Walking into a room with bright lights, the smell of antiseptic sits in the air. The reminder of the doctor’s office brings nerves to the surface, but knowing the outcome will be worth it brings reassurance. Latex gloves stick out against normal street clothing attire, dressed upon a figure highlighted by the bold lighting. They clean a needle, clean the ear and slowly push the needle through the location they dotted moments before. The sharp pain is prevalent but slows to a dull throb as the jewelry is pushed in and secured–jewelry used to mark a memory visually, as well as mentally.

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Sophomore Erin Mullen, seen here working on school work, sports a cartilage-piercing hoop on her left ear. (Photo by Olivia Schwinn-Clanton)

Claire’s, an American retailer of accessories and jewelry primarily aimed toward girls and young women, has “been piercing since 1978 and [claims] over 100 million ears pierced worldwide.” But at Andover High School and throughout the country, other types of piercings are becoming more prominent amongst students. Although piercings come with negative assumptions towards character and interest, they also come with a sense of uniqueness. According to the National Institutes of Health, body piercing has been practiced in many societies for hundreds of years, but piercings away from the face are largely a western phenomenon. 

Do piercings signify age? Or do they simply represent followers of a trend or followers of people who value individuality? Many girls get their first piercings when they’re babies or as a birthday gift marking a special point in their young lives. When someone doesn’t have that major memory marked on their ears, people question why. 

“People are surprised when you don’t have your ears pierced because when you’re a little kid in elementary school everyone wants to get their ears pierced,” sophomore Emily Swenson said. “It’s a big thing, and if someone hasn’t gotten them pierced by the time that they’re about 16, you notice it because it’s seen as a social norm. I’ve noticed that most people have their ears pierced, but I’m always surprised when someone doesn’t, because it’s something out of the ordinary.”

Sophomore Erin Mullen said she thinks piercings have been relatively prominent in high school: “I think that it’s just as you get older within high school you see more people your age getting [additional piercings], but I don’t think it’s a new wave of trends or anything, I think it has always been there.”

Ms. Rickley, an English teacher at AHS, has always “seen students experiment with many kinds of piercings, but [does] not feel that piercings are any more prominent…today.”

Piercings mark a special point in someone’s life: when they are mature enough to make a semi-permanent decision, or when they are finally discovering how they want to express themselves. But piercings come with speculations that are developed from the stigma surrounding them. Swenson said, “When people have a lot of piercings, you question it because it has a certain connotation. People assume that you’re a bad person but it’s just a way to express yourself or something that you think looks cool.”

Sophomore Kate Uluatam has a belly button piercing and views it solely as a piece of jewelry that is no different than getting her ears pierced. “People associate belly button piercings with showing skin, which may not be appropriate in some people’s eyes,” she said. “I don’t think anyone has the right to make these assumptions considering it does not at all define who someone is or what they believe in.”

A popular piercing seen amongst students, besides the common lobe piercing, is on the cartilage. On why she chose hers, Mullen said, “I was of age to be able to do something like that, and my parents would now let me. I understand for some people it’s more physical appeal, and for others, like for me, it’s more like getting something that I can look back on after so many years and remember the exact day that I got it, and remember exactly what my life was like back then.”

Swenson’s parents drew the line on additional piercings until she is 18. She said her mom “thinks that when you’re making these kinds of decisions for yourself you should be able to sign a form for yourself.”

Many people are use to conforming with the style of the majority. When others see someone expressing their individuality in such a public, prominent, and sometimes eclectic way, they see this uniqueness as different or negative behavior rather than a form of individual expression that does not affect others around him or her. Rickley said, “It is a form of self-expression and choice that draws upon judgement from others because it is different.”

By Olivia Schwinn-Clanton