At 11 am yesterday a tattoo artist named Kelvin was meant to pierce my ears. If I tell you that my whole life had been leading up to this moment, it’s because I expect that you’ll understand how it feels to be the only 38 year old woman that I know who has never had her ears pierced. I’d say I had my reasons, but then you’d think one thing, when what I’d really like you to focus on is how wanting to get my ears pierced made me feel like a moo cow.
It’s a battle that has been waging for years. In terms of obstacles, these have been varied and fierce.
First, my mother forbade it. “I don’t want you to be like everybody else,” she said, when all the other girls in my class started spinning their studs and nursing their ear infections with a smugness that left me in tears.
“But, Ma, I want to grow up to be glamorous!”
The woman was practically heartless.
“Maybe you’ll grow up to be an individual instead,” she said, which, as far as I could see, had zero actual value in it for me.
So, thanks for nothing. Jeez.
Fast forward a bunch of years and suddenly…
I’m twenty-four and two milestone moments have not yet been accomplished: (1) I have no driver’s license and, much worse, (2) I still have no holes in my ears.
On the bright side, I just got married and our apartment has a not too shabby view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
I decide to revisit my childhood ambition, and in a moment of quiet reflection I say to my shiny, new husband, “Don’t you think it would be nice if I got my ears pierced?”
“Not really,” he says. And then just as I feel the prickling threat of tears, “I kinda love how you’re not like everyone else is.”
Which, on the one hand, is nice of him, until he adds…
“Plus, aren’t earrings expensive?”
You can always tell what kind of a person a man really thinks you are by the kind of earrings he gives you.
And so, in order to keep my husband from thinking that I’m just like everyone else, for the next decade I swallow my glamour-pride and don’t get my ears pierced.
But after the divorce the old decision resurfaces, and I think perhaps it’s time to pierce a hole through the heartache with a perfect pair of earrings that will symbolize my ability to start my life over again.
I circle back to my mother to see whether there’s been any progress across the years. “I’d be really disappointed,” she says.
And so I set a date and dedicate hours to research.
I discover big things…
For instance, there are two different types of earlobes (attached and unattached), and over 300 acupressure points in each ear. Whoa! Other news: gun piercings equal nastiness. Not only are these unhygienic (they can cause Hepatitis B!), but gun piercings create crush injuries that are more damaging to a body’s tissues than, say, a cut injury would be (as caused by a needle piercing).
Looks like waiting might actually have been a good thing!
Except, now I have a sinking feeling.
What if all I see every time I look at my new earring-clad ears is the actual price that I paid for them: one broken marriage?
And so I put the whole thing off again.
“I’ll do it next year,” I say, deleting my wishlist.
Except next year becomes two years and then just when I think the stars might have aligned I ask my boyfriend of the time, “What do you think?”
And he says, “I don’t think I’ve ever loved a woman with pierced ears.”
Well… shoot me.
So, I put it off, again, since I want to be the woman that this man loves, and for years.
But, ha ha. The joke is on me, because being just like this man’s other girlfriends is, as it turns out, no guarantee, and before too long the whole relationship blows up anyway.
Getting my ears pierced is proving much more challenging than I expected…
Worst of all, it’s actually making me a little scared.
I decide to give it more time, and put it off until the moment comes when I’m working for a fashion company and I think it might actually be appropriate to wear the company’s earrings, like everybody else does. But I need to have pierced ears.
So I schedule an appointment with Kelvin. I talk to a friend who says she will come and hold my hand through the experience. I start a wishlist all over again. I throw caution to the wind and ask my new boyfriend what he thinks.
“Isn’t it your choice?” he says.
And then because of how he says it, because of how long I’ve waited to hear exactly this, and because of how right he is, I feel like a moo cow.
Because here’s the thing… cows don’t make decisions about what happens to their ears either, and in the moment when the identity tag gets neatly pierced into their ears nobody ever says, “Hey cow, how do you actually feel about this plan that we have, you know, for your life here?”
And I realize that for the longest time, as a daughter, as a wife, and as a woman, I have let everyone else’s opinion about what I should do with my ears matter more to me than my own. While it may not have been made out of plastic, and might not have revealed details like my weight, my age, or what my feeding program is, by living as though this decision was somebody else’s, I have effectively attached a self-imposed identity tag to my ears that has, for all of these years, read: Property of X.
And though the stakes for me have been very different from the stakes facing a cow, in my moment of realization I feel no less owned by somebody else. The worst part is, I have done it all to myself.
So I cancel my appointment to see Kelvin. A job is simply not a good enough reason to put holes in my body. While I know that I’ll eventually get my ears pierced, I want it to be at a time when the decision doesn’t still feel purely reactionary.
Because what I’ve learned is that…
Glamour is not as narrowly defined as my once nine-year-old self thought, and not having my ears pierced has never actually made me feel any less glamorous, any less feminine, or any less of a woman at any time.
More importantly, simply because people have had an opinion about what I should do with my body, this never actually meant that they expected their opinion to speak more loudly than my own, and it also never meant that they would have loved me any less if I had gone ahead and put a line of holes all the way up my ears.
Had I loved myself enough first, had I trusted everyone else more, and had I followed what was in my own heart from the very beginning, I could have learned all of these lessons much earlier and maybe, just maybe, I could have been rocking a pair right now.
What lessons have you learned about yourself this year? I’d love to know!
— Tasmine Mocke