Yesterday, I took out my nose ring for good. That tiny little diamond stud curling delicately into the side of my right nostril was the symbol of my youth, my college years, my attempted rebellion. It was the “stupid thing” you’re supposed to do when you’re young that your parents don’t know about, but I made sure my stupidity wasn’t permanent. I didn’t even ever think it was stupid. It was just–me.
In a world of trying to fit in and dress the right way and act like everyone else, I wanted to stand out in one small way. I had to go to every class, get a high GPA and make every swim practice and volunteer and participate in clubs; I was the oldest, the almost-type-A, organized and smart, setting a good example. In high school I felt like there was that small rebel in me just trying to break free. I was the one in the family who never screwed up, never got a detention, never skipped school, never stayed out too late or went to parties–I was the good girl. So I got my nose pierced.
It could hardly be considered “rebellion” when you look at the rebellious things kids really do. But it was something that no one would believe I would do. I wanted shock and awe, but nothing too outrageous. No gauges or industrial bars or skull and crossbones. A simple stud would do.
Freshman year of college, after the swimming season ended, I took a bunch of my friends to a sketchy tattoo parlor on Kirkwood Highway. They held my hand while the three-inch needle poked out of my face, and I was just laughing. It hurt so much that I was laughing and I just about broke their knuckles. It’s funny how you don’t see your nose on your face until there is an unfamiliar object stuck into it. For a few weeks afterward, I was so aware of the glittering jewelry in my face that people probably thought I’d gone cross-eyed from looking down at it.
I reveled in the second looks people gave me, I loved that they thought I was cool or brave. They asked me if it hurt, if my parents knew; or they told me I was stupid because I’d have a hole in my nose for the rest of my life. I hadn’t told my parents, but they would find out when I went home for Easter. I have tons of freckles so the hole is not that noticeable to anyone who’s not looking for it. I was just basking in the glory of doing something rash and spur of the moment and what I considered rebellious. (I had only considered my decision to get my nose pierced for about a day before actually doing it.) I even found myself turning my head for pictures so that it might show up. You could only see it if it caught the flash, and those were my favorite pictures of myself.
I’ve taken it out before and put it back in with no problem. In fact, I had an internship last summer and I took it out every morning that I had to work and put it back in at the end of the day. I’ve taken it out for a few job interviews. But yesterday I took it out forever. It was time. College is over, the parties are behind me, and the rebel in me is being forced into submission in order to find a job. Employers don’t want to interview someone with a distracting stud in their nose. They don’t want someone to stand out with a nose ring in a sea of earrings. They want clean-cut and normal. They want subtle femininity, clean and polished. No one wants the girl with holes in her face. (At least this is what I have been told about employers.)
So in my effort to find a job and impress people with how clean-cut and put together I am, I took it out. I also had to take it out because my new waitressing job doesn’t tolerate facial piercings either. It felt like I was finally putting my college years behind me. It’s sad because college was the best four years of my life (thus far) and my little stud was a reminder of all of that. It represented growing up and figuring things out for myself. It was my personal statement that I was not just another face in the sea of college students. But taking it out means growing up too, and moving on with my life. It’s an affirmation that I’m not going back to school and I have to look forward to the real world; and I will do so with a nose-ring-less face.