Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Piercings Are Not for the Faint-Hearted

My sister Lee, who had a crush on one of Dr. Harry’s sons, Kurt, (btw, it was in Kurt’s house on Long Island that I saw the end of the perfect game Jim Bunning pitched against the NY Mets on Father’s Day 1964), says she and our brother Bernie did try to help soothe me when I was about to get an injection from the good doctor. According to Lee, I was “so distressed (I) lost total thinking process.” Adding insult to injury, Lee says modern medicine had already advanced to the point where getting a “shot was really not necessary. They had pills even then” that would have cured me. 

Lee also advises her screams when getting her ears pierced “were not for the piercing per se. Rather, Dr. Harry put white thread onto the needle and then after the hole was made pulled the thread thru the ear and tied it loosely. The pain was the pulling of the thread. For the next several weeks I needed to clean the earlobe with alcohol and move the thread back and forth even though it often crusted, thus inflicting even more pain. Today is a piece of cake. They pierce the earlobe with an earring and there is far less trauma to the earlobe than in the old days.” 

She’s right about the thread (I left it out of the story so as not to overly complicate it. Regardless of the cause, her screams were palpable). But she’s a little too cavalier about the trauma of today’s ear piercing practice, at least as far as my experience with Ellie.

Having been traumatized by Lee’s experience, I could not go with Ellie when she wanted her ears pierced when she was around 11 years old. Gilda was too chicken as well. So our friend Linda took her. They went to Piercing Pagoda in the Galleria Mall in downtown White Plains. A few months later, Ellie wanted more holes in her ears. I reluctantly was dragooned into taking her. We went back back to Piercing Pagoda where they brought out a gun which they put to her earlobe and fired. I saw something shoot across the floor. I was convinced it was part of her ear. I screamed, only to realize what I thought was part of her ear was a piece of plastic that pierced her ear. She did not scream or cry. I was a wreck.

Ellie subsequently had several more ear piercings, including one in the cartilage at the top of an ear for a long post. For several years she nagged us about getting a belly button piercing. Finally, around her 14th birthday, we agreed, but only if we accompanied her. It was our way of assuring she didn’t simultaneously get a nose pierce or worse, a tongue pierce. 

We went to the East Village in Manhattan, along Astor Place, one evening after work. With an attaché case in hand, dressed in a suit and topcoat, I looked even more like a fish out of water than I would have in jeans and a leather jacket. We found a piercing and tattoo parlor on the north side of the street, walked up the stairs and told the clerk what we wanted. We had to wait while they pierced a young man’s tongue, she said. Except, when asked when he last ate, his answer was too long ago to satisfy her. She counseled him to run out and eat a bagel because he wouldn’t be able to chew anything for hours and they didn’t want him passing out during the procedure or after from a low blood sugar level. How comforting.

It was now Ellie’s turn. She went behind a curtain in the back. Gilda went with her. I heard no screams. They emerged a few minutes later, Ellie beaming, Gilda a little flushed. 

Ellie didn’t bother us about any more piercings, but the next year while in Israel, she did get that nose piercing. We never saw it. The day before she flew back home she called her brother Dan to ask if we would flip out if she emerged from Customs with her nose pierced. Most decidedly, Dan responded. Ellie removed the piercing on the plane. It was months before she told us about it.