What is cool? While I acknowledge that one man’s cool is another man’s dork, my own personal definition of cool seems to be all the little things I spy in other people and long to have as assets of my own. I would certainly never describe myself as cool, what with my penchant for being in bed by 9pm.
But the way one friend seems to effortlessly throw on clothes I’d die for, the way another friend’s tattoo snakes down her arm, and another has shaved half her head. These are the cool I aspire to.
Which is why I’ve always been envious of the friends of mine who’ve gone and had their cartilage pierced. The, as you’ll see from this handy diagram, Darwin’s tubercle.
When I was home-piercing my lobe with a safety pin and a match as a teenager, I never thought to pierce the Darwin, but that’s probably a good thing, as the lobe is easy to pierce and the Darwin is full of cartilage, which you don’t want to pierce wrong.
I thought my piercing days were over and the fact I hadn’t pierced my Darwin as a young thing meant I was forever to live in lament that I was not that cool. It was too late, I’d missed that boat.
Then, this summer, my sister and I took a jolly to Jersey. (Cool people take jollys, fyi)
We were walking the streets of Jersey’s bustling St Helier when I felt impulsive all of a sud. Just because I hadn’t pierced my Darwin when I was 20, doesn’t mean I can’t do it when I’m 33. Case in point, Jennifer Aniston is, like, 100, and she did hers a year ago. The Daily Mail called her ‘edgy’, like that, in quotation marks, because they like to be ‘judgemental’.
So I told my sister we were going to get something pierced, together, to remember the holiday by.
As luck would have it, my sister had always wanted her tragus pierced, although like me, she only found out it was called a tragus that very day. Like me, she was game.
Congratulations, cool! You have two new customers. I’m gonna pierce my Darwin and make my sister pierce her tragus. Sister questioned whether it was something she really wanted to do, considering she does a lot of Brazilian Ju Jitsu and didn’t want some kind of new-ear-piercing related incident on a crash mat.
I told her to stop making excuses and get her shit together. And then we saw Claire’s Accessories, the only place in town that cool kids get their piercings done. If you’re really lucky, you get to walk around town for the rest of the day with a bag like this:
Claire’s don’t pierce the tragus, because, we learned, you can’t pierce the tragus with a gun, you have to use a needle. My sister would have to visit a tattoo parlour instead.
And so, as seems entirely appropriate if you know both my sister and I, and our personalities, I had my Darwin’s tubercle pierced in Claire’s Accessories, surrounded by pink plastic crap, paid £50 for the service, and was sent home with a two page document about aftercare and a huge bottle of disinfectant, while my sister had her tragus pierced with a needle in an atmospheric tattoo parlour, surrounded by inked, pierced, buzz-cut teenagers, pierced by a woman with 74 of her own piercings, paid £10 and was sent home with a bag of salt that looked like a bag of drugs.
For two months, I got on with the very important task of being in possession of a Darwin’s tubercle piercing, doing my hair in a way that showed it off, being so concerned that people hadn’t noticed it that I just pointed it out to everyone.
HAVE YOU SEEN MY PIERCING? IT IS NEW. I AM SPECIAL NOW.
Too much emphasis on showing off the cool, too little emphasis on aftercare. The piercing started to turn on me. The ear grew painful, it bled, it scabbed, it pussed.
Why can’t I just be one of the cool kids without bleeding out of my ear? I refused to remove the piercing and give up on the whole idea, even though my husband kept telling me I was going to get septicemia.
But things got bad. Real bad. And in the end, I had to remove the stud, revealing an infected, inflamed welt far worse than I’d realised. Through hours spent visiting teen-help forums and not visiting doctors, I discovered what I had was a keloid. What’s a keloid, I hear you ask? Oh, just when the scar tissue goes a bit mental, growing larger than the wound it’s healing. Do not Google it.
No wonder I woke up in the night whenever I dared try and sleep on that side. My ear was begging me to give up the cool.
‘But I wanted to be the girl with the stud in her Darwin,’ I whimpered to husband as an aroma of TCP wafted towards him from his ever-stupid wife.
‘Well, you’re not that girl, you’re the girl who didn’t look after her piercing and let it get infected. Next time, maybe just buy a necklace?’
Oh well. No punk-ass Darwin piercing for me, but I have learned a lot of new ear-related words, which I’m sure will come in useful. Redefining cool, that’s me.