Getting piercings from your brother Part 1 (of 2, I think)

10th February 2021

The reason most gifts are horrible is expectation. Like most children, I'd always have a list of things I wanted for Christmas and birthdays, but I'd often fail to them write down or share them with anyone. Still, illogically, I'd always be disappointed when a thing on the list failed to materialise, while ghastly purple-print board shorts from my mum did. I've since given up on the idea of gift-giving. Now I have zero expectations of others and, in turn, myself, and I have zero pity for others who do, which is why I became a fan of Jimmy Kimmel, the talk show host.

Every year, he invited parents of America to upload a video of them giving their children a terrible Christmas present. The videos showed a degree of suffering I’d never seen before. If you saw the children’s reactions without knowing the context, you’d likely assume someone had died. One showed a set of twins opening a battery and an onion. The girl with the onion began to cry hysterically and when the father asked, what’s wrong? The other twin stated in broken, high-pitched English, “She don wan a-an O-o-o-NON!” Another shows a little boy revealing a pony and for the next minute he stares at the gift, utterly despondent, repeating in various tones, “I got poni-i-ies? I got po-o-nies?” There was nothing more uplifting than watching a spoilt child’s facial expression change so radically from hope to despair. So I guess this explains my younger brother Zak’s elation when, last Christmas, he gave me a nice card and said, “For your present I booked us in to get our ears pierced.”

“What?” I said. Of course I had no expectations, but this still threw me.

“Our ears pierced!” He had a large grin and jumped up and down a bit.

I realised then that he wasn’t jubilant at my dismay. He was just genuinely excited about getting earrings together. So I remained appreciative. “Oh,” I said, mustering a smile. “Great.” But seriously, a piercing? Really? In what world.

I’ve had three piercings before, at separate times. One on the ear, and two on the nose. The only reason I took them out is everyone got very infected. Looking back, I guess I kept getting them because I thought they looked cool. Though my opinion of them finally changed when I got my last nose ring, a thick shiny thing that curled around my nostril. At the time I was working in Bondi (of course) and my friend’s older brother Kieran, who I idolised, turned up for a coffee and said, “Jayden, you’ve made some horrible life decisions. But this one,” he pointed to my nose, “is by far the worst.”

He was right, of course, about the ring not looking good. After all, ring or no ring, my nose was red and swollen. Plus, a repulsive bubble-like blister had formed around the puncture and when I accidentally brushed my nostril, the pain, I can imagine, was like colliding with a shot-put which just came out of a furnace. Call me stubborn, but I persevered, trusting this great abomination would one day look really good. Eventually, though, after a few weeks, the extent of the inflammation became cartoonish and I became increasingly self-conscious. I’d walk across the road and, if someone looked at me, I’d go, “Okay, it’s official. I’m officially the elephant man.”

The internal dialogue became more erratic by the day too, until one night, while staring at myself in the mirror, questioning everything, I decided to disobey the piercing man’s instructions and sourced a set of large rusty pliers. Without professional assistance, I unclamped the ring and, with a big breath, yanked it out. Since then, I never planned on getting another.

But then Christmas happened....

Part 2 next week, hopefully

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