Needles and terror: Getting 2 more holes in my head
When you leave the bars at 8 p.m. on a Friday night, there’s really only one place to go.
The place you’ve been avoiding for weeks.
Yup. The tattoo parlor.
Heaven knows, I’d been putting it off.
I’d talked my friends’ ears off about it. In the way of a well-spoken wimp, I had an end goal in mind but waffled when it came to any sort of action.
The mission: to put two more holes in my head.
The proposed venues: A superstore, a hair salon, another city, my own home … or a tattoo parlor.
I wouldn’t call myself a wimp. Or queasy. I’ve lived and worked in the Middle East, stood next to a man performing open-heart surgery and tweeted at the celebrity that I plan to marry (the scariest task of all). Someday, I’m planning to jump out of a plane.
And it’s not like I’d never been in a tattoo parlor before.
But letting someone push a needle through my ears? That was a little too much for me to handle, despite the fact that I’d already gone under the gun (of the Wal-Mart piercing variety) once, about 15 years ago, after a prolonged campaign that wore down my parents.
Needles aren’t something I handle well — along with olives, beer, bread, trying to be a vegetarian at an Iowa rodeo, the phrases “whatever” and “good enough,” people who don’t use turn signals, people who don’t love Josh Groban, and women who date Josh Groban. But mostly just needles.
So I kept putting it off, even as I continued to talk about my plans to double pierce my ears and hashed out the specifics of the plan with my friends. It’s easy when it’s just talk, as I found.
But when your best friend walks you into the tattoo parlor — just to ask questions; that was the plan — there is only so much talking left to do. Not that I didn’t try to drag it out. I probably asked the poor piercer, “Will it hurt? How much?” 10 different times, in 10 different ways.
A 4-year-old who was hanging out in the tattoo parlor with his dad watched all this with amusement, probably thinking about what a wimp I was.
Finally, a friend of the piercer’s, who may have just been there visiting, said, “Tell you what, I’ll do it first so you can watch.”
I have no idea if she’d planned to get another piercing that day, but she agreed to let the piercer stab her first so I could see how easy it was.
And it was easy. No flinching, no tears, no screams. One second, and it was done.
I can do this, I thought. My friend’s promise to watch a weepy chick flick with me afterward sweetened the deal.
Before I could change my mind, I was handing over some cash, signing my life away and sitting down on the big leather chair.
Everything was sterilized, dots were penned onto my ears, and before I knew it, a needle was being poked through my skin.
I may have jumped, but I didn’t scream.
“Oh, you’re a bleeder,” the piercer said, mopping me up.
Several minutes passed. “You’re still bleeding. That’s unusual.”
One ear to go.
The second was probably a little worse, because I was anticipating it more, but about 15 minutes after I’d walked into the tattoo shop, with months of talking behind me and several very patient people putting up with my fears, I left with two more holes in my head. The 4-year-old, who probably stayed up later than me that night and is much cooler than I am, promptly forgot about me.
As everyone — including the people I’d just met — kept telling me, I’d made this whole ear-piercing thing much scarier in my mind than it actually was.
Maybe I’ll do my tongue next.