By Heidie Raine
Like most women in my generation, I got my ears pierced at a Claire’s burrowed deep within my local mall. A woman with chunky, early 2000’s highlights and a hair feather approached me, piercing guns in her hands, and reassured me that it would only feel like a pinch. Then came the click, my raised-shoulder flinch, and two slightly uneven studs—the product of double-fisted piercing guns and a twitchy 3rd grader.
Since then, my number of piercings has increased: doubles in 7th grade, also at Claire’s; my nose, triple, helix (x3), rook, and conch, acquired during my high schools years via Tattoo Bob’s (home of the $10 piercing); and the stud that sits between two small hoops in my left ear, self-placed during quarantine with a dry tampon behind my lobe to receive the sewing needle.
Unlike many families, my household had minimal rules about piercings. I had to be old enough to care for them myself, though I betrayed this standard with the number of cleansing solvents I asked my mother to purchase and the urgent care bill that resulted from one very infected stud. I waited until my sister’s wedding to pierce my nose, but weeks later my mother drove me to Tattoo Bob’s and signed the parental consent form for minors. She tried to pay with her card, but Bob’s only accepts cash, a policy I still find endearing.
I could go on about my metal decorum, Vince Neil’s voice ringing through Bob’s shop, infected hoops and my mother’s laissez-faire earring policy because I only recently realized that nose studs are off-putting to many of my peers. I’m less concerned with moral debates—I think of a friend who was once asked how she reconciled her nose piercing with her faith and replied, “quite easily”—and more concerned with the mental processes of how we arrive at our convictions.
I don’t think I was ethically in left field every time I asked Bob to pop another hole in my cartilage, but I also don’t think I stopped to consider the possibility that I might be. Years —and 12 piercings—later, I’ve come to realize that such critical thinking matters, even if we still get the stud, listen to the song, wear the crop top or watch the movie.
It matters when we answer questions about the future. Will I have to take out my nose stud for a job interview someday? I don’t take it out for church. Why might I more carefully consider my appearance for the interview? In high school, I used to stick in a plastic stopper and cover it with makeup during soccer season, pretending it was a birthmark to evade the “no jewelry” rule. Was that wrong of me? What would make it wrong? I want to wrestle through these weeds of environment, moral culpability, respect and culture to find my reasonings and my “why.”
My sister calls it the ‘blue hair quandary’: do you want blue hair because you like the color blue or because you want to rebel? One is a Romans-14-type freedom, the other, sinful. It can also go the other way: do you dislike blue hair because you prefer natural hair colors, or because you’re convinced it’s a mark of disobedience?
We should wonder why others arrive at different conclusions, and we should uncover their reasonings so as to, at least partially, respect those differences. I’m also persuaded that we should embrace as many of the blue-hair-type issues as we can, digging to find the communicative or moral disconnects in hopes of reconciliation.
Why? A possible answer: the Galatians were absolute fools in their handling of circumcision, demanding extra-biblical behavior for salvation, ascetic about the wrong topics, astray in their conduct, ‘bewitched’ according to the epistle, and Paul still called them brothers.
I’m thoroughly convinced that we police certain behaviors with a similarly unproductive fervor, and that, like the Galatians, we wrongfully make piercings, blue hair, T.V. shows—whatever the issue—“count” for something that they don’t (Gal. 6:15, for reference). Saying that people are either legalistic or too permissive on account of their nose stud status both ignores the heart and elevates the behavior. In that way, we become like the Galatians, convinced that appearance communicates salvation.
In these blue-hair-like topics, binary answers feel safest. But context and discretion, though far more difficult and far less direct, lead to better answers and stronger convictions. Piercing pushback has taught me that censure makes me think more critically about my stances as well as understand where my stricter or looser peers may hearken from. It lets me love the Galatian and the nose piercing, and I’ll offer up a yes and amen to that.
Heidie Raine is a junior English major at Cedarville with concentrations in creative and journalistic writing. In addition to working for Cedarville public relations and the writing center, Heidie loves perusing her local Goodwill, drinking iced cortados, watching videos of sea otters and caring for her small forest of plants.