This is a story about virginity. But not about sex. I’m talking about piercings, people. That’s right, I’m pierce-less. Needles have never penetrated my ear lobes, cartilage, nose, septum, eyebrows, tongue, bellybutton, or anywhere else for that matter. In my opinion, it’s completely rational to avoid having needles unnecessarily inserted into your body. Still, I feel judged when I have to explain my piercing virginity.
Let’s take it back to the beginning. Piercings were risqué in elementary school. Mothers and fathers (or Mommies and Daddies) refused to let their darling children subject themselves to ear ornamentation via needle. Instead, we were given over-sized clip-ons and bejeweled sticker earrings. These were more fun anyway – the early 2000s were all about obnoxious and bold fashion choices. Giant fuchsia sticker hearts were way more vogue than simple gold studs.
As the popularity of Ed Hardy’s over-embellished “fashion” waned, so did our placation with costume earrings. The Regina George of my middle school was the first to pierce her ears. As the queen of sixth grade trends, bedecked from head to toe in Abercrombie & Fitch, she decreed that piercings were like totally in. Her minions were the first to follow in her footsteps, but soon it seemed as though almost everyone embarked on the trek to the Claire’s kiosk in the mall.
I’m not going to pretend that I was precocious enough to abstain from middle school fads. I owned my fair share of graphic tees from Hollister. I even rocked Uggs. I’m sure I would have hopped on the piercing bandwagon, too. However, I was defined by my status as a jock, and my soccer league didn’t let girls play with earrings. I didn’t have six weeks off from soccer to let a piercing heal, and I certainly couldn’t risk quitting the team for my ear vanity. You have to remember that this was sixth grade, otherwise known as the period before I developed a personality. If I took a hiatus from soccer to get my ears pierced, I might have been forced to find other interests, or form opinions, or stop being defined by my athletics rather than the content of my character, or something terrifying like that.
I left my jock identity behind in middle school, but I still didn’t pierce my ears in high school. By the time I reached ninth grade, the thrill and rebellion of ear piercings had faded. In order to make piercings seem badass in high school, girls started getting multiple cartilage piercings, or moving away from the ears entirely for more daring body parts. To get a single ear lobe piercing would hardly be newsworthy. And it certainly wouldn’t be worth the unspeakable horror of being seen not only in a mall, but a piercing shop marketed to middle school girls in the mall. Piercings became less appealing, anyway. I had seen too many infected piercings throughout middle school. I wanted to avoid rubbing alcohol and swollen lobes at all costs, even if it meant remaining a piercing virgin.
There are a lot of freshmen actual virgins in college, but very few freshmen piercing virgins. On campus, I was surrounded by septum piercings galore. I felt incredibly unworldly and provincial. And I couldn’t hide it or lie about it. My ears gave me away every time. I fabricated some excuses for my piercing abstinence. It was actually more hip to not have piercings because all of the hipsters already had piercings and that was too mainstream. And piercings promote ear vanity. And buying earrings means participating in the capitalist market. Does that sound convincing? Maybe I should just own my virgin ears and stop feeling so embarrassed. I guess at the end of the day, I’m just waiting for the right earring.