On this Mother's day, I thought it appropriate to share a story about me and my daughter. Here goes!
About two months ago, I got two new piercings. I'd been wanting to have my double helix done. A friend suggested I go to a piercing parlor for several reasons: it's more hygienic, hurts less, and heals faster. I was not convinced. Why? Because they use a big ol' needle. So, there you have it. I am not afraid to admit that I am not quite butch enough to hit the piercing parlor for my coveted double helix. Instead, I happened to be at the local mall, and walked right by Claire's Boutique. You know what's coming. Well, Claire's, I thought. That's easy. They use a gun and bing bam boom it will be over, with nary a needle in sight. In, I walked. I was still nervous, and the maybe 20-year-old girl working there was very reassuring. Does anyone ever cry, I asked. "Oh sure. I had an infant in here this morning. She cried for a few seconds." Properly shamed, that was the last question I asked. Anyway, she did the double helix piercings for me and it stung a bit.
I headed home feeling not too butch, but happy with my new piercings, and the cookies I picked up from Mrs. Fields as I dodged the mall-walkers. I tweeted pictures of my new metal, but did not tell the story of where I had it done. The shame. Fast forward a couple weeks. The piercings are fine, but they hurt. I am in Glasgow and I want to have my tragus done - this time at a piercing parlor because my same friend would not allow me to make what she knew was the same mistake twice. John, the piercer, chastised me roundly in a lovely Scottish accent, did my tragus, and then re-pierced my double helix. The gun that Claire's uses is too small for the kind of hoops that I want eventually. Let me tell you, the re-piercing was painful. I was mortified, and it hurt. Hooray! The new tragus piercing hurt less than the double helix. Grrr.
So, now I have proper titanium barbell and balls in all the right piercings. After going from 2 piercings to 6 (I also recently re-pierced myself the benign second lobe hole so many of us have) in a short period of time, I decided that I was going to start losing credibility with my daughter if I continued to tow the "you have to be 13 to get your ears pierced" party line. Well, I needed her to prove that she is responsible enough by doing something for me consistently for 30 days, so I made a deal with her: if she could do that, then I would let her get her ears pierced. She was overjoyed. I was a hero. Super Mom. Hooray!
25 days later, she is going strong and we start the discussion. I decide that I would not like to take her to Claire's. Rather, I want to take her to a piercing parlor, so she can get it done properly. She reacts badly to this, "Eww! A needle! No way, Mom." I wait, and then remind her of my story, how much it hurt at Claire's, how slow it's been to heal, how so very un-butch I felt. Well, lo and behold... she announces the weekend we are to have it done, "Mom, I want to go to a piercing parlor. I want it done right."
Really, baby? I ask, kind of in disbelief, but already feeling shades of pride. "Yes, really, Mom. (Pause) Does that make me more butch than you?"
Ouff. She got me right where I live, so to speak. Well, not really, as I adore my kids and want everything for them - including butchness in all its true connotations. I want my kids to be brave, strong, polite, chivalrous, thoughtful, considerate, gallant, giving, sturdy, protective, funny, confident, and someday, sexy and appealing. All those things mean butch to me. I answered my absolutely adorable, gorgeous, girly, 9-year old, "Yes, baby. Yes, it does. I am so proud of how brave you are. You are super butch!" How on earth did I get this amazing girl? My son, too, who I wrote about recently. But this is about my daughter. I consider raising them to be my greatest challenge and gift.
On to the piercing. Sadly, none of the recommended parlors that I called had a piercer on staff on a Sunday or Monday, so we had to wait until Tuesday. I picked her up Tuesday after school (my son had a T-Ball game and his granddad took him), and we headed to the piercing parlor. My daughter is nervous, but brave, unshakable. She cannot stop talking the entire ride.
"Will it hurt, Mom?"
"How long will it take?"
"Can you hold my hand?"
"I can't believe that I am going to a parlor but you went to Claire's. I'm more butch than you, Mom!"
I asked her if it would be OK if I got a piercing done too, and she said yes. A bonding thing - she seemed to like it.
We arrive at the parlor (thank you Queerie Bradshaw for the solid recommendation) and Gage is expecting us (being anal I, of course, called ahead). He immediately sets her at ease. She picks out her earrings - titanium, implant-grade barbells with Swarovski crystal fronts - natch. She picked the perfect size, not too big. A lesbian couple was there at the counter preparing for their newest tattoo, and they thought she was adorable. While we were getting situated a big, burly guy comes in and asks Gage about some new earrings. Because the big burly guy wants cheap earrings, Gage sends him to Claire's. I had to stifle a laugh. After he left, I asked my daughter, "Can you believe he sent that big guy to Claire's and you are so brave that you are here?" She smiled a big beautiful smile, the kind that makes a mother's heart swell, and it was time to head in to the chair.
I don't have to tell you how brave she was. Gage was wonderful, too. He kept her distracted and encouraged her to make a dedication with her piercings, as people have done for thousands of years, of something that she wants to hold on to, or let go - something that she wants in her life. How neat is that? I got her permission to tell you what her dedication was - to invent something in her life that changes the world for poor people. Sigh. I did the proper mom thing and held her hand while watching, you know, to make sure all was well. I hate needles, by the way, but the big mother bear watched Gage push that needle through the tube and into her ear, both times. I didn't even get dizzy or faint! She barely flinched. He told her it was over. I have pictures of her looking at her already beautiful ears, now adorned with lovely crystals, and, suffice it to say, they would melt your heart.
Next, it's time for mom. My daughter takes a seat on the stool, I didn't ask her to hold my hand because she was a little weak when she stood up - just from the adrenaline, I assured her. Now, I am about to have my rook pierced. Gage tells me it is the "easiest piercing" he does. I can't get too excited, right? I mean, my baby girl who just braved the needle twice is sitting two feet away watching me. "You won't cry, right Mom?" she had said before. No, baby, I won't, I had assured her, but it's OK if you do. So, Gage gets the forceps on my rook, and blam! Good night, did it ever hurt! Don't get me wrong, he was great. And, I am sure that it hurt less than if other folks had done it. But, it did hurt. Worse than any of the others I have. But, there is my beautiful brave angel, so... no problem.
It's over and Gage is telling me I did great. My daughter is asking me if it hurt. I say, yes, baby. We hear all of the care instructions. We head out. It's time for a celebratory milkshake for her and a burger. I tell my baby how amazing she is and how proud of her I am. She laughs and talks about how mine is hurting but hers is not, and she must be so much more butch than me. I don't point out that hers is through flesh and mine through cartilage. Instead, I agree with her. Yes, baby. You are very butch and I am so proud of you. She gets a giant kick out of the fact that her big butch mom went to Claire's and she went to a professional piercing parlor. I love that she does, so I am happy to encourage her to think this way. So much so, that I wanted to write about it to brag to the world just how butch my 9-year old is.
My dedication, by the way, was to nurture my creative side. It's butch to admit when you aren't very butch - especially to your 9-year old baby girl. Be Butch.
Follow Tristan Higgins on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ButchOnTap