How a chance encounter on a street corner changed my ears

With my background one might have imagined pierced ears would have been traditional from an early age, but no, I wasn’t one of those grammar school ‘gels’ who walked around with plasters over her ear lobes, or was forced to stand in front of the PE teacher, who had perfected the art of looking terrifyingly fierce. Her palm would be outstretched in a no nonsense gesture demanding earrings were to be removed before games lessons could begin. I think my motto was ‘be bad covertly’ rather drawing attention to oneself by hair bleaching, wearing makeup, nail varnish and sporting pierced ears. I have made up for it since, though and looking at that particular list it describes me to a tee these days, so much for the stern set of moral values school attempted to instil. I was always relieved it wasn’t me being set to the Chemistry department to ask for acetone to expunge any traces of the weekend’s nail varnish!

I actually waited until I was 20 before taking the plunge and having my ears pierced and then another twenty five before having my nose done but that did not end happily. I don’t even have a scar to prove the trauma I went through: think shower, towelling face dry, extreme pain and nose stud no longer attached but nestling on a towel thread – ouch. This came after a couple of hours of pain and excess blood, actually having the piercing done because apparently my nose is too fat…terrific!

 However, the reason I finally succumbed to putting holes through my ears was a cute gift shop display on the corner of the street where I lived in Leamington Spa, UK. There was one unit filled with the most extraordinary variety of outrageous earrings and each day I would walk by and stop to drool longingly at a pair of very long, pink candy twirls that I was determined to possess. The only thing stopping me was the thought of the pain. But the temptation proved too much and one afternoon I finally entered the shop, bought three pairs of earrings for pierced ears and thus started my life long romance with wearing dangly things from my ear lobes. Those pink candy striped pieces caused me untold difficulty the day I caught them in a car door as I exited (they were that long) without realising, and then yanking my head in the opposite direction. I really did suffer in the name of beauty.

Since then I have never spent masses on any pair of earrings and go for the costume variety rather than precious stones or gold. It’s strange how people fall down on one side or the other and silver has always been my preferred metal; it’s the cool, icy quality that appeals I am guessing. I was a teacher for a number of years and students used to say, ‘Miss there’s something wrong?’ and I would say, ‘What’s the matter?’ looking concerned, ‘You haven’t got earrings on!’ They were my trademark and I am rarely seen without them to this day. The fashion for fat, gaudy parrots, peacock feathers that stretched to my shoulders, massive wooden hoops, beads, crosses, cats, butterflies, flowers have passed and with some relief, it has to be said. But then I had long hair well past my waist and one had to make a colourful statement amidst the flowing tresses.

Being cheap costume jewellery these adornments discolour, crack, break, flake and collapse quite quickly and I have developed an interesting collection of singles which I can’t bear to throw away but of course are essentially useless now. They are a time machine, an invitation to memory to transport me back. Ancient treasures are always fecund ground for writers and have recently been very much in vogue for bestsellers. One can imagine Tracy Chevalier’s  Girl With A Pearl Earring initially being the product of a creative writing  class.

Yet it’s ironic how quickly treasured possessions are transformed  into trash. What is the time lag between new, passé, tiresome, curio, antique? I wonder which category I might place myself in at this present time? Still, that’s not the real trauma as after so many years the holes have stretched and there is about 1mm of skin intact before the ear lobe splits, something to do with the metal/Goth look which required earrings of extraordinary weight. Oh well, if one doesn’t have a misspent youth then what was the point of all the angst, acne and rampant hormones?

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