My Nose knows best

Photo by TOMMY VAN KESSEL on Unsplash

I don’t know where it came from, but all of a sudden, I began contemplating getting a nose ring. It was right after Thanksgiving, and I got that same feeling you get when you look in the mirror and decide that it’s time to do something different with your hair. I was overcome with the need to innovate and have something to show for all the internal changes I have been going through during the last few years.

I began researching places to get a nose piercing in my area and soon found articles about post piercing care and why getting pierced with a needle and thread was better than a gun. That was when it dawned on me that I would essentially be getting a hole punctured into my face and that it wasn’t something to be taken lightly.

Not only are infections common after getting your nose pierced, having an earring pushing against your nostril’s outer cartilage could potentially scar it. Plus, would it even look good on me? I didn’t want to go through with the piercing to find that it wasn’t right for me after all, risking infection and permanent scars for nothing.

Then I found some fake (or slide-on) nose rings online and decided to buy two and wear them as a test. I never received the first one (but luckily got refunded), but I got the second one in about a week and was excited to try it on.

I started wearing it only at home, gazing at myself repeatedly in the mirror, in awe of how different I looked. A week later, I started wearing it around other people and I got quite a few surprised looks. Several people noticed it right away and asked if I had actually gotten the piercing.

Then my nose started reacting; it wasn’t happy having a piece of fake jewelry perched on it. I went from feeling an itchy discomfort on my nostrils to involuntarily twitching. Without intending to, my hand would suddenly reach up to my face and touch the earring or scratch my nostril. My body’s instinct was to yank it off or to let it slide off naturally by producing sweat on my nostrils.

About a week in, a writer acquaintance noticed my fake ring during a video chat call, but not right away. When I asked him to guess if it was real or fake, he was the only one to guess that it wasn’t real but he said it looked good and encouraged me to get a real one.

“I’m noticing that a lot of people are getting them,” he added.

That was when I started to feel uneasy about getting the piercing. I found myself suddenly fixated with other people’s noses and noticed there really were a lot of people (especially women) with nose rings. They are all the rage now. Hmm.

If I were to get one, then I’d be following a growing trend. But that only made my own uneasiness grow. From a young age, I was raised to not conform to what my peers found cool but it left me feeling excluded and like a pariah for most of my teenage and young adult years.

Now, it’s almost like the opposite is happening – after realizing that a lot of people have nose rings, I’ve been hesitant to get the real piercing. I don’t really want to conform anymore than I want to feel excluded or isolated.

Granted, many people rock piercings as a way to express their individuality. But how could I be different and uniquely me if I pierced my nose and looked exactly like almost everyone else out there? And once you get pierced, the earring has to stay in for up to 6 months. Once it is in, it is in and I’d have to wait months for the freedom to take it off whenever I wanted.

One of the biggest undertakings in my life was to live it on my own terms, which officially started when I left home at 25. But it took me several years to realize that I not only stood out at home, I still stood out among my peers from grad school, even though I was no longer conditioned to not fit or blend in with those around me. Even though I tried to make up for my years of solitude by sitting in bars and forcing a drink in an attempt at connection.

I continued to feel like I was on the outside looking in, which was what I wanted to get away from when I left home. But when I left home, I was still different, which I internalized as being wrong or as something bad. I’ve never fit in. And now, I no longer want to fit in.

While many get a nose ring to be unique, and piercings have been a way for people to express their individuality, I’ve realized that I can be unique by not having one or at least wearing it when I feel like it and taking it off when I don’t.

Maybe I will go through with getting a piercing one day, probably when they are not so in style (like the iPhone 6S that I lug around with me – I am notorious for being materialistically, um, square, but why should I spend almost a grand on an iPhone 13 that has essentially the same functionality as older phones like the 6S? ).

Maybe I’m still holding on to my prior conditioning to not conform, where I was made to feel like fitting in was bad even though I also felt bad for standing out and being different from my peers. So what’s the verdict? What do I want? A hole in my face that proves I’ve got the guts to try to be unique, according to other people? Or maybe just an accessory I can put on when I want a temporary, subtle change and take it off when I long for my good ol’ classic self?

Why do I have to make a choice one way or the other? And so it goes – I’ll stick with my faux nose ring when I want to accessorize. I trust that my nose knows best when it gets sweaty and itchy. For the most part, it wants to be uniquely unadorned and bare, the way I’ve always been and probably always will be.

That is no longer a bad thing, just like wanting to change things up sometimes isn’t a bad thing either; it is something that I’ve finally come to terms with and admire about myself – that I can hold and honor both truths. It’s okay to want or be both; that is unique in and of itself. So, I’ll stick to my status quo, with an occasional twist.

Okay, yeah…that has a nice ring to it.

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