It sits in my jewelry box, intermingled with my collection of cheap, cubic zirconium studs from Claire’s and my chunky new thrift store bracelets. A small jewel sparkles within the sleek silver, not a diamond, just a look-alike. It shimmers small and smooth, almost feminine, almost pretty. It didn’t look so pretty when it was in my face.
Eyebrow rings never really appealed to me. They’re not exactly my style—too tattoo and skull-and-crossbones for my taste. Too rebellious. Too emo. Not me.
And yet, every time I sift through my hand-painted, Ecuadorian jewelry box, I remember that, at one point, it was me.
. . .
Countless girls had pierced their noses. The dainty studs glittered their faces like freckles. I scoffed each day when a new girl appeared in class, eyes bright, noses bejeweled. How silly. How conformist.
Mindi had it right. A jagged metal loop protruded from her eyebrow, not her nostril. A real statement. Rebellion.
Mindi’s eyebrow ring scowled, grotesque and abrasive, making her unapproachable, inhospitable. Perfect.
With each new question and each new experience a part of me slipped away, disappeared. I did not match my beliefs. I did not have beliefs.
My mind became unfamiliar territory, unknown. I ached for my face to be unfamiliar as well.
I clenched my teeth while my hands fisted and unfisted themselves. The curved needle lingered expectantly, ravenously, in the tattoo artist’s steady hand. I had to remind myself to breathe. One meager tear crept saltily down my cheek as the hollow needle bit into the soft skin above my eye. The needle slid smoothly, slowly, like knitting. More like sewing actually, or mending. But the hollow tube paved the way for a thick bar of metal, not thread. This needle didn’t mend or fix, although something was definitely broken. Teeth grinding, palms sweating, I finally exhaled. It was finished.
. . .
The checker absently scanned my Herbal Essences spray gel, graham crackers, and pack of Extra green apple gum. His eyes never left my face. Heat flushed my cheeks and I wondered if I had something in my teeth. Only in the parking lot did it click.
The eyebrow ring.
Nothing had changed. Men with six packs of Miller Light and diesel trucks still congregated outside the Handy House. The air hung oppressive and humid in the North Carolina summer heat. I received sweat-sticky hugs and furtive stares from my aunts and uncles. No questions. Just stares.
Was this what I wanted?
. . .
I no longer wore the dainty gold promise ring my dad had given me for my 16th birthday. That sounds bad. I didn’t lose the promise, just the conviction. The perfect circle grated against the segmented me. The certainty belonged to someone else.
Instead I wore my eyebrow ring. Ring implies circularity, continuity, but that’s not accurate. Dissociated, fragmented, pierced says it better.
The mirror always offered a surprise. The metallic glimmer of my reflection in store windows or car mirrors never felt like me.
I woke up one morning tired of surprises. No longer the person wishing to repel.
Now it sits in my jewelry box, intermingled with my collection of cheap, cubic zirconium studs from Claire’s and my chunky new thrift store bracelets.