In a month, I’m turning 29, which means I’ve got one foot in 30 (at least in my mind). As I contemplate what the upcoming birthdays mean to me, I’ve got to admit that I’m mostly satisfied with the direction my life has taken. Career-wise, things have settled down and I feel as though I’m on the right track if not as far down said track as I would like to be. I’ve got wonderful friends and hobbies enough to monopolize any so-called “free time” I might have.
So it seems there are few things about my life I would change, except in degree–more money, more success, more sex. But the foundation, at least, is all there.
Except lately I’ve been pondering changing one thing in response to my increasing age–removing my navel ring.
I pierced my navel when I was 18 and a freshman in college. It was the perfect rebellion for me at the time. I was still going through my religious phase, which meant I wore pretty modest clothing. Certainly nothing that exposed my midriff, not even at the beach. The piercing was a private act, one that I told a handful of friends about, but it was just for me, private knowledge that I wanted to be different. It seemed like the safest way to test the waters–I knew I was doing something that was certainly taboo yet no one knew about it. It would be awhile longer before I did anything outward that changed people’s perceptions of me.
At first, I cherished the navel ring, cleaning it fastidiously and gazing at it in the mirror when I undressed at night. But as I got older and into my 20s, I scarcely gave it any thought. The last time the piercing got infected was when I was in college and slammed my midsection into the uneven bars on a failed attempt at a skill. I fell to the mat, clutching my stomach. Later, as I changed out of my leotard I saw blood, and still later, puss. I briefly considered removing it back then but it quickly healed and it seemed easier to maintain the status quo and do nothing.
The only time I gave it much thought was when I was faced with the prospect of losing it. The first time this happened was shortly after I moved to Los Angeles. Glancing down in the bathroom, I realized that the metal ball that fastened the ring had fallen off. I fell to all floor and searched for it on all fours but couldn’t find it so I immediately drove to a strip mall shop that sold teenybopper clothing and bought a replacement.
The next time I nearly lost it I was in Granada, Nicaragua with friends two years later. Again, I realized that the ball that secured it was missing during a bathroom trip. I returned to my friends, who were lunching with our tour guide, panicked. I told them that I had to replace it immediately lest the hole close up. Our tour guide drove us to a jewelry store where I frantically purchased another. I inserted at the back of a car on our way to an active volcano.
Yet even as I drove my fellow travel companions crazy, I kept wondering why? Why, at 25, was I still holding onto vestiges of teenage rebellion? Why did I insist on keeping this accessory that I scarcely thought about unless I was in danger of losing it?
I wonder if I should rid myself of this sign of teenage rebellion, especially now that it seems like the piercing equivalent of a tramp stamp or when every teen pop star wishing to overthrow her Disney overlords has one. And yet, the piercing remains in place as I get closer to 30. Maybe taking it out will be the grand gesture I perform when in a year’s time. Or perhaps when I leave 20s, I will want to keep the piercing as a reminder of how young and naive I had once been, sort of like a bad haircut that few get to see.