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Quick, but not quite painless.


This is a story about the piercing that brings me one step closer to my final layout plan: my conch.

I've known I wanted a conch for a while. I don't remember where I first saw it, or exactly when, but I do know that it's been over a year since I decided I was going to get it. I also knew it was going to be one of the last piercings I got, because mine sort of go in sets, and I also wanted to build up to it. I was actually planning on waiting a little longer, because I'd only had my vertical tragus for about a month and I prefer to space my piercings out so I don't go too crazy. I've also been planning on getting my nostril redone at the end of summer (it had to come out for work, which ends when school starts), which was another reason to wait. However, my vertical tragus healed a lot more quickly than I thought it would, and my rook is also almost all the way healed, so I figured it was prime time for a new stab!

Once I made the decision to go ahead and do it, I researched the piercing on BME, comparing the looks of a ring and a barbell as well as reading every experience I could find. I'd been looking at it every so often, but I looked at just about every picture of a conch I could find the night before I went. I don't know anyone who has it done, other than my piercer, so I didn't really have any firsthand advice (not that I mind). Funny story: while I was doing that, I pointed out to my dad, "This is what I'm getting next," which started an "I don't know why you choose to mutilate yourself!" vs "...It's not really mutilation... it's beautiful!" debate. My parents are pretty chill with what I decide to do, but they think I'm getting a little heavy on the metal (I have 11 now). Mostly they just leave me alone about it, though, so that's fine.

So, I rounded up a friend in advance to go with me, and tried to convince her to get something done as well... she only has her first lobes and I want to corrupt her! Haha. I had to explain to her what I was doing, and the names of the ones I had and of what I thought she might like getting. We made plans for the day (shopping) and then I went to bed, excited!

Day of: While I waited for my friend to wake up (she slept until about 3), I went to my best friend's house and swam and had crabs (yeah Maryland!). Around 4:30, I came home and my accomplice picked me up to take me to Explosive. I wasn't feeling antsy or nervous, just a little more excited than I would be on a routine day. When we got there, I suddenly remembered that their website says the piercer is out on Tuesdays (the day I went), but I was also pretty sure that was wrong, but I got nervous and preemptively annoyed at having to put this off for another day. I just wanted to have it done! Then I walked in and saw Jeff sitting behind the counter, and everything was a-okay. We said hey, he asked what I was in for, and I said I wanted my conch pierced. He nodded alright and asked his assistant to 'write me up', i.e. get the forms and all ready while he set up. He asked me if I wanted a ring or a barbell. I told him a ring, but he recommended a barbell anyway because apparen tly it heals better. I made a face and he said "Girl, how many times have I pierced you?" I admitted it was quite a few. "Trust me," he said. He said the barbell is better because it doesn't hang outside your ear and get knocked as much. Can't really argue with that, huh? So I resigned myself to the barbell, and he went to get ready.

Trevor, the helper, got my ID and gave me the paper that makes you promise you're not pregnant and don't have hemophilia or anything. While I quickly filled it out, hardly even looking because I'm so used to it, he teased me about being picky about the jewelry, and I said, "Well it doesn't fit with my layout, my ring to stud ratio!" and we bantered. So I paid ($50), and Jeff told me to come on back, with my friend in tow.

In the piercing room, which I love (positive associations!) and with which I am familiar, he set out a paper towel and sprayed it with cleaning stuff (?), and laid out the barbell with the end unscrewed, and the needle- which was in a cork. I do not know why. He was talking to me while he got ready, saying my vertical is looking good; you can see a little of the bar at the ends and I had expressed concern about that before. He had told me to keep an eye on it, and today he said it didn't look like it had moved, which was good- he was worried it might migrate, because apparently they tend to do so, but mine was fine. I told him it healed really easily and quickly and it felt good, and so did my rook, which he knew I had also been having a few issues with.

Eventually, he asked which ear, and I told him my left. He wiped and swabbed my inner ear and the back curve to clean it, then he grabbed one of those things doctors use to look in your ears, and used the light to check for veins. He didn't clamp it or mark it, which surprised me. I guess you kind of have to do the conch wherever you can, working around the blood vessels and stuff. Luckily it worked out and it is exactly where I wanted it anyway, but I was still expecting to be marked and that I would get to double check it. Oh well. He grabbed the needle and I felt him put it against the back of my ear (this was also a surprise, I thought he would pierce from the front, but I guess it makes sense), told me to take a deep breath in and then out, and of course on the exhale he pierced. It was a long piercing, not as long as my vertical tragus, but it lasted longer than it took me to exhale. I didn't feel or hear a pop, just intense pain- I wouldn't even call it sharp, it was m ore a dull pain, especially in the middle. I guess at entry and exit it was hotter and sharper. I'm not going to lie: it hurt. My friend was watching my face and asked me if it hurt, and I (trying to be brave) said "Yeah, kinda" and Jeff said, "Hurts like a bitch, huh?" I tried not to laugh or nod, so I just said "Hah, yeah." He put the bar through, and I braced myself because I thought it would really hurt, as usual, but at least that part I could hardly feel, just a very quick little pinch. Jeff is good at what he does. I asked him when I could change it, and he told me four months, but that if it was feeling pretty good before then I could come back and see him about it. He told me to try not to sleep on it, and to clean it with Bactine, as usual; that dries my ears out, though, so I asked if there was anything comparable I could use that wouldn't dry my skin as badly. He just told me to use it and when/if it got dry and flaky, put a hot compress on it (wet a paper towel, microwave it for a few seconds, and put it on there, "it'll just soak up the moisture"). And that was that!

We left, and went shopping. My ear throbbed on and off for about the first hour and a half after I had it done, and was really red. I tried to avoid touching it or bumping it, which just meant a little extra caution when trying on clothes and stuff. I did look at it every single chance I got, which of course happened quite a lot because mirrors are everywhere in department stores. The friend I was with noticed and laughed at me a little. She tried to help me make it feel better, because it felt hot and quite sore. I was walking around fanning it and tipping my head weird ways to try to make it feel better. Nothing much helped, but after about two hours it pretty much didn't hurt anymore. I can still notice it, it is a tiny bit sore but just enough to remind me it's there. I can now touch the barbell, even though I know I'm not supposed to. I'm not moving or twisting it, I just wanted to examine a little because I didn't get a good look at the bar before he put it through (I'm actually not even sure what gauge it is, but I would guess 16). Verdict: it is REALLY long. Obnoxiously long. Probably a solid inch long. I can't wait until I can get it switched out.

Day 1: Well, I didn't have any problems sleeping! Despite Jeff's advice, I managed to rest on the pierced side and it wasn't uncomfortable. I did have to be tentative, but since it's deep in my ear it doesn't bump the pillow or anything. So I could sleep that way, it's just easier to sleep on the other side because really who can fall asleep when you're focusing on the precise position of your head? Anyway, today it's not really sore but it is definitely tender to the touch; I can, however, talk on the phone without noticing (bumping) it. I cleaned it with Bactine- the inner part is easy, it just pools and soaks it naturally because of the shape of the ear. The back sucks. Thank God for whoever invented Q Tips! It's nearly impossible to get the Bactine to spray at the right angle to clean the back by itself, so I just soaked a swab and gently dabbed it on, making sure I got all the way around, and that there was no hair wrapped around the bar. I have short hair so I'm not exp ecting any issues, but I'm keeping it clipped up out of the way just in case.

Day 6: Well, I spent the weekend at the beach, swimming in rather-less-than-clean water, and there is still nary a problem in sight. I probably wasn't quite as attentive to my cleaning regimen as is strictly advisable, but it seems to be just fine anyway. I still can't move or twist it; I tried it very gently, but it isn't ready for that yet and it started to ache/throb, but only for a minute, and not to the point that it was distracting. It got bumped a bit here and there: tucking my hair behind my ears, trying on clothes when shopping, etc, but it didn't make it really hurt- definitely nothing like day 1. So it's definitely improving. I will consider it healed when I can twist or move it easily, painlessly and without negative consequences I like it... despite the fact that the bar will probably dig into my scalp when pushed all the way back. (Yes I am still annoyed at how long it is, I'm not getting used to it and I don't like it. I haven't noticed any swelling so I really j ust think it's unnecessary and bothersome. Yes I am a picky brat. Haha.) I noticed a tiny bit of crusty stuff, but it rinsed off in the shower. Coming along nicely!

[Edit: Later this night, I did manage to push the bar all the way flush with my ear. And it does not dig into my scalp. But it feels and looks better, and it's easier to clean. Whatever it's still ridiculous.]

Day 15: My opinion of the aesthetic has improved dramatically. I guess I can get used to anything, even if it wasn't my original whim. I got Jeff to fiddle with my ear, trying to force my two cartilage piercings into an orbital (another story, another time) and usually with a new piercing it irritates it and hurts to bend the ear around every which way, but my conch seemed fine. Jeff didn't say much about it, other than to ask how it was healing. I told him it was doing well, and I remembered to ask what gauge he used- 14, for the record. The thing I've noticed now is that it's hard to itch inside your ear, predictably. But that's only annoying when the Bactine dries out the piercing, which hasn't been too bad... once it felt itchy and dry to the point of real and annoying distraction, but I did the hot compress (paper towel + water + 5 seconds in microwave) thing and all was well again.

I think from this point on it will be more of the same. I can definitely say that my healing has really been uneventful and looks like it will continue that way- and I am by no means careful; plus, healing cartilage tends not to go well for me for some reason. I am clumsy and when things go bump in the night, it's probably just me stumbling around. I knock and tug and twist when I shouldn't. But, I make sure to give a cleaning spritz twice or thrice a day, and besides that I LITHA and that seems to work.

All in all, I'd say go for it! It's cool looking, that's for sure, and the pain, while more than what I am used to/have experienced before, is easily forgotten and of course the end result of the piercing itself is beyond worth it. Also, if you are ever in or around Salisbury, Explosive is definitely the best place for miles. Thanks for reading, and happy needles!


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 28 Sept. 2008
in Ear Piercing

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Artist: Jeff
Studio: Explosive+Tattoo
Location: Salisbury%2C+MD

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