One day — maybe when I turned 30? — my mother gave me diamond studs. "I don't want them anymore," she said. "But don't lose them." I tighten the screw-backed earrings often, out of anxiety. But something went wrong.
I rarely, rarely take these earrings off. I sleep in them, shower in them, wear them in the ocean, etc. They've never given me trouble. But. Recently, I've been feeling some discomfort in my right lobe. I would try to unscrew the back of the earring a little, to ease the pressure, but it wouldn't help much. Between talking on the phone using my right ear, sleeping on my right side and fiddling with the back of the earring, the pressure only got worse. The thing was too damn tight.
But when I tried to unscrew the back, it would only spin. Lefty loosey, righty tighty — no change. The threads weren't catching, and the metal back was chafing my piercing hole and lobe as I tried to turn it. I tried just pulling the back off, instead of turning it, but it wouldn't budge. The earring was too effing tight, and it was stuck that way. Days went by. I tried pliers, warm water, antibacterial gel, and asking friends to grab it and pull. Nothing worked.
By Wednesday, my lobe was, at best, lightly throbbing. During a Jezebel edit meeting, I asked Jessica to take a look. She tried getting her fingernails around it, and pulled as hard as she could. "It's stuck," she declared. That night I went home and tried pulling it again, myself, with a wrench. The earring back would not move. And now, thanks to all the tugging, pulling and pushing and turning, the hole in my earlobe was red, sore, irritated and, to be frank, leaky.
The big question I had was: Should I see a doctor? Or a jeweler? I imagined myself in a waiting room at the doctor's office and realized that the dude would probably not have the proper tools to free the earring. He'd have the tools to cut my earlobe open, surely. But a tiny earring post? Probably not. A jeweler might have some teeny wrenches or pliers, but I already knew we were past that: I needed someone to cut the damn thing out of my ear.
Yesterday, weary of the throbbing, a called a piercing studio. "I know this is weird," I said. "But my earring is stuck in my ear. Do you think you can get it out?" The guy on the other end of the phone sounded non-plussed. "Why don't you come in and I'll take a look?' he asked. I walked over to the studio to find, of course, that this guy and I were the only ones there. I think I had a preconceived idea of what a "guy who works in New York City piercing studio" looks like, and I was so, so wrong. He was young, cute, tattooed, with cool eyeglasses and slightly stretched lobes.
He asked me to have a seat on the table — the same kind you'd find at a doctor's office — and proceeded to wash his hands, put on gloves, wipe my ear with alcohol and examine my lobe ever so gently. He tried pulling, turning and jiggling. "I'm going to have to cut the post," he said. "Do it," I replied. "I can get it fixed. My ear is killing me." He said he could tell it was uncomfortable and I wondered how jacked up it really was back there. I hadn't looked. The guy went downstairs and returned with a specially made wire-cutter designed for cutting jewelry. I took a deep breath. I knew I'd come to the right place, but I also wondered if I would end up gushing blood or there would be some kind of accidental Van Gogh incident. "This is going to suck a little," he said as he tenderly pushed my earlobe back so he could get a good grip on the post.
The diamond part of the earring flew off and bounced on the floor. I felt instant relief from the squeezing pressure. He took the post part and the diamond part, put them in a cup and rinsed them with alcohol. Then we both took a look, and what we saw was disgusting: Hair.
My curly kudzu hair had wrapped itself around the post, gotten underneath the back and twisted itself all through the threading of the screw. I'd been tortured by a hair clog.
"Thank you so much, I feel sooooo much better," I said as the guy put the earring remnants in a little plastic baggie and handed it to me. "How much do I owe you?"
"Don't worry about it," he said.
I slipped him $20 bill.
Then I came home, got my camera and documented the grotesque remnants. Click to enlarge, if you dare.
Moral of the story: Take your earrings out now and then, and watch out for hair clogs. The end.