Saturday, July 16, 2011

I pierced a girl...


I’ve never quite understood the body art trend, even though I would say that a larger percentage of my friends have multiple piercings than do not. When I was fourteen, I got my ears pierced at the Seview Square Mall in one of those jewelry shops that allow you to be impaled with gold studs embedded with your birthstone. Piercing your ears at a store in front of Deb pretty much qualified as a rite of 1980s suburban passage.

After wearing earrings that were too heavy for my lobes, the holes became enlarged so I eventually had to let them close. I still have two large scars on my ears, which I took as a sign that I was meant to pass from this world as I entered it—unadorned.  I wear a watch. 

Between my junior and senior year of high school, I attended a summer program on the campus of Harvard University, in Cambridge, MA. One of my roommates was Kim, from Berkley, California. Rooming with Kim was one of my first experiences with West Coast culture.

Kim was a pale, waifish creature—tall and barely 105 pounds. She wore cut-off jeans belted with a multi-colored rope, Birkenstocks, and white men’s t-shirts bought in bulk at the Harvard Coop.  About a week into the program she found a thrift store called Dollar-A-Pound. The store might still be there. Every week, a warehouse near MIT would be mysteriously filled with used clothes, all of which would be on sale for...a dollar-a-pound. We walked there together from our dorm. Our other roommate, Mita, was far too grossed out to join us. Our purchases—faded, shapeless clothing—looked good on Kim’s model-like frame, but just made my stocky, short nub of a body look vaguely homeless.
Flick: travis_simon

Kim was given to impulsive decisions, some of which had more costly consequences than Dollar-A-Pound.  At the beginning of the summer she had thick, luxuriant straight red hair down to her waist like a Pre-Raphaelite nymph. Then, she cut it all off, as short as a boy, at a barber shop.  “It feels so free,” she said. I cried inside. Despite the fact that I hadn’t cut my hair in a year, it refused to grow any longer than breast-length.

Flickr: freeparking 

During that summer, Kim briefly dated a boy named Ruskin, also from Berkeley. Ruskin’s parents were hardcore hippies. “They gave him ACID for his birthday,” said Kim.  Even she was shocked. “And it wasn’t even GOOD ACID.”

(Later, in graduate school, I would read the art criticism of the Victorian writer John Ruskin.  Despite being married to a woman whom he met when she was a child of nine and writing monumental volumes of art criticism on works depicting lusty naked bodies, John Ruskin reportedly died a virgin. This proves that the Victorians were weirder than ANYONE who ever lived during the 1960s).

One day, Kim informed Mita and myself: “I want to get my nose pierced.”

“I wouldn’t do it.  What if you don’t like it?” I asked, and showed her the scars on my earlobes.
“I’ll take it out if I don’t like it.”
Flickr: megangoodchild

All three of us went to the nearest jewelry store, in the Cambridge Galleria. There was lots of silver jewelry in the store depicting eyes in the middle of hands and Dungeons and Dragons multi-sided dice.

The scene seemed promising, but the boy working at the shop said: “we can’t pierce noses, it’s illegal for sanitary reasons.”

Collectively, we felt let down.  We had tried so hard to steel our courage.

“But we sell piercing kits.  If you’d like to do it at home.  $11,” he said.

 The logic of being able to pierce one’s own nose but not have it done in-house seemed troubling, but we persevered.

“Are you going to do it to yourself?” asked Mita.

“I’ll do it,” I said.  I knew I’d never have the courage to get my own nose pierced, but piercing someone else’s nose seemed much more manageable.  Mita held Kim’s hand. I squeezed the gun.

It felt like stapling a very large, thick research paper.

“I did it!” shrieked Kim.  “I pierced my nose.”

“I pierced someone’s nose!” I shrieked.  I hardly noticed that the ugly, lumpish metallic stud didn’t look particularly attractive.

Turning the stud was painful. Mita, whose mother had her nose pierced when she was a girl in India, had warned Kim of this. Eventually, the pain, the inability to blow her nose, and the fact that her appearance wasn’t particularly enhanced by the piercing caused Kim to remove the adornment. I felt slightly disappointed that the evidence of my bravery had been erased. 

Sometimes when I see the rings of a sliced olive, I think of Kim.
This is a nice, savory bread and you will enjoy it, even if you have mixed feelings about ring-shaped adornments.

It's not very attractive, but unlike a nose piercing, it's quite useful.  Although it's a quick bread, it's sturdy enough to be eaten with hummus, turkey, or cheese and would make a lovely addition to a Mediterranean meal or appetizer.

Olive Bread

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano (spices can be adjusted to your taste)
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1/4 cup mild olive oil
1/2 cup pitted black olives
1/2 cup chopped walnuts


1. Preheat oven to 350F. Oil a 9x5 baking pan.

2. Sift the flours, baking powder, spices, and salt. In another bowl, mix the eggs, milk, and oil.  Add the flour mixture until the batter is incorporated.  Fold in the olives and walnuts.

3. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick is extracted clean. Let cool before removing from the pan for at least 15 minutes.

4. Serve with olive oil or hummus.


  1. I am also unadorned. I think I may have said this before when we discussed hipsters: despite what they like to think, it is not uncoventional or non-conformist. Half the people I know have multiple piercings and/or have been inked; if half the people I know (I know boring people) are doing it, it is no longer uncoventional.

    Aside from that, I have lots of scar, mostly small ones, but have a few on my face and hands, and a couple here and there on my body (I have no physical coordination and never have), and to me those are tattoos that I actually earned.

  2. @CatBoy--it is also quite expensive (which I know sounds petty, but given the costs of tattoos in particular, it is a concern). Your scars tending for cats certainly ARE well-earned and MUCH more impressive and interesting than simply getting someone else to pierce or ink your body!

  3. Ruskin would be such an awesome celebrity baby name- especially for the likes of Kate Hudson or some quasi-hippie type. Just think, if it were the 2000s and Kim were from Southern California you could have given her at-home Botox!