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My New Stud

It’s rare that I wake up and decide that I should have a hole in my face where no hole should technically be. But last month, I arose to a profound and irrepressible urge to pierce my right nostril.

“Why would you do that?” my mother said frankly.

“You mean, like, permanently?” my husband asked cautiously.

“What about boogers?” my friends cautioned, understandably.

I couldn’t explain it except to say that while most other piercings give me the big-time heebies, I’ve always thought a tiny diamond stud in the beak looks kind of exotic and pretty. Like an Indian princess. Or, well, Lenny Kravitz. A little razzle-dazzle with a fringe-culture flair. (And come on, how often does a girl get to be both sparkly and edgy at the same time?)

I teach on a college campus where students have more facial jewelry than freckles: lips, eyebrows, ear cartilage, the bridge of the nose, and now a freaky little stud called a “Monroe” or “Madonna” that mimics the cheeky beauty mark of its namesake style icons. On campus, one is made to feel unwhole for being unholey.

Surely my age factored into the decision. Call it a pathetic attempt to chase “hip,” to cling to my youth. Call it a mid-face crisis, if you must. But grant me this: If I can no longer stave off fine lines and dark circles, can’t I at least use bright, shiny objects to distract from them?

Because I dislike surprises, particularly when they manifest in the form of staph infections, I researched the hell out of nose piercing before I shuffled, alone and wobbly legged, into the tattoo and piercing parlor.

I learned, for example, that noses aren’t pierced with a quick earring-style gun but with a more hygienic and terrifyingly long needle. The piercer sticks something corkish up your nostril for the needle to poke into. It’s a truly unattractive process. (And, for the record, I recommend you do not watch piercing videos on YouTube as it will only cause your sphincter to contract.)

I surprised the piercer by choosing a gem twice the size of the recommended starter stud. Her argument was that it’s best to start small, so you can get used to the look of it. My argument was that if I’m going to let a stranger slide a needle through my face — and pay her to do it, no less — I’d better have something significant to show for it.

It was painful, I won’t lie. It hurt less than a tetanus shot (because it was faster) but more than having blood drawn (because it was rougher).

Other odd facts I discovered: Your eyes tear up involuntarily when the needle goes through. It can take as many as six flipping months to heal. And rather than have backings like earrings, most studs simply have L-shaped posts that flop around awkwardly in your nose, occasionally poking down out of your nostril for all the world to stare at curiously before gasping and looking away in distaste.

The gem catches on things. Lots of things. Washcloths. The price tags on new sunglasses. Even, er, the nose of one’s partner during passionate lip-locking sessions. Once, my two-year-old announced, “No sparkly,” and yanked it right out. Which felt exactly like you’d think it would.

But despite the hassle and hurt, I love this glinting new thing on my face. My once-wary mom even likes it. My husband thinks it’s sexy in an Indian-princess-meets-Christina-Aguilera way. And I’ve been able to assure my more indelicate friends — without going into great detail — that boogers actually are not an issue. Really! It’s the truth.

The hole truth.

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