I recently turned 36. I’m a fatalist. Anything above 35 and I’m 40. If you’re older than 40, don’t be offended. I’m looking forward to (the jewels I will hopefully receive from Tom at) 40. But I feel like I’ve barely settled into my 30s, and now I’m being forced along, and I really don’t want to go.
The signs are there that change is happening. I was at the mall and picked up a cute pair of flats from a display only to realize they were Borns. Fucking BORNS. Either Born no longer makes old lady shoes, or I’m developing old lady taste. At the gym, I flipped through an issue of More magazine and found every article to be highly resonant and relevant to my life. In fact, the magazine could have been called “Yoona: The Magazine for You.”
Once I noticed these small indicators that I was aging, I was resolved. I wouldn’t go gently into that good night. I would fight like a wild and untamed she-cougar. But how?
Good thing I have a 20-something in the house. Cuz showed me articles on Vogue and Into the Gloss about piercings, and said she was getting some. YES. I could pierce myself! My new piercings would reaffirm that I was young. That I had LIFE.
When I told Tom I was going to get a double helix piercing, he grimaced and went off in search of his jug of Advil. When I mentioned it again the next day, he turned mean. “Were you serious? Because Kathryn thinks you’re having a mid-life crisis.” Damn right I was having a mid-life crisis. Tom was lucky I liked my skin too much to tattoo “T&Y4 EVER” on my knuckles. I’d text Linds about the piercing, only to get supportive responses like “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Cuz herself was no help. She wanted to wait to do it in NYC at NY Adorned, and kept putting me off when I tried to set a piercing date.
Well. Game on, losers. Like a 13-year old, nothing makes me want to do something more than a passel of doubters. There’s a piercing parlor a block from my office, and it looked spacious and clean. On Yelp, it had almost all 5-star ratings. Done. I dragged Cuz in on a Thursday night.
The thing about piercing parlors is that they are intimidating for naturally non-subversive people like me. At Straight to the Point, they had a bunch of art on the walls showing piercings so crazy that I started to rethink the whole thing. It was like walking into a hair salon and noticing that all the photos on the wall are of Carrot Top. That might scare you. You might think, this place is not for people like me.
The jewelry on display made things worse. It’s not that the pieces were so large, it was that they were so foreign. They had a whole case with items that looked like wooden salad plates. No idea what they were for. See? That would be intimidating, right?
The parlor didn’t have the right equipment that first night so we left. Even if they’d had the equipment I’m sure we would have left. We needed time to get comfortable with this world we were entering.
On Saturday outside the piercing place, I circled the block in vain, looking for a parking spot. After 15 minutes, I began to take the lack of parking as a sign that God didn’t want me to pierce myself. From there on out, I took everything as a sign of God’s disapproval. Once we got inside, a guy named Evan gave us our paperwork while I fought not to stare at the huge ring in his nose and the studs embedded into his skin near his eye. I asked him how piercings like those didn’t fall out.
“Oh, you just make a cut and then pop the stud in like the skin is a buttonhole,” Evan explained, cheerily. I gave a nonchalant laugh and promptly turned white as a ghost. I looked down and concentrated on my intake form. Had I had alcohol, it asked. Hell yes I’d had alcohol. Who went to a piercing place without having alcohol? “You’re ok if you had it with food,” Evan explained, when I looked up at him in hope. “Oh phew,” I chuckled, weakly. I filled out the rest of the form in a daze. I’m sure that Emily, my piercer, found it really helpful to learn that I’m allergic to cats.
There were people ahead of us, so we waited outside the piercing room and chatted with Evan. “People don’t cry, right?,” I asked. “Oh, all the time,” he answered. I tried again. “But not, like, SOBBING, right?,” I clarified. “Sometimes,” Evan said, amiably. I began to wonder if Evan and the wall art were the parlor’s way of weeding out people who weren’t fit to pierce. Emily called us in to the piercing room just as the last of the wine from dinner wore off.
Cuz got in the chair first. I watched her to assess how much pain she appeared to be experiencing. Her eyes got big for the first piercing, but no tears. She winced at the second piercing, but still no tears. I felt comforted. And her piercings looked amazing. After Emily sanitized the chair and pulled out new instruments, I sat in the chair and babbled incoherently about my grandpa and the time he accidentally ate my contact lenses while we were on vacation. Emily laughed, warmly. She marked in pen the spots in my ear where the holes would go, and then laid me back. As my chair reclined, I asked Cuz if it had hurt. “No,” she said. I relaxed. “Well, not the first. The second was really painful.” But by that point I was fully reclined and it was too late to run. “Take a deep breath,” Emily said. And then she stuck a needle into the outside of my ear. Twice.
Anyway, it’s done. It hurt, but not as badly as contractions. Plus, I once heard that when you’re old, you feel pain less keenly. So there you have it. I’m not old.