It all started when Edie decided she wanted to get her ears pierced. I told the girls they could get them pierced whenever they wanted, whenever they were ready. But it was Edie who talked about it, commented on other kids with earrings. It was Edie who asked to do it.
Lucy on the other hand wants her ears pierced - theoretically - but has no intention of letting anyone get close to her head with a needle. She says she's like her father - she says this with pride - that both of them are scared of needles. And they are. Lucy hides under the seats at the doctor's whenever she goes to get shots and turns a quick shot into an hour of coaxing, cajoling, threatening and maneuvering her out from under the furniture. David's a wimp about shots and medical procedures in general, but at least I haven't had him crawl up under the furniture yet.
So, this weekend, after much asking, we decided to let Edie get her ears pierced. We considered where to take a four year old to get this done. The mall is the first likely choice, but I didn't want some teenager with a loaded piercing gun and a minimum wage resentment putting holes in my kid's head. I'm sure they are all trained at The Piercing Pagoda, but then again, maybe not.
After a quick check of the internet, we settled on a tattoo parlor in the Village, possibly the world's mecca of tattoo, piercing and body modification parlors. We figured if someone is going to punch a hole in our kid, they better love this stuff. They better live and breathe piercing. (We also started researching tattoos for David. He wants to have the girl's names tattooed on his arm, but weirdly, he doesn't want my name tattooed on his arm, possibly, I think, because he's afraid if I die in a terrible blogging accident, he might never be able to re-marry anyone who isn't Kim, and since his first wife was named Kim, and I'm named Kim, I think there's a piss poor chance he'll find a third wife with the same name. Still, he doesn't want my name tattooed on his body...what? why?)
Anyway, we go to the tattoo parlor, which is staffed by some lovely people. The parlor is well-lit, street level and the staff is friendly, like, very sweet. The place is lined with tattoo designs. It's colorful, bright, happy. The girls start picking out tattoos they like. All is well. Edie chooses her posts, we pay and we meet our piercing artist, a young tattooed (of course) guy who has piles of hair woven into a huge bun on his head. He speaks little and I never get whether he speaks only a little because he doesn't speak English or because he's just the brooding, quiet type. I also can't get a read on him - gay? straight? bi? No idea. Either way, it enhanced his mystique. He was above sexuality.
So, they told us to go downstairs. This is where it gets dicey. The downstairs was a dark, moody lair. Gone was the street lighting and the walls of colorful designs. The stairs gave way to a cramped space, where artists worked in stalls lit in red light bulbs. There was music down there in the sado-masochistic lair - death, punk, head-banger metal. You know, the kind of music I would've loved in my single days, with some un-bathed, long-haired, crabs-infested freak leaning over the microphone screaming, "Kill them. Drink their blood. Kill Them. Drink their blood." Whatever.
We got to the bottom of the stairs, which is when I notice there are axes and instruments of death and torture hanging on the wall. Edie tensed in my arms. She might not be able to go through with this, I can tell. But I know she'll regret it, if she doesn't, so I look her in the eye and say the least compassionate thing a mother has ever said to her child: "We just paid to have your ears pierced. There's no turning back now."
Yeah, I know. I suck.
Lucy is sitting on the stairs next to David, watching. She's practically cowering. She's pretty sure we are turning Edie over to be sacrificed by the guy who has placed some kind of bulging metal ball bearing-like things under the skin in his arm. He's you know, bumpy, and although he's very nice, I am aware that he could kill us. Although that's just a stereotype, I know. He's probably a vegan, who owns a poodle, and likes to be held after sex.
The long-haired, quiet guy who is doing Edie's piercing takes great care to show us the techniques for sterility and cleanliness he uses. And I believe him. He clearly had standards of practice and adhered to them. This made me feel good. I watched him remove the sterile needle and waited for him to load the thing into a gun. You know, like they do at Piercing Pagoda.
Only, you know, in the East Village, at the hardcore tattoo parlors, where the Hells Angels get their tattoos and piercings, they put the needle right through your skin, like you're in some ancient African tribal ritual, although I hadn't even considered that. So, I'm holding Edie on my lap and the death metal is humming around us, and the axe on the wall is right near my head, and the red light makes me feel like I'm a club kid at The Limelight in the early 90's, and David and I watch some guy we don't even know push a huge piece of metal through my kids earlobe.
It was jarring for both of us. We hadn't seen it coming. One minute the guy is holding a long needle, the next thing it's hanging off my kids earlobe. How do they not use a gun? Where the hell is the teenage sales girl from Piercing Pagoda? Why does that guy have ball-bearings under his skin?
But Edie, God love her, doesn't even flinch. That's how badly the kid wants her ears pierced. And miraculously, when that one was finished, she let me turn her around and position her so he could do the other ear. And again, she didn't flinch. Not a tear. She is, like, the bravest, weirdest kid ever. God, I love her.
And then, we went up the stairs, back into the light and the sunny, quiet world of the harried NYC streets that we knew before we went into the death metal lair. Edie fell asleep on my shoulder, wiped out, spent. Happy to have newly adorned earlobes.