“Not now, you’re too young,” my mom insists when I’m 10.
“Not now, you’re still too young, “my mom asserts when I’m 12.
“Not now. Wait until you’re an adult. By then you won’t want them,” my mom concludes when I’m 16.
But now, I’m 18, a sophomore in college, and my mom lives thousands of miles away.
I’ve wanted this for so long. My girlfriends tell me to go for it. “You’re a grown up now; there’s nothing to be afraid of,” claims my roommate Pam.
Yes, my roommate and I have the same name, and she matches me in so many other ways: she wears her brown hair long; she thinks she’s in love with her boyfriend; she’s tall and nice-looking; she’s creative. But she has one thing I don’t.
One thing that I’ve lusted for since I was 10.
Karen, who lives down the hall, brings over the equipment: one needle, one box of matches to sterilize the needle, one box of tissues (for the blood, Pam and Karen explain kindly), and ice wrapped in a washcloth (for the pain, they say, grinning with no malice).
My heart starts pumping wildly. What am I doing? But I look at Karen’s sweet small gold hearts in her earlobes, then at Pam’s tiny silver hoops that hang like sentries to freedom and sexiness and wisdom.
They sit me in a chair after calling out for Natalie and Nancy and Cindi.
All the girls crowd around me, seated like a princess, waiting for the ritual to commence.
Nancy starts a flame with the match and swirls the needle in the flame.
Karen places the washcloth behind my right ear.
Pam intones something like “This may prick a bit,” and I hear before I feel..
Crunch C R U N C H. C R U N C H
“Don’t move!” Cindi commands.
“Post!” Pam orders like a surgeon.
I feel the small piece of steel being screwed in, and scream, “More ice!”
The cold is a welcoming bite of a different pain.
Already, I feel years older.
And I feel proud,
until Karen proclaims….