A friend told me her son was getting his ear pierced, which surprised me. Earrings seem to be passé now, at least among guys, or maybe I just haven’t been paying attention. It’s not as though I have anything against guys, or anyone, really, getting earrings. For what it’s worth I think earrings are cool and I admire anyone who wears one or two or more. A young man getting an earring just seems to be a throwback to when I was a teenager and guys getting earrings was an act of rebellion. In fact it became such a popular rebellious act that the entire football team at my high school got earrings, and you know you can’t get more anti-establishment than institutionalized sports. Yes, they were really sticking it to The Man–specifically sticking it right through his earlobe with a stud of gold, silver, or perhaps a gemstone if they were feeling especially rebellious.
I remember when my friend Trav got his ear pierced. We went to one of those places at the mall because if you’re going to do something rebellious why not throw a chance of tetanus into the mix? Anyway Trav sat down in the chair and the young woman who’d probably been a senior when Trav and I were freshmen assured him it might sting a little but it would be over quickly. And while she was prepping the equipment a mother with her little boy, who might have bene eight or nine, came in. The little boy looked terrified and his mother kept saying to him, “Are you sure you want to do this?” And the darling little rebel, wide-eyed, slightly slack-jawed, would nod his head. He wasn’t going to wait for his teen years to show what a non-conformist he was. He was going to be the youngest anarchist on the block. With his mother’s approval, of course.
So the young woman who did the piercing poked Trav’s ear he grabbed the side of his head and screamed bloody murder. Our pint-sized provocateur took off running. I assume his mother caught him eventually, but I was too busy laughing to even see where they went. Trav would continue to stir up trouble, including, his senior year, joining every single school club so he could appear in every single yearbook photo, and even donning an eyepatch for his shot with the chess club where he was named as “Pirate Trav”, which is the sort of thing you can get away with when you’re also on the yearbook editorial staff.
He also caused a bit of trouble for me. My father was not impressed with Trav’s earring and told me I’d better not get one myself. All I could say was that I’d never planned to. He might as well have said, “Whatever you do don’t go out and get run over by a steamroller.”
As I said I think earrings are cool, which is exactly why I can never get one. I’ll never be cool enough to wear an earring. It takes a certain level of confidence, poise, even swagger to wear an earring, or, failing that, you can get the rest of the football team to get one. It’s just not a look I can pull off—and if I tried I should pull it out. And also Trav’s reaction kind of terrified me.