When I was a little girl, I decided to get my ears pierced. This was at the exact point in the ‘80s when we first started talking about HIV being passed through used needles. My mom was a child of the ‘50s, a time when no one pierced their ears. Her own ears weren’t pierced. She had no friends who’d pierced their ears. She thought it was a little bizarre and barbaric. And besides that, there was no way, as she put it, that she was going to take me to the mall at that time and let some thirteen-year-old point a needle gun at any part of my anatomy.
Now, I don’t blame her. But back then? It erupted into our first locked-horn fight. I persisted; she held firm. She told me if I had to get them pierced, I’d have to let her take me to a doctor’s office where she knew it was sterile. But there was no way I was going to a doctor’s office (bad previous experience, long story). The argument died.
I hated my ears. HATED. I wore clip earrings. I wore magnets (not joking—didn’t work). As time passed, my friends got their ears double-pierced. I felt double-stupid. I suppose, as the years went on, I could have revisited the situation—but somehow, it felt too late, almost silly to be getting my ears pierced for the first time when I entered teenhood. Besides, I had better arguments to engage in with my mom (most importantly, over contact lenses—I persisted and emerged victorious that time).
I entered high school. And met the first boy I ever went out with. We’ll call him Tim Selsnik (totally made up name, because it might be kinda weird bumping into a blog post about yourself). It sounds completely silly now, but the whole thing was a little like the broken-nose episode of THE BRADY BUNCH—the one where Marcia’s got a date with “the big man on campus.” Tim was a senior and he was cute and had 90210 sideburns (I suspect he’d have hated it if he knew I thought of them as “90210 sideburns”) and was the class clown and everybody vied for his attention and girls had crushes on him, and for some reason completely outside of my understanding, he took me out.
I was so into this guy—I was shy anyway, and I’m sure I either came off as a stumbling moron or completely aloof. He was one of those people you like so much, it actually scares the bejeezus out of you.
And his ears were pierced. Good grief. About four times, if I remember right. This was early in the ‘90s, when it was still a little odd for a guy to have earrings, let alone an earring in the cartilage at the top of his ear.
And he told me—get ready—he told me that liked my “naked earlobes.” Yes, oh, yes. "Tim Selsnik" liked the fact that my ears had never been pierced. It was different. It was cool.
I almost died.
I have to say that this remains, to this day, the best compliment I’ve ever received. Good old "Tim Selsnik," wherever he might be right now, probably doesn't remember any of this, but I'll never forget the simple things he taught me: that the exact features I saw as flaws could very well be something another set of eyes saw as cool or beautiful. That, corny as it sounds, I was the only person out there who could be uniquely me. That maybe, looking or behaving or being like everyone else was a giant waste of time and energy.
I never did pierce my ears. It’ll probably come as no surprise when I say I never will.