Wednesday, June 9, 2010

One Week With Pierced Nips


I'm not sure why I did it. If you ask me now, it was a good experience, but if you asked me then, I'd tell you it was induced torture. 

I survived one week with pierced nipples.

It all started on the Friday before Memorial Weekend. We were sitting outside smoking at work (i.e. being bad employees) when I glanced over at Emily's punctured ears and announced,

"I'm getting something pierced today."

I was suddenly the focus of attention. The other Emily put out her cigarette and offered up some previously unknown information.

"You should get your nipple pierced. We all did it Freshman year of college. It doesn't hurt."

This, of course, lead to me walking Emily behind the building for a sneak peak at her left nipple. Sure enough, there it was. A silver, glinting barbell spliced through the tip of her nipple.

"See?"

Hmm Mm, yes, I see.

Being the mover and shaker that I am, I immediately went inside the office to call Saint Sabrina's Parlor in Purgatory in Uptown. As I waited on hold to speak with the piercing specialist, Derek, I skimmed though a few Google sites and learned that I would still be able to breast feed my phantom baby with pierced nips. I would not, however, be able to have any "mouths or foreign objects near the piercing site(s) for at least four months" and would need to "soak the nipples in shot glasses filled with sea salt and water." Oh.

In my life as a Super Consumer, I've learned that all thought and reason go out the window when you really, really want something. Did I consider the fact that I would not be able to go swimming for several months with the piercings? No. Did I ponder if this was the right procedure for someone like me who has not pierced well in the past and is particularly sensitive in that area? Not really.

It was at this point when Derek got on the phone. The soothing tone of his voice told me that yes, this was the thing to do. 

"Should I be scared?"

"No, not scared. But nervousness is completely normal."

(Derek sounded kind of hot.)

"So, let's go over your credentials... How long have you been piercing?"

"I've been piercing for fifteen years."

"And how often do you perform nipple piercings?"

"All the time."

OK, I was convinced. It was time. We scheduled an appointment for 6:00 PM. I decided I was going to get both nipples pierced because I like symmetry... That was the first in a line of several faulty choices.

"D – I've got a piercing appointment in Uptown at six. You are coming with me for support. I also want you to take documentary photography?"

"What!? What are you getting pierced?" (...she inquired in her slight Croatian accent...)

"My NIPS!"

"Your nipples? Oh my god, Susan. You are crazy."

(If I had a quarter for each time a person has told me I am crazy, I would be a rich woman. Especially around 1999, 2000, and 2004.)

The first thing we did was drive home so that I could get my credit card and more cigarettes. I did not want to show up empty handed. Then we drove down Hennepin and arrived early at St. Sabrinas. After signing the documents, I paced around in my flowing purple cotton dress, subconsciously holding my chest while I viewed the glass cases of sparkly metal and gemstone jewelry. Dajana diligently and silently snapped documentation photos of the scene. I found a case with green barbells.

"D, what would you think if I got green piercings? You know how green is my color?" (I was starting to feel cold and shaky, the same feeling I got while waiting to be rolled into the operating room for surgery.)

"Totally! Get green, dude."

I heard footsteps down the stairs and looked up to see a lanky guy with green ear plugs, small silver nose piercings, and glasses that made his eyes look twice as big as they should be.

"You must be Susan, hel-lo, I'm Derek, are we ready for this?"

"Oooo. Um, yeah. I am nervous. Take good care of me!"

"We'll take good care of you. Why don't we head on upstairs."

I introduced Dajana as my documentarian and Derek was cool with that. We walked into the piercing room that had the faint likeness of a gynecologist office, except for the fact that the walls were lined with huge photos of pierced body parts and the overhead lights had playful plastic barbell jewelry in them. It reminded me of the butterflies on the ceiling at my dentist.

"First, what music do you want to listen to?"

I liked Derek. Unlike me, he was so completely chill. I suppose that is a prerequisite for slicing metal through things like, oh, women's genitalia.

The first thing I found a bit awkward was knowing when to disrobe. D had been snapping shots like National Geographic until I slipped off the straps of my dress and exposed my bare breasts. 

"Um. Do you want me to like, keep taking pictures?"

"Yes, totally D, we gotta get this all documented!"

The journalist in me did not want to miss one, bloody shot. That was the second mistake in a series of choices I made.

Derek washed and washed his hands with the seriousness of a surgeon before donning bright blue latex gloves. Then he got a pen and I shuffled toward him. 

Now, the intimacy of having a complete stranger mark up your boobs is something to marvel. It was exciting and strange. I felt very naughty. All novelty left the building, though, as soon as he instructed me to hop up onto the table. My instincts clamped my thigh muscles tight, fearing the invisible foot stirrups that were not on the table.

This part felt similar to being at the chiropractor, when you are at the complete mercy of the back cracker and you have no idea when the pops are coming. Derek first placed forceps on my left nipple. They were cold and pinchy and unrelenting. 

Next, he told me to take a deep breath though the nose and exhale it out through the mouth. Again, inhale through the nose, and "then on the exhale you will feel the needle go in.."

"Whhheewwww.....YOUCH..!?..!"  Fuck!..."


The sensation with like nothing I had ever experienced. The pressure was immense. The tightness was excruciating.

"I am now putting in the barbell..."

As Derek screwed the bright green metal barbell into my left nipple, I began to sweat and get incresingly dizzy.

"Holy FUCK, that was awful."

"Wow" was all that D said.

The second time of anything is always more difficult than the first. The Beginners Luck has run out and you now know the shit that is coming for you. As Derek moved to the other side of the table to clamp my right nipple, I was starting to feel less like a rock star and more like a total freak. But I had to be cool for Dajana. And I didn't want just one pierced nipple. To me, that seemed bush league.

I had read in the Google posts that by the time you move to the second nipple, the endorphins surging through your veins are supposed to saturate your body with power and vigor. I had also read that, by the second piercing, your pain receptors in the brain and your sensitive nerve endings in your breasts now fully understand that they are under attack, so they decide to fight back. For me, the latter was truth.

I am not a screamer. I usually take things in stride and keep my voice at about a level five. But when that needle pierced through the right nipple, I yelled like a man in combat. 

Once both barbells were in, I tried to sit up. I looked at Derek and he was casually chatting with Dajana. Problem was, I couldn't hear them. All I heard was a rushing sound in my head.

"HEY. I can't HEAR."

"Okay, let's lay ya back down. Do you want the fan on?"

I was very hot, actually. These were the first signs of shock. I've never passed out and now I was seeing what the entryway to Pass-out-ville looked like. 

"Give me a sucker, please."

St. Sabrina's has these red suckers that look and taste just like the ones you get as a kid after the doctor's office. 

I was feeling disoriented and weak, all the while trying to remain cool and calm for Dajana's sake. Derek was cool as a cucumber as he called down to the front desk for some chilled bottles of water. Then he wet some paper towels and put them on my forehead and upper chest. Everything felt tight and violated. I tried to keep chatting and playing Cool Susan, but truthfully, I felt like shit.

"Hey, let's have your friend run across the street to the gas station to get you something, OK? Have you eaten?"

No. I had not. All I did was shove a few stale Oreos into my mouth at my desk before departing for this little adventure. That was my third bad choice of the day.

Dajana came back with orange juice and Ritz crackers. The three of us sat in the room with the lights off while I was careful not to let crumbs fall onto my nipples. We sat there chatting as though out for Thursday night beers. Each time I tried to sit up, I lost 75% of my auditory function. Derek told us how he went to school for electrical engineering and then starting getting piercings during college. He spoke briefly and vaguely of his genital piercings, and that took my mind off of the situation for a moment.

That was right about when I looked down to see that my right nipple was bleeding.

"Oh. God."
"No, no, it's fine..."
said Derek as he started to mop up the situation. I was really struggling at that point and asked if he could please just tape a piece of gauze to each nipple so that I could pull my dress back up.

"You know, half a panty liner works well if you experience any spotting in the next week. Just stick them in your bra."

Oh, sweet jesus, I had no idea of the commitment that lay ahead.

I was eventually able to sit up and slowly walk down the stairs. I held my chest with protective instinct, and the people downstairs all smiled with knowing wisdom. I bid Derek adieu (not knowing that I would see him again in less than a week), and Dajana walked me outside.

D was quiet. I realized that this experience was one that caused her pause. She had texted everyone we know, so the congratulatory messages started rolling in:

You are my fricken HERO!


OMG, Suz, that is so HOT.


Can't wait to see them, Sweetie!

And so forth.

Dajana took me to Chipotle to get some food in my belly. I started to feel woozy while standing in line so I went outside to sit down. I ate about 1/8 of my burrito and was done. Next she took me home and I curled up on the couch in my sleeping bag. I fell into a strange slumber.

The next morning, I diligently mixed my sea salt solution in a coffee cup then poured it into two shot glasses. I suctioned the shot glasses to my nipples and leaned back on the couch to watch a gourmet cooking show.

The piercings looked good, I must say. The night before, much to the annoyance and/or chagrin of my friends, D and I texted out a full frontal shot of my new green metal nips.

But now that I was alone, I was feeling that this new body art was not matching my brand. I'd gone to Victoria's Secret to get two new bras, and they were both already spotted with blood on the inside. My mom does my laundry (lame, I know, but I wouldn't lie to you) and I was starting to think through plausible cover stories for why there is crusted red blood in the nipple area of my two new bras. Bug bites?

The rest of the week went downhill. I was unusually depressed and I had a negative meeting with the bosses at work. Each night I would lay on my back with the palms of my hands crossed, covering my boobs. My cats would come up and try to snuggle and I would shoo them away.

Then, on Wednesday night, I got an idea. What if I had the piercings taken out? What if I undid this misery all together? But that would mean that someone would have to touch my nipples and I was protecting them like a North Korean solider. I laid awake all night thinking about this. I thought about how this would save me four to six months of healing. I thought about how I would be able to go swimming now. I thought about how my boobs could get some action instead of being in the witness protection program.

Having made my decision, the next day at lunch, I stole Jessica and we drove to St. Sabrina's. I was so worried about the potential pain of the barbell removal, that the entire drive there I Googled things like 'How to be brave'  and 'Dealing with nervousness at the thought of pain' on my iPhone.

I had an appointment scheduled with Derek, and I was feeling the shame of having him take these beautifully crafted nipple piercings out. But Derek skipped down the steps (after a long wait from two girls who passed out before me – one who got her nose pierced and one who watched) and he had no blame, no interrogation, no judgement.

The three of us entered the gyno room once again and Jess stood next to me with graceful support. Derek soothed my nerves with his chillaxed demanor and he was very gentle while unscrewing the barbells.

If getting your nipples pierced by a stranger is odd and exciting, getting your nipples unpierced by that same stranger is comforting and therapeutic. I was very tempted to ask this stranger out on a date.

Once they were out, I felt like I had been released from the shackles of body art. I had been released from tiny nipple handcuffs.

Now that I am healed and back to the way God made me, I am super grateful for the experience. It reminded me of what we go through in the effort for notoriety, hipness, and beauty. It made me think through the tattoo I am planning to get in honor of my dad. I really need to think through that, I think, because one cannot get untattoo oneself. Body art is an expression of the inner self. It is armor to protect against the outer world.

My boobs have healed well. No scars, with the exception of a stained Victoria's Secret silk bra. I am thrilled to be done with the experience, most likely never to be pierced again. If you are thinking about getting your nipples pierced, I will tell you that it DOES look pretty awesome. But you need to consider the level of sensitivity in those nips. Maybe test them out by having someone bite down on the tips really, really hard. And maybe expose yourself to a complete stranger and have him put on latex gloves. Put warm water in two shot glasses and put them on your chest. See how you feel about that.

At least try to simulate the nipple piercing situation before you go ahead and commit to the real thing.

Your nips will thank me for it.

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