Hi, I’m Mary, and this is my column no one asked for about things I like!
My mom had a lot of rules, one of which was that I couldn’t get my ears pierced until I turned 13. I wasn’t exactly in a rush to get a hole punched through my head (I was and still am a total wuss when it comes to pain, or even the idea of it), but the ability to wear real earrings seemed like the truest sign of womanhood. Though I now consider babies with pierced ears victims of child abuse, when I was young I envied those mature infants with tiny diamonds sparkling on the sides of their chubby faces. They seemed, in one way at least, more grown up than I was.
Of course, rules are made to be broken, and strict as my mother was, she always considered herself a little bit of a rebel (case in point: she married an Italian), so one day when I was in sixth grade, just a few months shy of my 12th birthday, she took me to get my ears pierced. It was during spring break, a two week stretch in March which I spent helping my uncle John pack to hike the Appalachian Trail. My break that year was off schedule with the rest of my family and my (admittedly few) friends so I’d spent all of it cooped up in the attic helping John weigh trail mix, pack it into ziplock bags, then pack those bags into boxes for us to mail to different post offices along the trail. My mom felt bad, but I’d actually had a blast. The trail mix had M&Ms in it.
Though my break from school had been wonderful, I’d had a terrible year, so when my mom yelled up the attic stairs asking if I wanted to go to her hair salon to make a woman of my ears, I felt like I’d earned the treat. While my mom got a haircut from her stylist of many years Sandy, some kind bitch took a gun to my lobes and shot in a pair of silver studs. At least I think that’s what ended up in my ears that day and remained there for several weeks, or however long you’re supposed to leave your first pair of earrings in. I remember lying in bed that night, rotating the earrings as the woman had told me to so they wouldn’t get stuck (ew), and feeling, finally, like I was as grown up as any baby.
My newfound sophistication came at a price, however, when my ears got infected. My lobes were bloody and swollen for weeks, and I’d go into my parents’ bathroom at night so my dad could drain the pus from them. Though my ears ached and my silver studs were surrounded by ooze and guts, I still thought I looked great.
Eventually, the infection subsided and I started thinking about getting another hole. (I know many men have multiple ear piercings, but wanting more holes seems like a particularly female desire, a natural compulsion to seem extra-penetrable, even if only by tiny sticks of metal.) I never did it. Though I still envy my friends who have two ear piercings and love the look of mix-and-match earrings, anytime I’ve seriously considered getting another piercing, the painful memory of the bloody pustules of my youth has banished the thought.
OK, enough about gushing wounds (I’ll probably bring them up again later), once I got my ears pierced, I entered a whole new world of accessories. While I’d owned the occasional necklace, bracelet and even ring (finger, not toe! Toe rings are a gateway to blow jobs under the bleachers, and my school didn’t have bleachers), earrings were something I could, and in fact had to wear everyday. So I started a meager collection of tiny studs procured at a local store called The Cottage, which sold funky yet understated jewelry, baby clothes and bath products designed to give middle-aged women piercing headaches. I even recall buying a pair of tiny gold hoops, though it’s hard for me to imagine my mother, rebellious as she was, approving such a purchase since she herself wore the same exact pearl earrings every day of her life.
Since it was the (late!) 90s, silver was in, as was anything that resembled a bong, so most of my earrings were tiny little balls of colorful glass mounted on silver. Determined not to be like my mother, I’d switch out my earrings every day to make a statement, though in fact it wasn’t until high school that I owned a single pair of earrings that said anything louder than “ummm.”
In middle school, I was known as backpack girl (I was permanently hunched under the weight of a big old sucker from L.L. Bean), but in college I became earrings girl. No one actually called me that but, based on what I chose to hang from my ears, it’s how I thought of myself. One night freshman year, I smoked out of a Diet Coke bong (which, in case it’s not clear, is a bong made from an *empty* can of *Diet* Coke) with a girl down the hall who, after taking one look at the dangly beads framing my face (and more than one hit from our makeshift bong), declared me “artsy.” No one had ever called me artsy before since I was not, in fact, artistically talented, but since I had the vague notion that I wanted to one day be some sort of artist, I was flattered. Maybe it was the earrings, maybe this girl saw something in me no one else did, or maybe she was a closeted lesbian attempting to hit on me in the safest possible way (bingo).
Whatever inspired her to call me artsy (definitely the last thing), I took her compliment and/or insult and ran with it. I amassed a collection of cheap, spangly chandeliers which I hung on either side of my face, even in broad daylight. My college look was light fixture chic. It was my thing, my calling card, what I was known for (as was drinking Bacardi 151 mixed with Crystal Light a.k.a. vomiting on fraternity couches).
When I graduated from college, however, I realized it was time to hang up the big ass earrings (on a jewelry tree I kept on my bureau for decoration) and grow up. No longer some crafty little coed, I started wearing a tiny pair of pearl earrings I’d inherited from my mother to work on occasion. Before I knew it, I was wearing them every day. Most girls are afraid of becoming their mothers but my fear was subsiding. I liked my mom, plus I inherited her small (some might say freakishly so) ears and strong jawline, and it turns out a nice little pair of pearls flatter that face shape.
I lost those earrings in my room one day and looked everywhere but couldn’t find them. A few months later, my mother died and I inherited her larger pearls, the one she’d worn each day for so long. For a few years after her death, I too wore them every day. I looked in the mirror and searched for her face in mine, but I had to squint to see it because ears, jawline and big teeth aside, I don’t look very much like her. Where I resemble her is inside, in the guts that swelled and burst in the weeks after she took me to get my ears pierced (I told you I’d bring that up again — and at the worst possible time!).
Now, I only wear those pearls once in a while, when I miss her most. Most days, I wear little gold studs. I buy a pair every few months, then wear them until the “gold” starts to rub off. (I can’t afford the real deal, plus I’m fickle when it comes to earrings, preferring to change up my look ever so slightly each season.) Lately, however, I’ve been switching it up more than usual, sometimes even wearing big earrings on weekdays just because.
Earrings are personal, even more so than other jewelry. A necklace will look pretty much the same on anyone, but earrings can change the shape and appearance of a person’s face. They have to frame it right, be the right color, set the right tone. Earrings are an expression of individuality, especially for me since they’re the only jewelry I wear anymore.
A few months ago, my boyfriend bought me a pair of statement earrings, geometric gray and gold drops a few inches long. They aren’t something I would have picked out for myself, but when I put them on, they looked right. They also felt right because even though they could accurately be described as “dangly,” they go in as studs, with backings and everything, a fact which proves that he really knows me. He sees the artsy chandelier girl inside of me, but knows that these days, I’m too practical to loop something into my ear like an ornament.
Inspired by his bold choice, I recently purchased a pair of big ass hoops. They’re blond tortoise, not metal, which makes them feel more…me, even though the truth is every woman in Brooklyn has these earrings so they should make me feel just like everyone else. When I put them in, my face looks different in a way I like. I even feel different: like the kind of dumb bitch who takes selfies in the bathroom during a friend’s birthday dinner (…just like everyone else).
I just got back from a little road trip/comedy tour with my friends in Vermont (lovely) and Maine (weird as hell). We spent a lot of time shopping, and it occurred to me that I could use a new pair of little gold studs. I almost bought some at one store, but I just knew they weren’t right. So I waited it out, and by the end of the trip two pairs of gold studs had found me — one tiny, one bigger and bolder. I’ll wear them both, in rotation with my statement earrings, for months, possibly even years to come.
I have no idea what my fucking point is, except to say that I’ve discovered variety is indeed the spice of life. Originally, I was just going to write about my passion for little gold studs, but then I realized I’m evolving. I love a little gold stud, a tiny hint of sparkle on either side of my face, but I also love a classic pearl, and a big ass hoop, and a pretty gold and grey dangle that shimmers when I shake my stupid head. I guess the point, as usual, is that women are complicated and I contain multitudes. Also that if you put an extra hole in your body, it’ll be a source of pain for a while but a source of fun for life!
As always, I’d like to clarify that this is NOT a sponsored post. I received nothing for it and am pretty sure no one cares that I love earrings. Still, if anyone is reading and ever wants to give me literally anything for free, earring or not, I WILL TAKE IT!!!!!!
Anyway, I hope this was helpful. I’ll be back with more unsolicited recommendations soon!