IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Got My Nipple Pierced 20 Years Ago And It Still Hurts

While being illegally drunk at 19, altering one's body seems like an absolutely brilliant idea.
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Elisabeth Lamar
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While being illegally drunk at 19, altering one's body seems like an absolutely brilliant idea.

At age 19, armed with a fake ID (back in the day when you could get away with that kind of debauchery), I went with a friend to a Chinese restaurant for something mysteriously called a "Scorpion Bowl." It's hard to say what exactly went into this agent of the devil (moonshine, the tears of unicorns and a variety of tropical fruits would be a good guess), but it was served in a giant porcelain shell with two foot-long straws. A handful of small umbrellas flanked each side of the drink, as if in anticipation of a tiny monsoon.

When you're 19 years old, your brain hasn't finished developing, but in a cruel prank of nature, you feel smarter and more capable of making decisions than at any other time in life. While being illegally drunk at 19, altering one's body seems like an absolutely brilliant idea.

Me at 19. If you look closely, you can see my healthy pre-pierced nipple.

Me at 19. If you look closely, you can see my healthy pre-pierced nipple.

The Chinese restaurant was in a strip mall on one side of the street, and the piercing studio was in a strip mall on the other side of the street. Giggling like school girls buying candy with babysitting money, we picked out our jewelry for the piercings. For some odd reason, the piercer failed to note the fact that we were tipsy. Maybe the cash in our hands bought his silence.

My friend went first. He wasn't fazed in the slightest. I was next on the piercing table. When I exposed my nipple for the piercer to mark where the jewelry was to be placed, he was impressed. 

"There are fetishists who stretch their nipples to get them that large," he cooed. I quickly contemplated a future as someone who should be worshipped.

There is a rush that comes from body modification. Tattoos and piercings have a way of making you feel fully connected to your body and present in the moment. I got an immediate high from the endorphins. But as the days passed, it became apparent that my piercing was not healing quite right. 

Eventually, I decided that I had to remove it. I had gotten other piercings, and when I grew bored with them, I simply took out the jewelry and let it heal, forgetting that it was ever in my body. This time I had a completely different experience. A tremendous amount of scar tissue developed around the area where the piercing had once been, and I was in a great deal of pain

Alarmed, I went to my OB-GYN, who took a look at my now even-larger nipple. She determined that my body had rejected the jewelry and had attempted to push it out. The scar tissue built up, kind of like when a grain of sand gets stuck in an oyster and it begins forming a pearl trying to protect itself from the irritation.

Me today, trying not to think about my nipple.

Me today, trying not to think about my nipple.

Nearly 20 years have passed since I've had jewelry in my nipple, but it is still painful. I am never not aware of the fact that the flesh of my breast was altered by a needle. 

Many people get a lot of pleasure from their piercings. I just think body modifications should be done sober. It wouldn't have changed the outcome for me, but at least I could have carefully considered the possible side effects.