By Alaya Ayala
But not the kind you think they are.
By ALAYA AYALA
The cold February day I got my belly button pierced, I hadn’t been planning on doing it. My mom had two coupons for free piercings, and she asked if I wanted to use one. I was a bit surprised at first, but like any reasonable, broke sixteen-year-old would, I agreed to go with her.
I remember not feeling very afraid on the way to the tattoo and piercing parlor. I was mostly trying to figure out how I could possibly ask my mom to buy me some pricey Northampton food afterwards.
I wasn’t afraid walking up the stairs to the tattoo parlor.
I wasn’t afraid picking out the blue barbell jewelry that would be holding open my piercing in a few short moments.
I wasn’t afraid when the guy who would be piercing my stomach used a sharpie to mark where the needle would pierce me.
Hell, I wasn’t even afraid when I was laying down on the table, with the needle poised to stab me.
It honestly wasn’t until everything was said and done, and I stood in front of the mirror next to the table I had been laying down on only a few moments before that I felt the first inkling of terror. The blue barbell sparkled from my navel as I tilted my hips one way, then the other, trying to remember exactly why I had decided to do this. Did it make my stomach look any flatter? No. Did it make me feel any more powerful? No.
“Do you like it?” my mom asked.
Did I? I mean it was cute. It was cute, and a commitment. A commitment. Oh God, I had just committed to something.
Maybe that’s why the piercing rejected a few months down the road. At first, I took such good care of it. I soaked the piercing in salt water with a shot glass twice a day, every day and only wore loose pants just like I was supposed to. I didn’t pick at it no matter how much it itched while it was healing. I did everything right for about a month, thinking it had healed.
Oh boy, was I wrong. During the summer things went downhill really fast. I went swimming for the first time with my piercing. A week later I once again stood in front of the mirror, trying to decide if I still liked the piercing when I noticed that it seemed to have…moved. Was it not centered anymore? Was it just a trick of the light? I convinced myself it was nothing and forgot about it. The next week, it seemed like it was a little more crooked. And the next, it was even worse, and it seemed like the barbell had gotten longer. But no, that was impossible. The piercing itself must have gotten shorter.
I remember going to my mom, full of questions, since she had gotten her belly button pierced years ago, and hers looked nothing like mine did. She thought I was crazy, said it still looked exactly the same. I don’t blame her at all for what ended up happening next, because honestly, it wasn’t that noticeable that the piercing was moving. I’d always been hyperaware of everything that I thought was wrong with my body. So, the second that piercing started to reject, I knew.
By the end of the summer, the barbell was only half embedded in my skin. The piercing had definitely rejected, and with a broken heart I decided to just take it out. And I was definitely brokenhearted at this point because somewhere along the line, probably when I realized that the piercing was no longer going to be a permanent part of me, I started to really love having it.
I guess that’s pretty cliché, huh? At least, as cliché as the story of an idiot who decided to go swimming with a not-fully-healed belly button piercing and subsequently lost said piercing can be.
Well, the piercing scarred me pretty badly. I have been afraid to take my shirt off because I worry someone will notice the scar and think it looks as awful as I’m convinced it does.
But, honestly, more recently I’m getting over feeling insecure about the scar, and I want to do something about it. A few days ago, I found myself in yet another tattoo parlor with my angel of a roommate, eighty dollars waiting to be spent waiting on my debit card as I talked to someone about possibly re-piercing a scarred navel. I didn’t go through with it, not because I didn’t want to, but because piercing scar tissue gets really tricky, and the aftercare is no joke either.
I hope that by the end of the week I’ll have another blue barbell sparkling merrily at me as I stare at it in the mirror. This time, I’ll definitely say I like it without any hesitation.
Alaya Ayala (firstname.lastname@example.org) really likes getting tattoos and piercings, and is no longer quite as broke and scared of commitment.