I am a deeply pain-averse person. I generally go to great lengths to avoid feeling discomfort of any sort, including but not limited to having my husband fetch me glasses of water so I don’t have to remove myself from our couch after a long day’s work. But there are some experiences of pain that I have walked into willingly, with clear eyes and full hearts, assuming I could not possibly lose. Since I was eighteen, I have submitted willingly to the needle—that is, I’ve gotten pierced and tattooed countless times.
Off the top of my head, I can say that I’ve had my earlobes pierced 5 times (each), my left tragus, rook, and conch (twice), my right anti-tragus, my right cartilage and industrial, and my left cartilage, both sides of my nose (the left twice), my navel, and my Monroe done on the left. That’s 24 needles, at least, that I have gleefully allowed gruff, tattooed men (and one wonderful woman) to plunge into my skin, for no medical purpose. Tattoos are much the same. I only have six, all of which are fairly small, but typically within 30 minutes of leaving the parlor, I’m ready for more ink. Ten years into this behavior, I still couldn’t tell you why any of this still interests me. Why I’d risk infection and scarring to adorn myself in surgical steel.
I imagine I’ll feel much the same way about childbirth as I do about piercings. In the moment, when a burly dude is shoving a piece of metal into an open wound, one thinks, “Why have I chosen this path? Could the end result possibly be worth the agony of being ripped apart by pliers?” I’m not 100% sure it is, but it sure looks cute.
A friend and I had planned to go to Lucky’s in Cambridge (the offshoot of a favorite Northampton parlor) today after work, but since work of any kind was not in the cards for me today, I took it upon myself to get pierced prior to our lunch date (pho!) I ended up at Body Xtremes in Quincy, which doubles as a museum for bizarre skulls and snakes in jars and shit. The owner used to travel the world, bringing back jungle artifacts. I can’t say I entirely recommend the experience (I was having my conch repierced and something kept slipping out, prolonging what should have been a 5-minute job), but I have to say that I admire a person who stands so strong in his aesthetic. I mean, I stand pretty strong in my aesthetic, but my aesthetic is “lifestyle blogger with an active Pinterest account,” so it’s considerably less of a statement.
I have to wonder if my fascination with these minor pains, this willingness to occasionally be pricked and scraped, has anything to do with my big pains—the pains of mental illness. Thursday night, I very nearly ended up in the hospital. I started writing down the phone numbers of my closest friends so that I’d have them in the ward when they took my phone away. I got a Hail Mary call from my psychiatrist that rerouted my course to the ER, but that sort of treatment remains a possibility in the future. We’re trying a new mood stabilizer with an as-needed anxiety medication to supplement. I’m feeling optimistic for the first time in a while. But the spectre of hospitalization, “the darkness,” looms large.
So Friday I stayed home from work. I slept a solid eight hours for the first time in…months? My life? I relaxed and watched my favorite show, Catastrophe. I went to the psychiatrist and started the new mood stabilizer. I’m feeling optimistic. Today, I’m going to yoga. Working out is a discomfort I typically like to avoid, but if I’ll let a man shove steel through my literal ear, I think I can sweat a little bit today.