Lessons About Body Modification in the Dead of Winter

by Leah Finnegan

My baby did so well 🙂

A photo posted by Leah (@leahfinnegan) on Dec 12, 2014 at 5:29pm PST

A few weeks ago, my friend Jenna and I met up to get various parts of our heads pierced. She got a glittery rose-gold hoop put in her septum, very chic, and I got a gold hoop through the conch of my left ear. A new piercing, for the uninitiated, makes you kind of high. We teetered out of the shop, laughing, into the cold rain, trying not to disturb our new jewelry as we went to find vegan tacos to soothe our chosen wounds.

It turns out it was not a very practical idea to pierce my ear. While the actual act of piercing was not terribly painful, the wound soon became swollen, stiff, and seemed to radiate heat. I like to put things in and on my ears, like earplugs, headphones, and hats, because it is winter; with my fresh pierce even the thought of putting implements near my ear induced a spike of pain. Newly forbidden behaviors included playing with my hair, sleeping on my left side, and hugging my boyfriend. All of my idle time became dedicated to icing my ear and draining the puncture wound of pus. No matter that the complete healing time for this body modification is four to nine months.

I see women and men on the street with beautiful diamond cuffs and tiny golden punk studs lining their ears and I think: How? Why? It looks easy, but it is not. Their piercings must be their full-time jobs. I can’t even imagine the pain and bodily fluids that have contributed to the construction of their bedecked ears, and for what? Vanity? Streed cred? Maybe they have superhuman ears. Maybe they have special pillows.

I am twenty-eight years old. Why have I done this to myself? Have I learned nothing in this life? “Do not participate in body modification” is rule number one of How to Be a Successful Man and Influence People. I can’t help it, though. I’m very impulsive. Also, Jenna inspires mischief in me. She’s also part of why I now I have prominent tattoo of a mouse on my right arm. (A note on tattoos: Simple tattoos are the best form of body modification for impulsive people, because the healing process is non-arduous. This is why I keep getting tattoos.)

My piercing does look good, sartorially speaking, now that my ear has returned to normal size and its angry redness has faded to a mildly irritated pink. I look at it each night after I clean away the crust that accumulates on it during the day. It’s going to look great in nine months, which gives me something to look forward to this year. What will my life be like when this golden rod no longer causes me pain? Everything will be different. I might miss the hurt. Now that I think about it, theoretically it’s kind of great to have something next to your brain throbbing all day; it distracts from the agony of the world (this is Soviet theory I’m drawing from). Reality becomes your own festering puncture wound for which you paid a hundred and seventy dollars. No tweet is as bad as a new conch pierce. It’s all-consuming.

This is not an argument for body modification. Do whatever you want! But it’s nice to have a little talisman somewhere on your person to remind you to be careful with yourself, to maintain good hygiene, and also to never get your ear pierced in the winter.