It might have seemed like a rash move, but I decided to go through with it anyway. I had thought about getting my navel pierced for a while, and though the people I surrounded myself with at the time – I was in the ninth grade – influence my decision, I like to think that it was my own initiative.
Many kids in school had started to get diverse piercings during freshman year. What often started out as small upper-ear cartilage embellishments escalated to facial and non-ear piercings. I already had my ear cartilage done and I was ready for the next step.
I knew that what I was going to do was a pretty rebellious thing but I still felt the need to know exactly what I was getting myself into, so I did some research on it. I watched every video that YouTube could offer showing people in piercing shops getting their belly buttons done. Some made the entire experience look incredibly painless, while others made the procedure look horrifically painful. Unsatisfied, I shook Google upside down by the ankles, finding every single way possible to make sure a new belly button piercing would remain devoid of infection.
Finally, I was ready. Not wanting to go about it alone, I went with a close friend of mine at the time (we have since parted ways). She wanted a piercing as much as I did. I knew 14 was a pretty tender age to start mutilating one’s body – I suppose kids growing up in New York City, where I had lived nearly my entire life, are corrupted a bit faster than those in suburbia – but it was the beginning of freshman year, and I had situated myself with, let’s say, an exploratory crowd. They all basically wanted to try to see what it was like to be older. Many of my friends had started to grow up just a little too fast and maintaining a high GPA was not the top priority. I had tried to keep my average together and somehow I managed to keep my GPA together.
My friend, Isabel, and I went to the famed place where minors could go for cheap piercings, which was St. Marks Place in NYC. We went on a bright and cool, yet sunny day in February. Isabel and I entered the piercing parlor, which was about the size of an office cubicle. One small window looked out onto the street but had a white film covering it, which only allowed some light to flow in. The fluorescent lights shone harshly and a white, medium-sized cabinet (most likely home the various instruments that penetrate human skin) stood next to a maroon dentist chair. It had tufts of foam spewing from the cracks in the leather. Isabel went first without a flinch, her eyes wide open throughout the entire process.
“Did it hurt!?” I asked her.
“Yeah! It did! But the pain’s almost gone now,” she answered nonchalantly.
My turn. I sat down tentatively and pulled up my shirt to reveal my belly button. The piercer, dreadlocked and dressed in a black sweatshirt and jeans, leaned over. I distinctly remember that on his fingers were multiple rings. Some were silver-colored or brass. One had a good-sized purple gem in the middle. I thought that they would get in the way but alas, they did not. Suddenly I felt a quick and blinding flash of pain like an incredibly sharp pinch. It went away as quickly as it came. My piercer stood up and put the used needle on a small tray that sat on top of the white cabinet. I stood up, my legs still slightly shaky.
“Thanks!” I said.
“No problem,” he answered solemnly. Clearly I wasn’t his first patient.
On our way out we paid a young woman standing behind a glass counter that displayed an array of barbells and earrings. It was bustling outside and the smell of Halal food hovered over the entire area. To reward ourselves for surviving a needle that went through a thick amount of our skin, we stopped at a frozen yogurt place across the street. I chose the green-tea flavor and Isabel had chocolate and vanilla. As we settled into a booth, I kept pulling up my shirt to look at the little metal bar in my stomach. I nudged it gently and felt a sharp sting. Still tender, I thought.
My mind began to wander as we ate our yogurt quietly. How would my mom react when I told her of this act? I had already decided that I would tell her immediately when I got home. This was too big of a secret to keep on my own and I knew I would most likely be in even more trouble if she found out by herself rather than me telling her. We have always been very close and I tell her nearly everything, so I felt that this was something I needed to tell her about. I also knew there could be consequences. An infection could develop if the needle wasn’t very clean or I might have to take it out completely if my mom found it too horrendous. But even as I pondered these scenarios, I felt no regret – not even a hint of it. For that, I felt relieved. Not only because I had just spent nearly twenty dollars on the new addition and I didn’t want to have mixed feelings about it, but because I felt that this new belly-button piercing would soon become apart of me – a mark from my rebellious days.
In the end when I showed my mom my new enhancement, she was shocked but surprisingly, she did not make me remove it completely. She said she had to get used to the idea but was very glad that this was my form of rebellion because it could be much more worse. I was surprised but glad that this was her reaction. I feel that she truly did trust me but she knew that my getting of this belly button piercing was also the limit. I still don’t regret that I got it done.
Ilana Schiller-Weiss, Age 16, Grade 11, School of the Future High School, Silver Key