“He’ll be right in to do your piercing.” It was January 19 in Cottonwood, Arizona, and those were words I never thought I’d hear.
I’ve secretly wanted a piercing for a very long time—a tiny diamond—just there on the left side of my nose. I think they look exquisitely feminine—elegant and exotic—the tiny unexpected sparkle imparting a mysterious je ne sais quoi.
In my years of practice, I’ve seen many young women with piercings. These are bright, talented women—undergraduates and graduate students—often going into serious professions. A year ago, a patient in her forties got her nose pierced with a tiny diamond immediately after filing for divorce. When I told her I’d always wanted one, she said, “Whenever you’re ready, Dr. Sheila, I’ll take you.”
My obsession with a piercing was so great, I often commented to strangers how pretty theirs looked, and asked about it—always younger women—always encouraging. Last year when I traveled to France with my 30 year-old “soul daughter” Laura, who has an eyebrow piercing, she simply said, “Go for it.” Even my husband Barry liked the idea.
But when I finally started “coming out” to my contemporaries, reactions ranged from dismissive disbelief to disdain bordering on ridicule. Suddenly, I was afraid I would look like an old fool—or that my professional credibility would be at stake, especially when potential new patients saw my piercing. I was afraid of what others might think.
Recently, when visiting my friend in Arizona, I pointed out the tiny piercing on a young waitress and told Jan I had always wanted one. Jan said she had never considered one for herself, but she liked the idea on me. That Saturday we were shopping in historic downtown Cottonwood, when I admired a saleswoman’s diamond nose stud.
“When I got to a certain age,” Christel said, “I decided ‘What the hell!’ I’m gonna get whatever I want. I got the Harley and I got the tattoos.” When I told her I worried I was too old for a piecing because I’m 64, Christel looked at me and said, “I’m 68.”
Jan asked Christel where she had gotten her piercing. After more shopping and wine tastings, we headed home to Jan’s. I’d “kind of” forgotten about the piercing and “sort of” hoped Jan had, too. When she pulled into the parking lot of Avatar Tat2 and turned off the engine, I sat motionless. Jan suggested we go in and check it out.
The parlor was clean and professional—a twenty-something dude was getting a sleeve in the back room. The guy behind the counter looked amused as we studied the studs and asked about the process. He marked where the piercing would be so I’d have a better sense of it. I was feeling queasy.
After ten minutes of agonizing, I texted my son Jeff, Would you be embarrassed if I got a teeny, tiny piercing? I waited—no response. But as I waited, I knew I wanted him to text Nope. Suddenly, I realized I finally had the chance to do something I really wanted to do and I was still waiting for approval from other people!
“Let’s do it,” I said.
It hurt like hell. Jan documented the whole thing with my camera phone and I still can’t stand to look at it! But when it was done, I loved it! We took pictures with my piercing guy and the store owner and me wearing a triumphant smile in the convertible, the wind whipping my hair. Jeff’s text came, Nope, and Jan said for the first time she might even consider it. We laughed as we wondered who had lost a bet at Avatar Tat2!
That night I drank a lot of tequila and did what the guy said to take care of it. The next morning my nose still hurt, but when we went out to take care of the horses I thought to myself, I am a woman with a piercing, walking a horse! I felt powerful and happy. All day I kept falling more and more in love with the new exotic me.
Monday I flew home, wondering how others perceived my piercing. Barry loved it, but noted how red my nose was. And it felt warm. Tuesday I looked up “nose piercing” online and was reassured that it took a month to heal. But it didn’t feel right, so I kept it clean with peroxide (which bubbled furiously every time). I had three women patients that day. One simply commented, “You got your nose pierced!” The other two loved it.
Wednesday my nose was still red and sore, and the glands in the left side of my neck were swollen and achy. I was worried. None of my patients said anything. Thursday night I was trying to convince myself it was going to be okay, but it was red, hot, sore, and swollen. That night, out of the blue, I got a text message from my brother Joe.
You’re so pretty. I love you.
I texted back, Don’t know about so pretty! Just got a nose piercing and it’s pretty red! (Call me wild and crazy!)
Joe wrote, I send a big hug and a tweak on your nose.
When I got ready for bed, the piercing was gone. After a long search, I found it, but it hurt too damn much when I tried to put it back in. My body rejected it, or Joe’s tweak did the job! But since then, women from 18 to 74 have told me I should try again.
I still smile when I remember how powerful and happy I felt as a woman with a piercing, walking a horse! Or maybe it was because I conquered the fear of what others might think, and did something for myself! I wish it had worked the first time, but since it didn’t I will have to take my patient up on her offer—and try again!
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