I wanted my ears pierced, badly. In the coming years I would blame it on my mom, tell her how cruel it was that she had put a two-year-old through that, but in truth, I asked for it. I had grown tired of ‘fake’ earrings, the kind that peel off and stick to your ear lobe by means of a gummy, unreliable adhesive. You could buy a pack of a hundred at the dollar store then, but I disliked them because they rubbed off too easily and got stuck in my hair. Anyway, I wanted to be pretty, like a lady, and wear ‘real’ earrings.
The salon was on the second floor of a shopping center, and my mother carried me inside the automatic doors, which seemed magical to me at the time. You didn’t even have to say open sesame like on Aladdin!
There were three or four stylists in the salon, all of whom oohed and aahed at my doll like long blonde hair and heart shaped face. My mother and I were the only customers. I loved the attention, but hid my face demurely in my mother’s neck.
They pulled out a large selection of small stud earrings arrayed on a felt display board, each with a different colored stone. I picked an amethyst, and was happy because purple was my favorite color.
Then they brought out the devices they would use to pierce my ears. They reminded me of the hot-glue- gun my mother used for arts and crafts, which she used when applying googly eyes to Halloween ghosts and Christmas penguin ornaments. I would later learn the true name of these devices from my father’s late-night viewings of the X-files: guns. They were shaped like guns, made loud noises like guns, and brought pain, just like guns. But I didn’t know that then.
The stylists had pierced little girl ears like mine before, which is why they brought out two guns. They knew they would only have one shot. My mother held me as two stylists stood on either side of my head, guns- each loaded with one of the purple studs- pressed against my ear lobes and tilted down towards my jugular.
They started to count.
“One, two-” and on three there was a sudden popping sound and the feeling of breaking flesh on both sides of my head, I felt the spiky back of the earrings make contact with the fleshy area behind my earlobes.
I screamed and cried, and then screamed some more. I don’t remember it hurting exactly, but the feeling of shock and betrayal still lingers with me this day. The ladies were smart to do both ears at the same time. There was no way in H E double hockey sticks I would have let them near my ears with one of those guns again.
One of the ladies held up a small hand mirror, hoping a glimpse of the earrings would calm me down and make me feel better. I looked briefly and saw my distorted, tear stained face and immediately shoved my face back into my mother’s neck.
She tried to soothe me for a minute, and when that didn’t work, she began apologizing to the women. They shrugged. It was nothing they hadn’t witnessed before.
My crying subsided into hicoughy little gasps by the time we got back to the car. My mother said she should have taken me when I was a baby, because babies have less nerve endings and can’t feel as much pain.
I wanted to ask her how she could know that if babies couldn’t talk and tell her, but I was still pouting and didn’t want to ruin the mood. Ignoring the instructions of the stylists, I reached up and touched my earlobes, tender and hot around the precious little stone.