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Second Time Is An Opal Charm

As a fifteen year old way back in the mid-1990s, I once spent a late night lying on the floor of my bedroom, shoving a sewing needle through the flap of skin above my navel. An hour of muttered curses and profuse sweating later, the needle ("sterilized, " naturally, with rubbing alcohol--oh the follies of pre-Internet youth) was finally through and a sterling silver flea market hoop earring was jammed through the hole. Extraordinary amounts of parental screaming, which admittedly I deserved--nobody try this at home--followed. It should surprise precisely nobody that this ill-educated DIY piercing rejected post-haste leaving me with what was luckily only a tiny scar and a great deal of respect for proper piercing methodology.  That was the one and only time I tried such a thing; from there out, I bided my time and hoarded my cash until I was legally of age. 

Eventually I turned 18, and that very same day I ran to get my nostril pierced at a reputable studio. Several ear piercings, a few tattoos, and a pair of nipple rings quickly followed, and eventually a septum piercing and more extensive tattooing did as well, but all the while I considered getting my navel pierced properly.  I kept making excuses why I couldn't: navels take such a long time to heal. They're such a high-maintenance heal in terms of keeping clothing out of the way. I'm an athlete who prefers extreme sports; how could I possibly coddle a navel piercing through those finicky first several months to a year without giving up on training? 

Still, the idea of decorating my muscular athlete's stomach with gorgeous jewelry wouldn't go away, so with my holiday bonus burning a hole in my pocket I made my way to New York Adorned, where I had gotten my septum pierced the year before as part of a sort of third-life crisis. On this blustery December late afternoon, the shop was a warm and welcoming oasis from the wind and cold with its red walls, Persian rug, hardwood floors, antique furniture, and glass display cases full of some of the most beautiful body jewelry I have ever seen.  The moment my eyes fell on a white gold curved barbell with a black fire opal at either end, I knew I was going through with it, no matter how much TLC I'd have to show it to avoid rejection. I took a deep breath, handed over my driver's license and credit card, and signed the release form. Second time's a charm, right? The first time was just a trial run. 

I perched on one of the Victorian velvet-upholstered settees (seriously, I'd be more than happy to have a living room decorated in a similar manner), and waited for the piercer, Katie, to finish with a previous customer, another Real Live Grown-Up also getting her navel pierced.  The impeccably vintage-clad woman at the counter joked that it must be Belly Button Wednesday. After killing time talking tattoos with the counter staff--we're both about 3/4 of the way done with a full sleeve--Katie came out and led me to the piercing room. I cannot recommend her highly enough; most medical professionals could learn a thing or two about bedside manner from her. I'm not a nervous piercee as a rule, but I imagine she's great at setting nervous first-timers at ease.  

Katie marked my stomach using a toothpick and gentian violet, encouraged me to look in the mirror to be satisfied that it was absolutely straight, took my barbell out of the autoclave wrapping, then had me lie down on the table where I stared at the paper parasol hanging from the ceiling and did yogic breathing exercises to steady myself for that sweet, sweet adrenaline rush. She clamped my skin, guided my breathing, and seconds later she was twisting those fierce nearly-glowing opals onto the barbell. So fast and painless--the polar opposite of that night on the floor as a teenager. No sweating, profusely or otherwise, no muttered foul language, and absolutely no cheap flea market earrings. (Hey, I'm not knocking 'em, I wear cheap flea market jewelry all the time, I just now know better than to insert it into my flesh.) I bundled back into my sweater and jacket, placed the offered aftercare instructions in my bag, and floated out the door in a blissful rush of endorphins in

search of chai, my usual post-modification ritual.

Aftercare has certainly improved since the 90s: it's only a few days later, but with twice-daily sea salt soaks, there has been absolutely no irritation or discomfort, and very little crustiness.  I've purchased a hard eye patch to put over my navel while I'm at work to protect it from my belt and pants and in the gym to protect it from my equipment and from myself, and am taking extra zinc and Vitamin C, which I find help me to heal faster.  

Not everything improves with age, but in this case we can safely say that my navel certainly has.


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 21 Dec. 2009
in Navel Piercing

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Artist: Katie+Vaughan
Studio: New+York+Adorned
Location: New+York+City

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