I remember when I got it. Christmas Eve 2013, I was home from my first 7 months in Korea. With my best friend, Loni, we went to ‘the bad part of Bellingham’ and put a ring on/in it. My nose.
I remember that the guy’s name was Cory. He was really good at what he did, talking me down and creating rapport. He had gone to Nooksack High School. I remember how long that needle was. I remember that it didn’t really hurt, just felt hot and some pressure. There was a stud bigger than I wanted in my nose; apparently you can’t just start with a small, sparkly one, you had to start big to work down because of swelling? Or something like that.
I went to Christmas Eve service at church that night, proud of myself. My grandpa promptly said “what are you, a bull?” so clearly not everyone was into it. My mom asked “did you get a tattoo too?” and I replied “It was a Christmas Eve 2-for-1 special” and almost gave her a heart attack as she demanded I take off my clothes so she could check (I hadn’t gotten one). But the piercing, I liked it. I’d ‘practiced’ with a little rhinestone sticker for 3 months in Korea. I tried either side of my nose. I read blogs. I was ready to be cool-er.
This first one was not huge, but was more noticeable than I’d liked. My school in Korea was pretty lax with 5 teachers having nose rings and never having any problem.
Cut to: 1 month later, new Korean staff member, new rules:
I was terrified. I’d paid $75 for this thing, stuck my face in countless bowls/cups/tupperwares full of murder-hot salt water, only to have to remove it to keep my job. That week, 2 different co-workers got called into the office to talk about dress code (of which piercings were a part). I ordered a tiny rhinestone stud, a hoop and a clear plug online and they arrived later that week. To my immediate distress, I couldn’t figure out how to take mine out. Of course I would have gone to a high-end piercing parlor back in Bellingham and of course they had used a high-quality spring-loaded piercing. I had to email them to ask how to remove it, which they said “WE DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS, but if you must…” I got it out, only to discover I COULDN’T GET THE NEW ONE IN.
I’m over here in Korea, on a cold night in January, trying to hurry up and put this damn corkscrew stud in my nose because I am CONVINCED it’s about to close up and I’ll either a) ruin my face or b) break the new ring and I’m consuming Youtube video after video of nameless weird girls taking the corkscrew rings in and out with no problem and now my nose is starting to bleed and oh god, I can’t do it, everything is garbage and I’m tearing up from all the nose action and fear and I call my co-worker Melissa in a panic. She tells me to ‘just put something’ in my nose for the night and she’ll bend the corkscrew into an L-shape in the morning.
I try to put the original piercing in. Fail. Try to put the clear thing in. Fail. Try to put the hoop in….FAIL. It has a ball on one end to thread it from the inside and I am falling apart. I give up and put the hoop in from the outside. I look like an idiot with the ball on the outside of my nose, but it works. I go to sleep and the next morning, Melissa does as she promised and uses pliers in the office to make this sucker.
I wear this from late January 2014 until the end of my contract, June 1 2015. I never had my nose turn red, get a bump, struggle to blow my nose, NOTHING. Somehow the Korean staff settled in and either my nose ring was so small it wasn’t noticeable (unless you were super close to me) or I put enough good juju out into the world that they were like ‘we’ll let her have this, I guess.’
AND THEN I GOT FANCY AND DUMB. I decided that since my contract was up, I was gonna get bold. I took out the piercing (I’d done this 1-2 times in the last year-plus to clean it and scratch my nose, no probs) and tried to thread the hoop from the inside. LOL LOL LOL DIDN’T WORK. I was miffed. Cue more Youtube harpies and me crying. I then went to the Persian piercing/jewelry shop in downtown Daegu and bought a hoop for like, 3000W ($3) AND IT HAD NO BALL ON THE END. It was open on both ends, so I couldn’t fail, right?
No. I had to stretch that thing almost straight with pliers to get it in. Then I had to try and pinch it back together into some semblance of a circular shape without my fingers slipping. It was…not a clean look. But it was in and different and damn the job and I just wanted to be a boho expat for the month I was staying.
Immediately, there was anger. I got…a bump. I had been so, so lucky. I had never had anything more than localized redness in over a year and a half. I had worn stage makeup and scratched it and played sports and sweated and now, I had a keloid aka bump. I got down to business ASAP and started bathing that sucker in almost-boiling salt water 1-2x a day. I went to Japan for a week with no makeup and gave it a breather.
There were times in the next month that I loved this thing. It settled down after makeup-free Japan and the nightly salt baths and I looked like the hot boho expat that I’d dreamed of. I landed in the US in July 2015 and promptly caught that thing on a towel in my parents bathroom and shrieked so loud that the border patrol called my parents (hyperbole) but IT HURT, Y’ALL. My sister Emmalee had to help me pull it off as I stood, 11 years her senior, naked in the tub, attached at the nose to a towel.
ANGER ANGER ANGER BUMP IS BACK, AND BIGGER THAN EVER, DUMMY. I salted and hot watered this thing, to no avail. I was about to move to Chicago and I looked like a basic fool. I flew to Tulsa and my cousin Jordan gave me some tea tree oil, which helped. Nothing like seeing your cousin and her husband for the first time in a year as your face is in a mug of hot salted water on their countertops. I went to Little Rock for a week, and I got sick of it.
GRAPHIC GROSS BODY STUFF WARNING: This bump looked like there was some pus in it and I was done with waiting. I sterilized a thumbtack A THUMBTACK, PEOPLE, I AM SHAMELESS with a candle A CANDLE, A CANDLE FROM TRACE’S HOUSE and put it in the bump. There was no resulting explosion. I gingerly pinched and a tiny bit of puss came out. I was…kind of disappointed. I pinched a little more, thinking it was holding out on me. And then there was blood. NBD, yeah? I have ovaries and they work and this was nothing compared to the monthly Satan’s Waterfall but…but it kept coming…and wouldn’t stop and I’ve used 12 Q tips (not hyperbole) and I’m escalating and oh god what if it won’t stop this is my one and only face and Trace isn’t home and I will have to call Michael to come get me BECAUSE I WAS A BABY AND TRIED TO PLAY CHICKEN WITH THE NOSE BUMP GODS and I was running water over it, wadding TP up on it, and finally, after 10 minutes, it stopped. It looked…exactly the same size, except now there was a scab on it.
It was now almost half size of a pencil eraser. Cut it in half and you’re there. This is a photo Michael took of me doing my nightly ritual of sacrifice in time and salt to the aforementioned nose gods. 5-10 minutes, water as hot as you can stand, try not to cry as your neck cramps up and your skin hurts from the last several days of doing the same damn thing I DARE YOU.
I did a combo pack of this ritual, tea tree oil and a baking soda paste and miraculously, it cleared up just in time for my first interview at the Fruit Stand. Interview 1 was calmed down with the hoop, by interview 2 the next week I had switched back to my bent-L model and was back in business. I sometimes wonder if that cheap ring was made of a metal that was bad for me or if I brought it on by the hoop constantly moving and rubbing, but I’m not going to find out. Unfortunately, things haven’t been smooth since August 2015, either.
I haven’t taken out the L, but it gets angry. Bumps of various sizes pop up every couple of months. Always in the same spot, never as big as the OG of July 2015, but still. It’s a pain. The cycle of soaks and tea tree oil, the no-makeup days just for that (not a huge deal, but occasionally an inconvenience) and I’m so tired of it.
So I took it out. Just now. For good.
I’m not sure how to feel about it yet. On one hand, it was distinctive, for me. No one else in our family had a facial piercing. No one had a tattoo. It felt like “I’m gonna do this and I choose this and no one can stop me,” in a way. I chose it and loved it because I knew it was a ‘bad girl’ thing. Sometimes I got (and still get) embarrassed of my very, very blessed life, although I know it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes you just want to mix it up and do something you know you shouldn’t. So I did.
I’m glad I did. I don’t regret it. I wish I had been better friends with it and put better quality products in there. But between the constant worry of catching something on it–one time, a friend’s sweater giving a hug, the aforementioned towel incident, someone hitting it accidentally in Krav class–I’m done. It gives me more anxiety than joy, and I’m happy I did it and excited to be done with it. I worry a little about the if/what the inevitable scar will be like as it heals. I’m hoping for the best and looking forward to a nice long scratch after it closes up.
Honestly, I’ve been putting it off and off and today was the day. I almost talked myself out of it again, but I didn’t. I soaked it one last time and gently pulled it out of my nose. I looked at myself and cried for my little badass self, although she isn’t contained in a ring. It wasn’t sobbing but those two little tears you get as you realize a chapter in your book is changing and ending for something better.
It excites me to know I can scratch my nose. I can pick it and rub facewash in all of it and use whatever makeup and exfoliate it and blow it and wear Pond’s Pore Strips without them falling off. I will always have some kind of a scar, and rather than worrying it will marr my face, I’m going to remember it as a choice I made for myself. I chose that damn little ring for me, not for someone else. I looked like a boho expat and a delicate little badass and I looked like me and I still look like me. Just slightly less sparkly, but my babes Pikachu and Giraffe keep me feeling fly anyways.
Alt Title: “Ring around the nose-y” and then I googled it and it’s a creepy elephant mask game?
NOOOOOPE. ALL THE NOPE.