TEEN

'King Tut Pierced Them, Too'

03/23/2013 05:57 pm ET

This is a teen-written article from our friends at Teenink.com.

By Emma H., Newton, MA

I don’t remember the needle, but I remember the pain, the hot bite of metal that tore a hole through my earlobe. And I remember the man washing his hands, his white gloves, his instructions to breathe.

But quite a lot came before that.

Parents want the best for their children, and it turned out that (despite his intricate and colorful tattoos), the owner of the piercing shop was, in fact, a nurse. He spoke to my mother in measured tones on the phone, explaining the procedure and jewelry and making it all sound as sanitary as possible. I coerced her to go with me to Boston to get my ears pierced. I don’t remember much about the drive, but it must have seemed dark and thrilling. I wore my black suede boots and my satin dog collar; I fancied I looked rather sophisticated, and when I peered in the mirror, I smiled arrogantly at myself. Mom didn’t comment.

When we entered the shop, we were faced with a few young people who at first unnerved me; they seemed to have taken possession of the place. They were the apples to oranges, not bothering to emulate the normal pink-garbed giggling girls; their jeweled and spiked jewelry suggested they were following yet another trend. What was the point of putting metal in their flesh and ink under their skin? I was younger by years, but I had a “deep motivation” for this, and felt rather superior to them.

I liked Egypt, you see. I always had, as a matter of fact, and one thing always struck me: the Egyptians were great fans of piercing. Tutankhamen’s mask, if you look closely, bears two great holesin those carved golden earlobes and I wanted to look like a king, proud and marvelously wealthy. It was like a little thread tying me to the ancient world. Those teenagers appeared to have a more base incentive.

But I forgot this as soon as I was given the opportunity to choose a coloredbead for my jewelry. After great deliberation, I chose a miniature green sphere, shiny like a tiger’s eye and brilliant against my red hair.

The piercing room was clinical looking, which banished my thoughts of disease and infection, but pleasant with a mural of a smirking, pale-faced woman painted on the wall. A rickety metal cart was pushed up to the piercing chair, with a needle and two tiny twists of wire resting on top. This made me grin. Finally, my ambition achieved, and oh, the lofty thoughts that those curls of wire could encourage!

The chair, on the other hand, looked like a dentist’s in firm red leather. I had the sudden thought that maybe it was going to hurt a lot but then smirked, trying to ignore my little trickle of fear.

The piercer was a stout man, bald and lavishly tattooed like everyone in the shop. I don’t remember what he said, probably something not too comforting, but he seemed friendly enough. Then it was Time To Pierce Me. He grasped my ear and held it fast with fingers like sausages, marked it with a little dab of violet ink which was cold and unexpected against my ear, and then - don’t panic, don’t be scared, try to breathe, hold on, you can do it.

The prick of the needle itself was no more than a faintly burning scratch; it sizzled its way through my ear and I flinched, my eyes burning. The little twist of wire clicked in place. A pair of pliers sealed the green bead inside the ring. It swung and then stopped abruptly. I held onto the arm rests, breathed a relieved little breath.

The sensation faded and then was duplicated. It hurt more the second time because his fingers lost their steady curl around the needle, just for a moment, and it jerked slightly. The circle of wire went in; the wire was closed around the bead. These new earrings were unusually plain, in steel and glass, nothing like the gleaming thick rings of gold I’d imagined graced an Egyptian’s ear. My own ears felt licked with fire, about to burn.

I rose to stare at the wire hoops in the mirror. The woman in the mural was behind me and the piercer was smiling next to me, and my mom had a funny, lopsided smile like she was thinking, 'Well, my kid’s finally been mutilated.' I resisted the urge totake my fingers and twirl the ring. It burned. It was nothing but the piercer’s job, two little pricks and metal threaded through flesh, but my head was light with glory. The tradition of piercing, passed from Stone Age to modern times, improved upon and sterilized and beautified: it felt ancient somehow.

It hadn’t been all I thought it would. No angels descended, singing that I was now Part of Ancient History. But it was a small, beautiful link between me and the pharaoh Tutankhamen, a link, a shared wound. I would be forever scarred, just like Shakespeare and my mother and King Tut, and many others I loved or idolized. Initiated into the world of blood and beauty, needles and jewelry, wounds and gold.

Cool, I thought. This is really cool. So what do I pierce next?

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