On my 18th birthday, I made what I thought was a brazen move and got my nose pierced. My best friend and I entered a local tattoo shop with butterflies in our stomachs and tightly gripped each other’s hands while we each took turns actualizing our newfound adulthood. I came home with a tiny rhinestone stud on my right nostril and approached my sleeping mother on the couch in our living room.
Spoiler alert: My mom thinks any body modification, be it tattoos or piercings, is a desecration. She’s not religious, but her Jamaican-Catholic upbringing sprinkles in some conservatism now and then.
“Look, Ma,” I said, without pointing to anything. She opened her eyes to find freshly pierced skin in her grill. She gasped.
I still haven't heard the end of it. Mom called my piercing “ugly,” “nasty,” and even “an abomination.” Even now after five years of having it, she’ll occasionally ask: “So when are you gonna take that thing out?” The woman birthed me — I can deal with her nose ring–hating drama.
Though the hate isn't nearly as bad as it was even a decade ago (companies like Google are now apparently more laid-back than ever about their employment policies on facial piercings, so we pierced people can make a living too. Take that, Goldman Sachs.), a lot of people still don't shy away from casting judgment. In the years of donning a metal hoop in my schnoz, I’ve logged a few gems that have been imparted on me and my fellow nose-ringed sisters. Here are the most vexing:
1. “I just want to pull it out.”
Whenever a feisty friend of mine hears this one, she makes the person put his/her hand on her nose; they always chicken out. So my friend takes the ring out for them, and that usually shuts them up. “Always a nice ice breaker,” she said over text.
2. “You’re going to take it out for your wedding, right?”
This is the same trite B.S. women hear about tattoos and wedding dresses. The two don’t mix, because every bride should be pure and untouched. Whose business is my appearance except who I’m marrying and me? For the record, when I was nervous about to meet my fiancé’s parents for the first time a few years ago because of the large metal ring in my face, he told me they’d love it. And they do. (I think.)
3. “Did it hurt?”
OF COURSE IT HURT. I mean, pain is relative, but if you want a vivid mental picture of my experience, it went like this: A little shit with a newly minted debit card sits anxiously in a reclining chair while a chick with every facial orifice of her own pierced (so I assumed she was qualified to do this) clamps down on my nostril with guillotine-like force so I can ignore the real, visceral pain of a 16-gauge needle. The needle is lodged in my nostril for a minute while the piercer hooks in the jewel, and after a swift turn-and-pull, a fake diamond replaces my empty nose hole. There was a moment when I asked myself what in the eff I was doing.
Some people relate the sensation of getting a piercing to an insane amount of pressure (which is true). It is all over pretty quickly, and yes, I shed a single tear like Johnny Depp in "Cry Baby."
I’ve heard that some shops use a piercing gun for nose rings. The general consensus on this method, though, is RUN FAR AWAY. I’ll never forget how hard my 8-year-old ears throbbed after the lady at the Piercing Pagoda kiosk at a mall in my hometown of Miami went trigger-happy and had to pierce one ear twice. Anyway, it hurt, so don’t make me relive the pain!
4. “You look hot with that” or “I like your nose ring” — (from a guy)
Harmless adulation, right? Not when you’re ordering a cheeseburger and cajun fries at Five Guys and you hear this from the guy taking your order after he hands you your change. It creeps me out, and I don’t want you staring at my oily nose when I’m about to consume a vat of grease. I can take a damn compliment, and I don’t mean to generalize here. But this kind of “compliment” is off-putting to me and can read as sexual if it's said completely at random and the guy is staring you down. It’s basically code for “I’d bang you.” Am I overthinking this?
5. “You would be prettier without it.”
Ah, the other end of the spectrum. Just some casual, unsolicited criticism from a guy that I encountered while minding my own damn business at a bar. He caught me off guard, too, so I couldn’t really think of anything to say. But in retrospect, here it goes: Thanks, guy, but I didn’t puncture my nose hole with your idea of beauty in mind. It was a rite of passage for me.
One of my roommates from college got me all sad in the middle of work with her story. In our sophomore year she had her septum pierced, and it turns out the guy she was dating (who was with her well after she got it) started nagging her to remove it and acted seriously embarrassed whenever she would wear her piercing around him. If I had known this, I would have decked him.
“I think he always looked at it as something that he could change about me later on — once he got me locked down,” she said over text. “Which is pretty fucking manipulative and awful.”
Has anyone ever made you feel like crap for having a visible facial/body piercing? What did you say to them? Or what would you say now?