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MIT student blogger Lydia K. '14, MEng '16

Needles by Lydia K. '14, MEng '16

That was anticlimactic.

I got my first piercing in eighth grade, at Walmart. I had done horribly in a Mathcounts competition, so my mom and I decided that I should get a haircut. A lady at Walmart cut my hair boy-cut short and then my mom said wouldn’t my newly androgynous haircut look wonderful with strips and loops of metal through my ears? And I said that sounded kind of nice. So another lady at Walmart used a piercing gun (which requires little more training than a stapler) to put two new holes in my ears. A few months of ick and ouch later I started putting shiny metal things through my ears.

I soon discovered that I couldn’t choose between earrings in the morning. The worst was that they matched: how nice that pearl stud would look with that gold hoop, or that fake green diamond stud with that twisty metal thing. My indecision didn’t fade as I got older.

A turning point came when last weekend my friend Ami ’14 decided to get a cartilage piercing and I decided to tag along, ostensibly for moral support but inwardly with sinister ulterior motives. Finally, I thought, I would extinguish my morning dilemma. If I got my ears pierced again, I could wear two pairs of earrings at the same time. Never again would I have to choose between dangly earrings and studs.

But what if I got an infection from the piercing needle? Images of graffiti-covered basement tattoo parlors filled my head. What if they didn’t sterilize their needles?

Worse, what if the needle missed my ear completely? I’d endure an IAP-long struggle recovering from the horrible bleeding, only to get an infection that would last the whole semester. Even if I didn’t get stabbed in the wrong place I’d still get an infection from my own negligence, probably during the semester. I spent most of finals week living on Pop-Tarts; if I couldn’t even feed myself, how could I take care of two whole ears?

Would I look silly? Could I ever get a job? What about a mortgage? Could I ever be a real grownup?

I wondered if this was reminiscent of that time in middle school when I wanted to start wearing makeup so I could draw blue hearts around my eyes. People would see the two earrings and wonder if I couldn’t decide between studs and danglies in the morning and all I could say is yes, that is precisely why I paid money to have holes put in my body.

And then I saw my turtle earring, so green and lovable, and thought how wonderful it would be to wear it alongside my green studs. A little green turtle and a matching green dot. I could even get a smaller green turtle earring, so my ear could have a mommy turtle and a baby turtle. It would be so cute. And then I caved.

Ami picked out a place in Harvard Square that a lot of our friends recommended. It was freezing. We got on the wrong side of the Red Line, watched the wind chime installation, watched a train go by in the wrong direction, walked outside, crossed the street, and got on again on the other side.

The tattoo parlor looked surprisingly like a doctor’s waiting room with masks and red paint on the walls and relaxing music. We picked out our studs for the next eight weeks and signed a release form. After a few minutes I was called into the operating room.

It looked surprisingly like a doctor’s office, complete with a blue leather seat with a paper cover. My surgeon introduced himself as Greg. Greg had gauges in his ears, tattoos, and a palette of needles. He picked one up.

“Is this going to hurt?” I said.

“No,” he said, “it’s a marker.”

He marked my earlobes with two black dots and showed me in the mirror. Apparently Walmart put my first piercings in the wrong place. He would put the next two where the first two should have been.

Greg picked up a needle and said the piercing would feel like a shot. He told me to take a deep breath.

The prick in my ear was followed by a moment of panic. I held my breath. My heart kept beating. I thought I felt my sternum curl up toward my spine. Another deep breath.

And it was done. Greg explained how to clean my ears. Then it was Ami’s turn. Five minutes later we were free. We had pizza next door and took the T home.

9 responses to “Needles”

  1. Harleen Dhillon says:

    I am almost 18 but still haven’t got my ears pierced because of the same fears you initially had. Now I’m wondering if its not all that bad and I might just get them in a while! (provided I don’t faint during the process)

  2. Ooh, exciting! Good luck with your decision.

    If it helps, it’s been a week now and I haven’t had any infections. There was an initial fight-or-flight response: for a few minutes after the piercing my ears were all, “OMG guys, there’s something going on and it’s not good. Guys? Guys?” and it was hard to keep a straight face. There was no blood. The piercings weren’t uncomfortable, except that for the first few days I couldn’t sleep on my ears. At this point it’s like I’ve had them forever except that I need to squirt salt water at them every day.

    If you do get your ears pierced I recommend you go to a place that specializes in it and not to a place that uses piercing guns like Walmart or the mall. Piercing guns are bad:

  3. Nilanjan says:

    Piercing? Well, I am a boy and that may be the reason why I don’t know how it feels but seriously, I think that it was a tradition of the huns??
    And that too with a gun!! so horrible. One miss and you can get your head blown off instead!!!

  4. A piercing gun is closer to a stapler than a gun. I don’t think it could actually hurt you beyond putting a hole through a thin sheet of skin or cloth or giving you an infection.

  5. Andrey says:

    Lydia, as you were born in Russia, do you speak Russian?

  6. Harleen Dhillon says:

    Guns definitely seem scary. Thank you so much Lydia for your help and moral support!

  7. Yes! I do. Though my grammar sucks.

  8. Meow-meow says:

    Since you’re course 6, I have to ask:

    Are you getting a Raspberry Pi (when they’re released)?

  9. Awwh that’s so cute! I hadn’t heard of it, but now I think I might get one for my little brother. Thanks for sharing.