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connecting to ancient traditions with my nostril

For most of my life, I've been seen as a shy and conservative girl. Most people never imagine that I've got a bit of a wild streak in me, and even people who know me pretty well are often surprised that I've got (as of now) eleven piercings. At the time when I got my nostril pierced, I had six, four of which were in my ears (the other two being non-visible: a navel and a vertical clitoral hood).

Even though I had been thinking about getting a nostril piercing done for quite some time, I basically decided to do it on a whim. I had always thought that women with tiny jewels in their noses looked very beautiful, but I always managed to talk myself out of it. One of my reasons revolved around your typical career-related concerns, and another was that I wasn't sure it would look "right" on me. More on that later.

For the past few months, I've been studying Judaism with my local Rabbi in preparation for conversion. During those studies, I came across a couple mentions of a nose ring in the Torah. One was in Genesis 24, when Rivkah (Rebecca) is chosen to be Isaac's wife, one of the items she was given was a nose ring. Another reference comes in Ezekiel 16, in which God cleans up a fallen woman, makes her beautiful, and gives her a nose ring. It seems this stems from a Bedouin tradition, in which a nose ring takes the place of an engagement ring. It is a symbol of commitment. It enhances the beauty of the woman. It is also a status symbol: the size and ornamentation of the nose ring reflects the wealth of the husband-to-be. It's also an insurance policy, because the woman gets to keep the ring in the event of a divorce. Another interesting tidbit: it is believed that the Hindu tradition of nostril piercing was also inspired by or absorbed from the Bedouins.

Once I learned all of this about the ancient history of nostril piercing, I was much more inspired to join the tradition and link myself with the women who came before me. I love that this includes women of pretty diverse backgrounds: Hebrews, Bedouins, Hindus, and now...a white girl from Alaska. I became less concerned about aesthetics at that point.

Earlier, I said that I was pierced on a whim, and that's somewhat true. After I satisfied my nerdy instincts by doing the research, there was nothing stopping me, but not too much compelling me, either. I told one of my friends that I was thinking about it, and she said that she thought nostril piercings always looked good. That was the straw that broke the camel's back. I went to the piercing studio after work that day.

I was a bit nervous, but mostly excited on my way there, and that magnified when I got there. I talked to Ryan, the piercer and told him what I wanted. He had another piercing before me, so I worked with Taryl to choose my jewelry and then sit and wait. When it was my turn, my hands started to shake a bit, but I felt pretty ready. He took me to the room, and then asked which side I wanted to have pierced. Shit. I had forgotten to make that decision. I couldn't remember which side was traditional, either. Shit again. So I guessed, and had Ryan pierce my left nostril. That decided, Ryan marked me, unwrapped the jewelry and bent it into the necessary screw shape. I could feel my heart beat a little bit faster. He unwrapped the 18g needle and a receiving tube, and I forced myself to slow my breathing while he arranged the tools on his tray as he explained the procedure.

I assure you that I listened intently, but I won't rehash it, because it was pretty much the standard speech. What matters was that Ryan explained everything clearly and competently, and I felt very comforted. And it's a good thing, too, because when he picked up that needle again, my heart began to race once more. I closed my eyes. I felt the cool of the tube against my septum and the point of the needle against the outside of my nostril. Deep breath in, slow breath out. Not so bad at all. My left eye watered up and one tear leaked out. It felt kind of like it would if I had plucked a nose hair. Ryan put the jewelry in, and cleaned off the small amount of blood, and it was all done. He asked me how I was doing, and I told him I was just fine. As is my piercing refrain, I was expecting it to be worse and more painful, but it never went off the charts bad for me.

It's been a month now, and everything is healing up pretty well. I still have a bit of redness around the hole and it leaks a bit of lymph in the mornings, but it's not warm to the touch, and it's not swollen, so it doesn't seem to be infected. I'm pretty pale, and when my skin is at all irritated, it turns an angry red color. I'm also healing five piercings at this point, so I imagine that my healing time is going to run a bit longer than normal. I wash every morning with Dr. Bonner's soap. For the first week, I did saline soaks twice a day, and I used some tea tree oil for a couple of days, but I think that just added to the irritation, so I discontinued that. So far, so good.

For the record, the traditional side is the left for Bedouins and Hindus from Northern India.

Nobody has said a word to me about the visible piercing at work.

I also think that it looks good on me. It's just a delicate steel dot on my face, but it really does make me feel that I've been through a female rite of passage that's lasted through the ages.


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 24 April 2008
in Nose Piercing

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Artist: Ryan
Studio: The+Hole+Look
Location: Anchorage%2C+AK

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