“I did something spontaneous last night, and you’re not going to like it.”
That is how I opened the conversation with my mom the morning after I got my nipples pierced. Although she doesn’t believe in body modification, it never crossed my mind not to tell her I paid a stranger to stick sharp needles through my nipples. For the most part, I tell my mom everything. After all, she knows me better than anyone else and is an avid supporter of an individual’s right to do what they will with their own body.
“What did you do?” she asked me in a leery, resigned tone.
On her part, it was a fair question. Last time we had the “I did something” conversation, I’d just gotten by largest tattoo down my left forearm. (Did I mention her distaste for body modification?) The time before that tattoo, I’d just made a spontaneous decision to move across the country.
“I got my nipples pierced last night!” I exclaimed. “And it didn’t even hurt like I thought it would!”
I’ve known several people who have gotten their nipples pierced, all of who made a point to tell me about the pain involved in the process. Josh, an older cousin, was the only one to put a truly positive spin on the piercing experience itself.
Even though I always admired Josh and wanted my very own collection of tattoos like he did, I never imagined myself getting my nipples pierced. I simply never saw myself with that particular piercing.
Until the day I suddenly decided I DID need that particular piercing. I put very little thought into the decision. After leaving my Thursday night dance class, I took some of my tax return money and went to a local shop. My roomie, Arryn, accompanied me on my adventure, and I had a lot of fun with the process. As the last customer of the night, I had great conversations with everyone in the shop, signed the paperwork, picked out pink and blue balls for my barbells, and took my shirt off.
Over the past two decades, I have spent a lot of time trying not to think about my breasts while constantly having their presence impact my life.
See, I started developing in 2 grade. As soon as I started developing, the body shaming began, initially by family members. For most girls, this is a common experience that only got worse with time. My shame only grew worse as my breasts grew larger and larger and I noticed complete strangers sexualize my body. Their attentions made me feel uncomfortable, which was compounded by my experience being molested as a young girl.
In other words, I’ve had a negative perception of my breasts since about 1996. I’ve really only allowed myself to think about my breasts in three capacities…1) Wear two bras at the gym, 2) Try to avoid heat rashes in the summer by cleaning thoroughly and staying dry, and 3) Find work-appropriate shirts that are cute and I feel comfortable in.
Then, I got my nipples pierced on an unexplainable whim, and I suddenly had to think about my breasts all the time in a completely different way. My excitement never waned as I quizzed Josh about his piercing, cleaned my nipples religiously, slid the barbells back and forth to make sure they didn’t get stuck to my skin with dried fluids, and generally just admired the pink and blue jewelry glittering against the pale white of my skin.
During this process I suddenly realized I was happy with my breasts – I hadn’t worried about how large my breasts looked or even fantasized about a reduction. I also started looking at my breasts in the mirror when I got out of the shower. (I like sparklies…and my balls are sparkly…hence, I simply MUST look at the sparklies!)
It’s odd to suddenly not hate my breasts after our rocky history together, and I know it sounds odd to say “Getting my nipples pierced helped me love my breasts.” But thinking about it now, by making the choice to get my nipples pierced, I made a positive decision concerning my breasts for the first time in my life.
Wonder of wonders, it involved no other person but me and my desire for barbells through my nipples. I didn’t realize it when I handed over the money or when I woke up the next morning, but the hour I spent at the parlor on a random Thursday night helped me in a way I never could have imagined.
Who knew the power to address internalized shame could manifest in a sharp needle and barbells? Not me.