What does it say that I came into a set of wheels before my ears were pierced? Well, for one thing, my parents were very conservative. As for the car, attending the only college which offered my chosen major meant certain sacrifices – starting with distance from home and the swift realization that local bus service sucked. Enter one small, cheap, used car into my life shortly after I arrived at the dorms.
But earrings? Not so fast. No metal was allowed to pierce the flesh of my parents’ child. Well, at least not for years. By then, I was paying my own way through school and felt liberated. Liberated enough to dump the screw-backed earrings I’d always loathed because they either fell off or hurt my ears if I tightened them enough to stay on.
The alternative was pierced ears. Ooh, dangerous thought – metal entering my flesh, exactly what always sent my parents into loud agonies of squeamishness. On the other hand, they couldn’t stop me and I could have so much more fun shopping for pierced earrings than screwback or clip-ons. Ah, the retail therapy possibilities! Oh, the stretch on my tiny college budget! Oh, the pure joy of hunting jewelers’ booth for the right pair of earrings… And show off my independence.
But I digress. My mind was made up. As soon as I had the money, I’d get my ears pierced.
That’s when trouble hit. I got my year-end bonus in mid-December – just before leaving to spend Christmas vacation with my family. The local department store had a fabulous sale on hoop earrings, including a stainless steel pair which would be perfect for starting out. The nurses where I worked were amazed my ears weren’t pierced and had promised to help.
The money burned in my pocket. I took a deep breath and splurged.
It was a quiet afternoon at the nursing home. Soon a half dozen nurses gathered around to approve my choice of earrings. They decided the head nurse would pierce my ears, after her second-in-command – an artist – selected the exact spot on my earlobe. Coffee and cookies were passed around while my earlobes were thoroughly disinfected with alcohol wipes. (To hospital standards, thank you very much!) We chatted and chuckled while the ladies told stories about how their ears and their daughters’ ears were pierced.
Then I got on the plane to visit my folks.
My mother was horrified when she saw me. She launched into a tirade about how I’d risked my health by assaulting my ears in that dirty fashion. I countered by recounting who, where and how my ears were pierced. My explanation silenced her, at least around me. Privately, I kept reminding myself of all the great earrings I could buy for myself.
It was an edgy visit at first. My parents kept looking at me sideways and asking if my ears hurt. (No, they didn’t, much to my parents’ continued surprise.) My folks gradually calmed down and started talking to me about new and unusual topics, like politics.
We even wound up shopping together – for earrings. Yup, you heard me right. Mother and I both like pretty baubles but she prefers bracelets. We were killing time in a jeweler’s store and she came over to see what I was looking at. She too started ooh’ing and ah’ing over pierced earrings and I thought, “Gotcha!”
When she fell in love with a pair of earrings, I bought it. I still wear that first pair of black and gold earrings, in honor of woman power and togetherness.
What was your first pair of earrings like? Do you have a piece of jewelry that makes you feel alive and warm?
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