The week after my mom’s 50th birthday, she picked me up from school and told me she had a surprise for me. “Is it a dog?!” I pleaded (I was 11 at the time, so this seemed like the only option worthy of the enthusiasm she was projecting). “Nope! I got my belly button pierced!” She exclaimed, lifting her shirt halfway to show off the the rhinestone that newly adorned her naval. I was mortified.
My mom is one of those “doesn’t quite look her age” women, who often reminds people of Amy Poehler’s character in Mean Girls. I won’t deny it– as far as mom’s go, she’s a total hottie, and I can only pray that someday I will look as good as she did at 50. That said, at the time, even though it looked great, the thought of her with a bellybutton ring was tacky and embarrassing. When we went to the beach, I could feel people staring and judging– thinking “why does that middle aged woman think she can pull off a belly button ring?” I begged her to take it out, to wear a one piece, anything to spare me the embarrassment of having a mom who looked like she was going through a midlife crisis.
The Summer after my junior year of high school, I took extreme measures. During a particularly bored and rebellious afternoon, I let a man with gauges in his ears stick a huge needle through my stomach and got a piercing identical to the one my mom had. Admittedly, I did it to shock her. I wanted her to take hers out, and figured that the best way to get her to do it was to give her a taste of her own medicine. But the truth was, I loved it.
For the next five years, I took pride in my bedazzled belly button. It made me feel sexy and cool, and I loved it when people at pool parties would say things like “wow! I didn’t know you had that!” or “that looks awesome on you!” After college, it let me hold onto that young, rebellious part of myself that was quickly being diminished as I started to become an adult. Yes, I had to pay rent and work 60 hours a week, and my mom had made me throw out all of my “going out tops” from college, but at least I could still pull off a bellybutton ring.
Or so I thought.
One day, last year, it came up among a group of my colleagues that I still had my piercing. “But you’re 23,” said one of them judgmentally, “that should have come out like, three years ago.”
Once again, I was mortified. Had I turned into my mom? Was I too old to be rocking a piercing? Were people looking at me the way they used to look at her? Defeated, I went home that night and took it out. It left behind a gross, gaping hole, which a year later still hasn’t totally closed up, and serves as a constant reminder of what had been there before.
And honestly? It bugs me.
Unlike my mom, I let someone else decide what was appropriate for my body, and shame me into changing something I had, up until that point, liked about myself. I would have liked to have enjoyed at least another Summer showing off my belly bling, and was annoyed that someone had made me believe that I shouldn’t (sorry for torturing you all those years, mom).
So here’s what I learned from the whole experience: until you feel too old to be doing something, whether it be rocking a piercing or staying out until 4 in the morning, let yourself enjoy it. Because eventually, you will feel like you’re past the point in your life that it’s appropriate, and you’ll have to let it go. It is for this reason that I donated all of my bandage skirts and Forever 21 crop tops after my 22nd birthday, and why my friends and I have all agreed never to go back to the bars we used to frequent as interns. Getting older is hard enough as it is- if you want to do it with a rhinestone in your belly button, go for it.