A grown man walks into a bar and comes out with an ear piercing.
That's just what happened to me, except instead of a bar, it was a tattoo studio. At 32 years old, I've done my first-ever body mutilation. I've had a hole put in my earlobe.
Ear piercing has very juvenile associations. It's something angry teenagers do to piss off their parents. I went through three decades of my life never thinking I'd want one because everyone I know has a hole or two that never closed up – remember how popular eyebrow, bellybutton, and lip piercings were all those years ago?
Yet I've spent two years wanted to get my ear pierced, and last week, I did it.
I have no idea where this idea came from. I must have seen a cute guy in the street with a pierced ear or something, because I've been noticing them on other men for a while now. On the right guy, a cool stud or a classy ring is kind of sexy, kind of badass.
The reason it took me so long to walk into that tattoo parlour is because I am not a badass. I'm not exactly conservative but I'm not that freaky either. I consider my likes and interests to be pretty mainstream. Yet here I am with a pierced ear and a small black stud in it.
However, although it was a big deal for me to undertake said body mutilation, the most surprising thing about life with a piercing is that nobody else gives a damn.
I walked into the studio sheepish, thinking I'd be judged for getting my first earring at my age. I didn't know what kind of earring I wanted. I needed to ask about sterilisation and aftercare. I squirmed when the needle went through.
I was also asked "which ear?", to which I had serious insecurity. I'm gay and I know it's not 1996 anymore, but the "gay ear" thing was in my mind. Should I get one on the right to tell the world who I am, or on the left because I have a scar on the right of my chin and didn't want that side to feel "heavy"?
When I returned home, I couldn't stop looking in the mirror. I thought I looked completely different. The new earring on my left side stood out for all the right reasons.
But then I looked closely and discovered that my ears aren't the exact same height. I didn't know this before, but with a stud in one of them, it became obvious to me. "What have I done?" I fretted. "Have I just made a flaw more obvious?"
I later learned that nobody's ears are the same height and I'm not abnormal. After taking a few selfies, I also couldn't tell that one ear was higher than the other. A wrote this all down as post-piercing anxiety; a little piercer's remorse, if you will.
I had been worried amongst friends and colleagues that my pierced ear would make me look unprofessional. As if it would make me stick out and attract negative judgement.
Quite the opposite. An earring doesn't attract any attention at all. This is the thing that has surprised me most – nobody cares. A lot of people don't even notice. Some have even said, "Didn't you always have that?"
More than a week has gone by, I've staved off infection with a careful rock salt solution, and I don't notice my earring in the mirror every time anymore.
Do I feel a bit cooler? Perhaps. But nobody else thinks I'm cooler for it. Which I see now, is exactly the point of piercings. They're a personal choice, to be admired by you and only you.
And if I get bored of it – unlike the other option I could have walked out of a tattoo parlour with – at least this I can one day get rid of.