage sister in tow on the eve of a Laura Jane Grace show, I decided I was going to live my adulthood queer punk dream and get my ears pierced. I yuppie’d it up by spending $150 on earrings at a Steven Alan and I made the trek to Melrose—Los Angeles’ mile long stretch of Hot Topic—to get it done.
When we walked into the parlor, it was surprisingly empty save for a bustling reality television crew dawdling around a handful of round teenage girls. They were all getting tattoos. They were very LA Girl Next Door—which is to say they were from somewhere inland like Alhambra or Riverside—and they kept communing around this Pretty Little Girl who was wearing skirt overalls that was composed of sun faded bandanas and bleached denim. She had a white lacy bra underneath, hair like a dying sea witch, and a voice as sweet as a baby crow learning to caw after smoking two packs of cigarettes. She was pretty but clueless.
The kids kept going back and forth with the Pretty Little Girl as the reality crew kept asking her questions. My sister and I stood looking for someone who worked at the parlor, who could expedite this process of getting my ears with holes in them. No one came. We watched the girls collectively whine that they had to hide their tattoos, that they couldn’t Instagram them because the reality show didn’t come out for a few months. I told my sister that the producers are terrible because they should have thought this through before starting filming. It’s 2016.
After a group of wannabe Housewives producers acquiesced to the Pretty Little Girl and her Alhambra fans, a small woman came and spoke with us. I told her that I wanted my ears pierced. She explained the cost which was surprisingly expensive given that I wasn’t buying earrings from them. She led me back to a small leather room where I sat on a very flat table that seemed equipped for people to give the most uncomfortable birth imaginable. The girl asked me if I needed anything before we got started. I asked her if it was going to hurt. She said it would feel like a pinch and I believed her.
It did feel like a pinch. The weird thing is that you can feel the needle working through you, piercing the skin, lingering, and moving through. You can feel the cool metal tube slide through the lobe. There was a chilly hanging out, inside of you, and then it passed. It was a very conscious connection and is very dissimilar from being penetrated: something literally passed through your body. Something entered you and exited you, from two different points.
There wasn’t a lot of pain though: it was a short sting, a pop and a pop, a one to another. She then sat me up and handed me some soap and told me to be easy on them. I wanted to immediately change the earrings to a different pair and a different pair and a different pair but, alas, the sore waiting period was for at least two months. I was bummed but excited to be the pretty, earring’d adult that I now was.
…until I literally ripped the earring out hours later. I was sensitive to mind my ears, to pay attention to them as to not aggravate them. Yet, when a loofah came too close and caught a bar, mid-scrub, I ripped the stud out and watched it sail down the drain as I shouted pained colorful language. I spent an hour attempting to shove a non-sharp earring tip through a hole that was puckered so tight in a heal that all I was doing was scratching skin. It was fucking painful.
I returned to the piercing parlor less than a day later to get an ear re-pierced, which was just as bizarre and invasive as the first time. (And you can bet that a loofah never touched my face while earrings were my ears ears ever again.) The piercer laughed at me and didn’t charge me because the hole wasn’t completely shut.
Getting my ears pierced was the closing of a circle: a hopeful childhood loop met its ed with an adulthood assertion of independence. Now I wear mismatched earrings or a sole stud on the right side, something to assert that I am wearing the jewelry wrong in an understated queer manner. I make sure they are as gaudy as possible. I do everything I can to make sure that you know I’m a little man-boy beautifying myself with little woman-girl things. They’re little pride flags. They’re jewelry. They’re earrings and they took me almost three decades to appreciate them.
Also, if you were wondering who the Pretty Little Girl is, look no further.