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In Defense of the Shopping Mall Ear-Piercing

This story is about how it took me twenty-five years to get my cartilage pierced.

Back in 1983 when I was a teenager, there were no such things as piercing studios. It must seem hard to believe to teenagers nowadays, but back then if you were a guy, just having an earring was considered pretty freaky. Go to Youtube and type "Kristy McNichol Matt Dillon" into the search bar, and you'll get to see a clip from the movie Little Darlings. That's what teenagers looked like back then. Boys and girls alike all had long, feathered hair and fashion hadn't changed much from the 70's, with everybody looking like The Partridge Family. Punk rock was starting to change that, and I was heavily into punk rock.

The point of this dreary history lesson is that when I decided I wanted to get an earring, my choices were pretty limited. You could get your ears pierced by a lady with a piercing gun at a beauty parlour, or you could poke a safety pin through your ear. Poking a safety pin through my ear seemed way more punk to me, so of course that was the option I picked. Besides, getting it done at the beauty parlour cost ten bucks, and the safety pin method was free. Thinking back, I was also probably afraid that if I went into a beauty parlour and asked the beautician to pierce my ear, all these middle-aged ladies would laugh at me.

So eventually I poked a safety pin through my ear, and wore that same safety pin as jewellery. This caused quite a sensation at school, but needless to say it didn't last. My earlobe soon got infected, and I

had pushed the safety pin in at a stupid angle anyway. I realize how stupid that must seem to everybody reading this, but please don't judge me too harshly. Safety pin jewellery was considered the height of punk fashion back then. We didn't have the internet in those long-ago days, so it was a lot harder to research such esoteric topics as punk rock ear-piercings. You couldn't just Google it, you had to ask your friends, and of course your friends were also teenagers who were just as clueless as you.

I ended up getting my ear pierced at the beautician's. I went with a buddy of mine, partly for moral support but mostly because they sold the piercing studs in pairs. Remember, back in those days only girls got their ears pierced, and girls would always get both ears pierced. I didn't want both of my ears pierced, because I was worried people would think I was gay. So my friend and I split the pair (and the cost) and each got our left ear pierced. Guys were only supposed to get their left ears pierced. Getting your right ear pierced meant you were gay. Was I homophobic back then? Possibly, but society in general was a lot more homophobic back then, and mostly I was just sensitive about being called "Fag" by jocks and rednecks all the time.

Finally I had my ear pierced, and I thought that was pretty cool. Having a simple stud in my ear worked out a lot better than the safety pin home job, and I still have that same hole in my ear to this day. I went back to that beauty salon my myself a couple of months later, and got another pair of studs in my left ear, for a total of three. I asked the lady if she would pierce the top of my ear, but she said that couldn't be done. I guess I was ahead of my time, nowadays cartilage piercings are quite common.

Now we fast forward for a quarter of a century. The top hole in my earlobe closed up at some point, but I still had two earrings in my left ear. The bottom hole has stretched out a bit, not from gauging up with jewellery, but from hanging dangley things from my ear for more than two decades. Oddly enough I lived right through the 1990's when body modification exploded into the mainstream without getting any more piercings or tattoos. (The tattoos I have I got in the eighties, but that's another story.) But nowadays there is nothing punk or edgy or cool about having a couple of rings in your earlobe. That's just downright quaint and old fashioned. About this time I start to notice a sign in the window of a certain chain store in the shopping mall, advertising ear-piercing for ten dollars. I'm amazed that the price hasn't gone up since I had mine pierced in 1983, but I guess that is due to there being more competition nowadays.

So anyway, one day I happen to be in the mall with my four-year old daughter, and I decide that today is the day. I go into Claire's and ask if they do cartilage piercings. Sure, no problem is the answer. I'm surprised when I find out you don't have to buy the studs in pairs anymore, but I've already decided I want two pairs. One in my left cartilage, one in my left earlobe (To replace the one that closed up in the 80's) and two in my right earlobe. The piercings are done with the piercing gun by a charming girl named Laticia, who was very careful with the placement and lining up the angles of the piercings to match the two earrings that I already had. Everything was very clean and professional. The biggest drawback to getting your ears pierced with a piercing gun is that the posts on the studs they use are extremely thin. I would estimate they are 20 gauge wire. So a few days later I swapped them out with some small hoop earrings that I bought the same day I got th e piercings.

If you've seen cheap hoop earrings you know that the part that goes through your ear is wire, and it clips into a hollow tube shaped like a ring. Well everybody on BME knows that wire isn't a good thing to have in any hole in your body, it's like cheese wire. I discovered this for myself the hard way back in the 80's. So now I'll explain how I used to gauge up "old school". First I got four paperclips. From each paperclip I hung a quarter inch nut. (The kind that goes on a quarter inch bolt.) Then I hung a paperclip with a nut on it from each of the new hoops. I didn't leave the house looking like this, just left them to hang there while reading or sitting in front of the computer. After a while (probably several hours off and on) the weight of the nuts hanging from the hoops had stretched the holes a tiny bit, just enough that I could push the hollow tube part of the hoops through the holes in my ears. The tube is of course thicker than the wire so already I had g one up a gauge or two. Then I hung the paperclips with nuts from the hoops again. I cleaned my ears frequently with sea salt in warm water, and they never got infected.

I hung those weighted paperclips from my ears whenever I was at home, and after a couple of days they had stretched out enough that I was able to replace the cheap hoop earrings with 5/16" 14 gauge stainless steel segment rings. For the original piercing in my left earlobe that I got in 1983 I got a 1/2" stainless steel segment ring in 10 gauge. I'm sure it would take an 8 gauge or larger. I know this is nothing compared to the eyelets and stretched lobes you see nowadays, but I like it.

So that's my story. It's been almost two years since I got those piercings at Claire's, and I never had any trouble with them. Of course if you're getting a real body piercing then you should definitely go to a professional studio, but if you're just getting your ears done then the shop in the mall is usually safe enough. The main thing is to keep it clean afterwards, and for that I recommend sea salt and warm water. Just make sure you don't use regular table salt. You can get the sea salt in any grocery store.

The thing I love about stainless steel segment rings is that you never have to take them out, you can just clip them in and forget about them. Mine have been out only once, when I was in a karate tournament some months after getting the piercings. I still have that 80's asymmetry, though. I considered getting another earring in my right ear, but lately I've been thinking that a better way to make my face more symmetrical would be to get my right eyebrow pierced. The problem is that if you do this sort of thing when you're 42 everyone thinks you're having a mid-life crisis. One things for sure, if I get my eyebrow pierced I will be going to a professional studio. Maybe when I'm there I should ask about getting my 80's tattoos covered up?

Details

submitted by: Anonymous
on: 08 Dec. 2009
in Culture

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Artist: Laticia
Studio: Shopping+Mall
Location: Canada

Comments (4)

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HelloLion
Thursday, October 28, 2010 @12:16 p.m.
A very well-written and insightful post (I hope you'll tell the story of your tattoos some day). I notice your location is "canada", and all I can say is maybe you canadians have a higher caliber of mall piercers than we have here. The level of professionalism you've described makes it sound like they're getting some kind of training there. Here in the states, I've heard more horror stories about those mall people than I can count. Still, the fact of the matter is, however you look at it, a piercing gun still changes the type of wound you're having inflicted upon you. Your ideal wound for a piercing is a puncture wound, a piercing gun is blunt force trauma essentially. Thank you though for your story, it was a great read.
thikskinn-1
Saturday, November 20, 2010 @5:16 p.m.
What you fail to realize is that the gun can not be sterilized, and as a result is basically covered in biohazard. If you get pierced after someone who had Hepatitis you run a real risk of getting Hep yourself
tahlalalia
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @7:01 p.m.
From the title I was expecting an actual counter arguement for piercing guns or something, there probably isn't one. However the article was a nice insight to piercing before it got popular and became professional.
Koi
Wednesday, October 26, 2011 @6:30 p.m.
I've had 16 piercings done in a Mall Piercing manner, and the worst was my nose and first cartilage piercing. The cartilage, they used too small a stud and I ended up ripping it out the back with a fork. The nose was... well, imagine a whole piercing gun up your nose. Yeah. Like that. I wish I'd gotten mine done with needles - all o' them. Price isn't a problem when you'll have it - or the scar, for life. I take all blame because I should have known better and refused to let them anywhere near me with the gun. Piercing guns may be cheap and easy, but there's so, so much wrong with them. Not even starting with the unqualified giggling ladies that do the procedure.

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