I basically called my mom for help. Except when I say mom, I mean an esthetician.
Summer in Minneapolis have been seriously crazy. First of all, there was a supermoon, which means people act like psychos. By "people," I mean me. I just so happened to have the most irrational period of all time; it demanded Oreo Blizzards from Dairy Queen every day.
Weather-wise, it was absolutely insane. A giant storm system swept through the Twin Cities and their surrounding suburbs, destroying houses and crashing down trees. My brother and I almost got hit by a toppling old oak; it fell right on top of the car in front of ours. So many beautiful trees were uprooted; even those anchored by cement fell at the feet of the storm. There's a gigantic felled tree just chilling at the end of my block.
Needless to say, I felt irrational. Not only were my hormones all over the place, but I was without power for two days. Oh, and did I mention the boy drama? I won't get into specifics, but my romantic life is less than ideal. Naturally.
So what do I do when I feel emotionally vulnerable? I change my appearance. I always say you can tell how happy and secure I am by the color of my hair. We're breaking up? OK, cool. I'm dyeing my hair dark. Or I'm bleaching it white. A good, normal blonde shade means I'm doing all right. An extreme Jessica Rabbit red? Not so good.
My harebrained schemes (or is it hair-brained?) rarely work. I end up with near-black hair that I can't possibly dye back to my trademark blonde, or I look in the mirror one morning and realize that no amount of hair dye is going to make any boy change his mind. I've gone from dark to light too many times to count.
The extreme weather we've been experiencing combined with my insane hormones only served to encourage my up and down emotional state. Most of my close friends had moved away from Minneapolis or were about to move. I felt stuck in my retail job. I had no idea what my next move was going to be: New York? Los Angeles? Marry a hometown farm boy and live off his money? I felt like a lost lamb. Nothing was working the way I thought it would.
My confusion and boredom set in. I decided I needed to modify my appearance in some way, but I knew better than to take it out on my hair. I thought maybe changing myself would change the way my life was going. So what else needed tweaking on my body?
I had pierced my bellybutton at 15, back in the golden era of Britney and Christina. And I loved that piercing! It felt like me: a little bit trashy, a little bit pop star. My ears were too fussy; I'd tried my cartilage, my tragus, my conch. Nothing stuck except my trusty navel piercing.
I kept it in until age 21, when the boy I was kind of dating kept ragging on me, telling me my beloved piercing was trashy. I hate to say it, but his constant criticism made me take it out.
The absence didn't bother me until about six months ago. I have a small poster of my pop idol, Britney, hanging on my fridge. It's from the "My Prerogative" era, and Britney's got a gem right through her navel. I found myself staring at it, missing my own piercing.
Suddenly, I was seeing navel piercings everywhere: Beyonce had one in her H&M ad. Girls on the beach sported sparkly jewels. I was jealous. I wanted mine back!
My friends were divided. "It's trashy in an alluring way, like a hot sorority girl way. Like a toe ring!" said one. Others tried to convince me it was "soooo 2000s."
I tried to talk myself out of it, but the Sunday after almost being crushed by a tree, I found myself at Saint Sabrina's piercing/tattoo parlor in uptown Minneapolis. It's arguably the best parlor in the city, so I trusted them to hook me up with a quality piercing.
My piercer, Courtney, just so happened to be a huge fan of Jane magazine, so we bonded over that as I sweated all over her table. (It was like 90 degrees, OK?) She examined the site of my old piercing and decided it was still "open" enough even after three years of being ringless.
I asked Courtney about "emotional piercers." She said she's in the midst of starting a research project on the psychology of body modification. Why do we tend to change our image, whether that's piercing/tattooing/etc. when we're in a state of turmoil? I obviously don't have an answer, but I'm definitely a prime example.
"For some people, it's fashion, but for others it's more," she said. "People understand why women are upset when they have to have a mastectomy, but they don't understand why people get upset if they have to remove their piercings. Body modification is part of being human."
I laid down on the piercing table, and after a rigorous cleaning, Courtney slid a needle about three inches long into the hole created by my first piercing. I didn't feel a thing. (The first time hadn't been very painful, only a brief pinching sensation followed by a tightness that went away after two days.)
After my opal ring was securely affixed in my navel, Courtney advised me to keep it clean as possible and said I could change it after three to six months, depending on my healing time.
Though Courtney said nostrils are the most popular piercing right now at Saint Sabrina's, she likes doing navel piercings best. "Everyone's is different. It's a challenge."
I left Saint Sabrina's feeling like teenage Kara, which was exactly what I needed. The supermoon would go away; my hormones would settle down; boy drama would work itself out. One morning, I'd wake up and know exactly what my next step in life was gonna be. It would all be OK.
Do you modify your appearance when you're feeling emotional? Did you have your belly button pierced in the 2000s? How about now?