The time I fainted in the piercing parlor

A memory

In keeping with this week’s theme of body mutilation, I give you the story of the time I got my nose pierced.

Susan and I are shopping one day when I mention that the piercing place next door is supposedly THE place to get pierced in Charlotte. I have only bought jewelry from there, never had anything pierced, and I am sad that Immortal Images no longer does piercing. I mention the girl that works there is quite, um, interesting, but hey, if everyone in Charlotte says that’s the place to go, then that’s the place to go, right?

Susan mentions she used to have her nose pierced. “I want my nose pierced!” I reply, and I tell Susan we must go to the piercing parlor right now. (Did I mention I’m impulsive?) Susan is game, so we head over to see Natalee.

When I say Natalee is interesting, I mean that she is crazy. Natalee is a very tall woman, with dreadlocks down to her waist and anything and everything possible either pierced or tattooed (of course, this part makes her “normal” in the piercing parlor.) Her voice is very deep and husky, and her mannerisms are anything but graceful (and we want her to stick needles in us?) The door to her shop is locked even though they don’t close for another hour. She unlocks the door and pokes her head out. “I’m not piercing anybody else,” she yells at us. “I had a fight with my boyfriend and – trust me – you do NOT want me to put a needle in you right now.”

Enough said.

The next week Susan and I get together for coffee and a workout (which means 5 hours of coffee, 1 hour of workout), and we start doing some online searches for body piercers in Charlotte. Is Natalee’s shop really the place to go? It appears it is – everyone gives the shop high ratings. Hey, let’s do it then. We head up there after a phone call to Natalee in which she tells us to “hurry up!” We don’t hurry up; we stop first for a couple of Long Island Iced Teas. But eventually, we’re at the piercing parlor picking out jewelry (Susan wants a ring without a jewel, but she doesn’t get that choice – Natalee tells her she’s getting whatever she has sterilized. Oh-kay then …)

Susan goes first – she’s had her nose pierced before, and she wants to show me it’s no big deal. Have I mentioned my crazy fear of needles? (It’s true. I get my finger pricked at the doctor and I have to lay down.) We realize quickly this is a mistake; even me being in the room with her is making me feel ill. But I am determined to be a supportive friend, and although Susan tells me I can wait in the other room, I am not going anywhere. I hold her hand and face the wall and wait. She gets her nose pierced; Natalee walks to the other side of the room. I think it’s over and I look back to see a HUGE needle hanging out of her nose. Um, shouldn’t have looked.

It’s a little fuzzy as to what is actually happening, but we think she might have dropped the jewelry. Natalee seems flustered, confused – and she’s all over the place and not telling us what will happen next. What does happen next – is Susan feels a huge amount of pain in her nose, and it causes her to jerk. What was this pain? Her nose was already pierced! “You jerked!” Natalee says accusingly.

“Well, I didn’t know it was going to hurt,” Susan replies. I look over – bad idea – and see blood. Gushing. Everywhere. Who knew nose piercings were so bloody?

At this point it’s all I can do not to sink to my knees and curl into a ball on the floor. And it’s not even my turn yet. So after Natalee gets Susan all cleaned up, Susan and I take a break at the coffee shop next door. I get a Coke and try to calm down. Susan lies to me: “It didn’t hurt at all.”

We go back in, I get my nose pierced. There is little to no blood and not the second hit of pain that Susan received. Which teaches us two things: a) Natalee totally messed up Susan’s piercing, and b) How dumb am I to let her anywhere near my nose after that fiasco?

So what about the fainting?

But you see, that’s not actually the story of when I fainted at the piercing parlor. I told you that story to tell you this one:

Several months go by, and my nose ring seems to be doing all right, except for one thing: The bottom of it keeps poking out from my nostril. I keep pushing it back up, it keeps falling back down. Very frustrating. I decide I need to go get it fixed – either get new jewelry or get a piercer to bend it for me. However, I am not going back to see Natalee, no sir. I do some more online research and find another piercing parlor, Crown Tattoos and Piercing, that has positive reviews – not as many as Natalee’s shop had, but no negative ones. And after all, it’s only a jewelry change, no big deal.

Jeff and I were up in the area of the piercing shop after a wedding, and so I say, “Since we’re over here, can we just stop by?” So here we are at the piercing parlor; I’m in a dress and he’s in a suit. We’re the most overdressed patrons there, to say the least!

I meet Liz, and I tell her what’s going on. She sticks her finger in my nose (Nice to meet you, Liz!), and inspects my jewelry. “Hmm, that’s odd,” she says. What? “Well, it appears your nose jewelry is really small – we never pierce them with that small of a gauge.” She tells me once she gets the jewelry out she’ll be able to look at it more closely – and then if it’s the wrong size, she’ll merely bend it and put it back in. Sounds good.

I sit down, midly uncomfortable but not too nervous or scared, and Liz reaches in my nose and – yikes. One of the worst pains I’ve ever felt goes surging through me. “I think I gotta lay down,” I mutter …

And then suddenly I’m having dreams and hours must have gone by and then I’m awake. And there’s a purple ceiling over me, one I’ve never seen before, and a bright light in my face and silhouettes of people over me. What’s going on, I think. Was I in a car accident? What kind of hospital has purple ceilings?

Faces start to focus – I don’t recognize anyone. Finally, I see Jeff. And Liz. “You fainted,” they tell me.

“I did?”

As the story goes, I apparently mentioned I needed to lie down – and then was out. Jeff and Liz had to grab me and roll me back onto the dentist-chair-like thing I was sitting on so I wouldn’t crash head-first into the floor. 

As the world comes back into focus, we chat for a few seconds and Jeff is as sympathetic as possible. “I remember one time when someone used a tapering needle on me,” he says. “I felt like I could faint over that. So I understand about the pain.”

The nose ring is out – but Liz needs to hurry to get it back in. She looks at it – and – there’s a problem. Natalee apparently had not used surgical stainless steel. Which would explain why there was something building up under my nose that caused so much pain when she took it out. So now they need to put a new nose ring in. But they don’t have nose rings that small, as Natalee had used one that was never meant for piercing. She calls Derek in to help. He comes in, assesses the situation. “I think we’re going to need to use a tapering needle,” he says.


If my 6’3″ former Marine feels-no-pain husband can feel faint over a tapering needle, I don’t even want to know how I will feel … “It’s ok,” I tell Derek. “I don’t really need my nose pierced.”

“No way,” Derek says. “We are saving this piercing! You will thank me later.”

The rest of this is a little fuzzy – Jeff could probably tell better than me – but it’s a rush of needles, tapering needles, more needles. And yes, Derek actually had me in a headlock. I’m crying “it hurts it hurts it hurts!” and I’ve got my feet on Jeff’s shoulder as I’m trying to use him for leverage to get away. Keep in mind I’m wearing a dress … so Jeff is focusing on keeping my dress from riding up (at this point, I don’t care if Derek sees my undies).

But in the end – I have a brand-new nose ring. Surgical stainless steel and all. And Derek is right – I do thank him later. Although if I ever have to take this jewelry out for whatever reason, I think that’ll be it for me and needles in my nose …

Want more? I wrote poems about these instances:

Nose rings at 30

Fainting at the piercing parlor