Eight months ago, I dropped a sleeping Coco off with T at his school and drove myself over to The Skin Factory on Sunset Road in Vegas. There, I met a man who had piercings I had no idea were even possible. I divulged that I was nervous, but his professional demeanor and careful, meticulous cleanliness immediately put me at ease. He took his time, making sure that everything was just right and even took a picture of the solitary gem in my ear at the end. He obviously took pride in his work.
Four days ago, T and Coco came with me, to a different place in a different city. This time I got a tiny hole in my nostril and filled it with a tiny stud. As we walked out, I giggled with adrenaline. "I did it!" I said to my husband. I'd finally done it and it felt a little like getting away with murder.
If you are a stranger on the internet who has randomly stumbled on this post, you probably wonder what the big deal is.
If you've known me for a really long time, maybe you are shocked. Maybe you think I'm stupid or silly. Or worse: "a sinner." Maybe you don't understand why anyone, least of all I, would think this was attractive. Maybe, if you are Mormon like me, you think what I did flies in the face of prophetic advice given by President Hinckley in conference a decade and a half ago. Maybe you remember that I had multiple piercings back then, and that peer pressure coupled with a teenage compulsion to "fit in at all costs" in a predominantly Mormon community finally got me to take out those extra earrings. Maybe you didn't know this, but I still resent that...
It's not about earrings. It was never about earrings.
It's about being asked to "fit in." It's about conforming to certain cultural standards that don't have anything to do with the content of my character. As I've gotten older, I've struggled with my Mormon community. I still desperately want to fit in--but on my OWN terms. I want to be embraced by my community with all my flaws and my doubts and my imperfections and deviations from "the norm" fully disclosed. I'm not brave enough to verbally communicate these concerns with just anyone. Because I come from such a solidly believing background and household--because I have pioneer ancestry on both sides--it is very difficult to tell people, "I don't know if I believe this, but I'm here because I think it might be true. And I need this community, regardless of my faith." For so long, I've lived with the fear that something I say or do will "out" me as a questioner, as a doubter, as my true, edgy self, and that it will drive people away.
I'm done with that now. Here I am. This is who I am. This is, on a fundamental level, who I have always been. Even as a missionary in Brazil, I never could wrap my head around "obedience for obedience sake." I have questions. I have doubts. (And for what it's worth, I've always kind of liked piercings!) I like to peek into the dark corners of this world--not to stay, but just to see what's there so that I know. So that I know for sure that I want to stand in the Light.
For most people, a nose ring is a simple piece of jewelry: an aesthetic choice. For me, it is that, but it is also a signal to people in my Mormon community: That I do not want to be taken for granted. It's a question, and maybe a little bit of a dare: Will you turn away from me because of this? Or will you still embrace me as a sister and a follower of the man who broke bread with sinners and publicans?
Some people wear their questions on the inside...