Once upon a time, when I was twelve, all the girls in my class were getting their ears pierced and getting their periods. I wanted to be like them. There wasn’t much I could do about Mother Nature but I really wanted to fit in and wanted my ears pierced. Anything to be like the other girls. I was fat and short and going blind. I had emerged as being smart and that made me different too in negative ways with my peers. After a four year battle with vision loss and massive doses of daily oral steroids, I was a short, deformed blimp of a tween. I had gone from running the rules of the playground and classroom, lithe and brave and popular to becoming the pathetic, nerdy pariah of the class. I was reduced to socializing with adults and fantasizing about fitting into the “right” crowd and being likeable by a cool enough boy. Books and soap operas and Disney films were my constant companions as I’d been banned from physical activities that I used to love. Playing became work and dreaming of being normal became my obsession.
So when I was asked what I wanted for my birthday that year, the obvious answer was the only thing I could think of to try to be like the other girls. Getting my ears pierced. My paternal grandparents were up visiting from RI and Grammy was more than tickled to oblige her poor little granddaughter’s heart’s desire. Mom drove us to the little local mall in town and conveniently disappeared in order to leave Grammy and I our bonding time. We walked to the little kiosk between Papa Gino’s, Walden Books and Marianne’s and I took the throne of honor. What a humiliating shock it was to be told that , on the eve of my social resurrection, my earlobes were too fat from taking so much prednisone for so long. Even my flipping earlobes were fat! The shame burned inside me like an industrial furnace. The only thing we could do was pierce higher up on the lobe where it was a bit thinner. In the wrong place. As much as I cared that I’d just been called fat and that I’d be different from other girls, it was the same enough for me to go through with it. And so, voila, my ears were pierced at the Lilac Mall with the grandmother of my dreams and I could brag to my friends and wear pretty earrings. In fact, that’s what I received in bulk for my birthday that year from those girls brave or mean enough to come to my sleepover party. And no one seemed to notice that my holes were in the wrong spot. Thank God.
But I did and for 35 years it has bothered me like a pebble in a shoe. Hoops and dangly earrings never sat right and the stigma of being different because of my blindness and weight haunted me. Until yesterday. As I slide into middle age, I’m taking stock of those childhood dreams, memories, and traumas. Multiple piercings weren’t a thing until I was in college and I was just sort of resigned to the placement of my piercing holes. In fact, I barely ever even bothered to wear jewelry at all at that point. I could rationalize that it would be easy enough to lie to anyone who asked why my holes were in the wrong place by just telling them that the bottom ones had closed up and I was left with the ones where the double piercings had become commonplace. But then I thought. I’m wearing jewelry more often again and have oodles of earrings now, to the point where it is hard to make a decision about which ones to wear. Why not pierce the bottoms and actually have double piercings? Just why not? And there was absolutely no refutable reason. And
so when you,my dear Beth, asked me three weeks ago what I wanted to do for my birthday, the words tumbled out before I had time to think about how stupid they might sound. And yesterday, at the local mall kiosk with the person in this world I feel is most akin to my dead Grammy, we pierced my ears. Strong, stubborn, sexy and loyal, you gave me the gift my grandmother could only partially accomplish all those years ago. And I feel pretty and as “normal” as I’m ever going to feel and there is no way you can tell me there isn’t a loving God. Maybe middle age isn’t so bad. So there! And thank you again!