I was, as you probably recall, in Santorini on my birthday. That night I was in my room when my Skype ‘rang,’ and a good friend of mine was on the other end. I had to hang out of the window of the room to get a consistent wifi signal, but we still managed to have a fairly lengthy conversation.
Anyway, at some point I remember her saying to me that my talents were elsewhere, and if I tried to go back to banking and my old ways/old career, I would have to answer to her. I love that idea, largely because deep inside I know I am destined to do something else, but I worry that the lure of money and security and even to some degree predictability could serve as a siren song.
That is why I decided to make a little physical change.
In 1992, I went off to college at the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) intent on pursuing a marine biology career. Marine Biology, it turns out, does NOT consist of riding around in exotic waters with Jacques Cousteau, so I was quickly disenchanted. UCSC has a wonderful Marine Bio program, but otherwise it’s a big hippie commune filled with all sorts of young people with varying levels of emotional disturbance (present company included).
Thus, and perhaps not surprisingly, all my roommates were getting tattoos – usually very large ones across their back or stomach (which I, in all my practicality yet failure to self-edit, mused aloud as to how bad that would look if the recently tattooed young woman ever got pregnant or just fat.) This was the very early days of what is now the omnipresent ‘young people with tattoos’ trend, although Santa Cruz was probably a little ahead of its time in that regard.
I’m a chicken, and I didn’t feel strongly enough about any animal, vegetable, mineral, or word to get it permanently inked onto my person. However, there was also branding and piercing to choose from, so I took the most reversible course of action and had my nose pierced. I wore a small ring in my nose until my mid-20s when a mix of things (mostly work making me take it out, partly the widespread appearance of similar rings all of the sudden, etc.) caused me to take it out for good.
A few months ago, I realized I finally had a word that meant enough to me to tattoo it (discretely – in white ink and where I can cover it with a watch) onto myself. I suppose this is why I tuned into the number of tattoo/piercing parlors lining Istiklal Street in Istanbul the first day I arrived.
However, to my surprise, I found I still didn’t feel it was time to do the tattoo but rather I felt compelled to have my nose pierced again. This is partially because I always liked it and thought it suited me, partly because it can always be ‘undone’ if you change your mind for some reason, and mostly because bankers and banking consultants don’t have shiny things in their right nostril. It was – and now it is – a line in the sand between that world and me. The final nail in the banking consultant coffin.
Granted, I could have gone really extreme and had puzzle pieces tattooed onto my face, but scaring children isn’t really my bag, and I don’t want to drive nails into EVERY career out there. I mean, what’s left when you turn yourself into the guy from Hell Raiser? Circus Freak? Total digression: Do you remember that ad for some kind of phone service where people think that now that they have the service, phone conversations will go differently? And some guy tattooed with big stripes head to toe is calling an Asian man who says, “Sorry Roger. You tiger now.” Every time I saw that, it cracked me up.
Anyway, a Turkish man who spent time in Australia (so his English was very good, but the accent nearly unfathomable) did the piercing for me on Tuesday night. It’s subtle, but if you enlarge today’s picture, you can see it. It has been healing well, despite the questionable mix of products used to clean it.
Yesterday I learned that the clear fluid I am to use several times a day to wipe it down is sold in the U.S. as nasal spray. The pharmacist told me I could boil water and put a little salt in it, and it’s the same thing. Nice.
In their defense, I also have Betadine – the orange stuff they put on skin before doing surgery. If you’ve ever had a pet spayed (or any other major surgery), their whole belly comes home covered in the stuff. That at least actually qualifies as medicine of some sort.
Anyway, as I mentioned, from day one it’s healed remarkably, and that’s probably why I didn’t think it through when I got a facial yesterday. The weirdest part about that, is that I woke up ‘practicing’ explaining that the pierce was new to someone who didn’t speak very good English. When I realized what I was doing, I caught myself thinking, “That’s crazy. You’re back in America. You don’t have to go through all that any more.”
But I spoke too soon. Irina, the lovely woman who did my facial, is Russian and so-so on the English. Although she seemed to understand me, she managed to pull the thing out of my poor nose THREE times during the initial face wash. Holy crap!
It got worse from there. This is really gross, and not a feature of facials that I enjoy (and may come as a horrifying shock to the men out there), but part of a facial is that they clear your blackheads. Manually. Like in a manner that they tell you NOT to do when you’re a teenager. And it hurts. And it REALLY hurts when someone spies one 2mm from your brand new piercing and goes to town contorting your nose in 300 excruciatingly painful directions.
Tears rolling down my face, I finally had to tell her rather ferociously that we were DONE over there. No more touching the right side of my nose for ANY REASON. If it bursts into flames – don’t touch it. If a small alien pops out of the nostril – don’t touch it. If the voice of God booms into the room and commands you to touch it – DO NOT TOUCH IT.
The facial proceeded without further incident. I went home, and was a little freaked out, but I cleaned up with the nasal spray and Betadine and all is once again well. And although there may be banks – or at least a liberal credit union or two – that would still have me despite the pierce, in my own mind it serves as a further commitment to changing my life and finding a way to make a living at something creative. Plus – I think – it’s cute.