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My Current Existential Dilemma? My Belly Button Ring

Pondering body jewelry is my new favorite quarantine activity.

belly button piercing

Before we went into a worldwide lockdown, I was happily anticipating the arrival of warmer weather. Mild spring days are one of the best parts of living in New York City, where mass-transit commuting forces you outside, rain, snow, and sleet be damned. But now sundresses hang limp in my closet and slingback sandals gather dust. Plus, my entire collection of high-waisted trousers and their accompanying crop tops have nowhere to go except to and from my couch. I threw one on the other day for just a sliver of fashion inspiration, and as I pondered whether 30 is too old to rock a crop top (it is not, and I will disregard anyone who says otherwise), I couldn’t help but notice the tiny scar above my belly button where my piercing used to live.

Let’s go back a few years, shall we? Embarking on senior spring break is practically a rite of passage for high-schoolers, which is how 18-year-old me wound up in a seedy piercing parlor in Panama City Beach after a few too many Keystone lights, clutching my best friend’s hand as some dude maneuvered a needle up and out of my midriff. I applaud myself for resisting the urge to get a tattoo instead (a much more permanent mistake), even as my crystal-embellished piercing throbbed for the remainder of the trip. Nine months later, when it finally healed, I actually enjoyed swapping it out for various pieces of jewelry, including a mini hand-blown glass mushroom, because 2008 was a heady time for me. I ultimately removed it when I was 24, but unbeknownst to me, the hole itself would never totally close, leaving a faint, but extremely annoying, scar. Now, over a decade later, I’m aware of a few different options at my disposal.

1. I can leave it be and accept the fact that the sins of my teenage years will always be with me (a life lesson if there ever was one).

2. I can visit a doctor so that he or she can inject the hole with filler to disguise the scar. Says Manhattan-based plastic surgeon Dr. Adam Kolker, “Over time, stretch of the local skin, soft tissue changes around and beneath the piercing, and changes related to weight gain, loss, or pregnancy can all have an impact on the piercing site. These may be amenable to improvement with injected volume restoration, like hyaluronic acid [via a filler like] Juvederm or Restylane.” But even that is a temporary fix, since the filler will dissolve in approximately 915 months, and I’ll be back where I started.

3. I could have a doctor surgically excise the hole. Dr. Dendy Engelman, a Manhattan-based dermatologist, explains that the in-office procedure takes less than ten minutes. “I numb it with lidocaine, use a trephine—a little tool we use to remove small skin lesions—to remove the scar tissue and the hole where the piercing went through, and then sew it up. [You’ll have] stitches for two weeks, and when it heals you usually can’t even see where the piercing was.” Slightly more invasive than I bargained for, so I’m not sure I want to go down that road just yet, but it’s nice to know that the evidence of my spring break escapades can basically disappear forever.

4. I could re-pierce the hole and show off some jewelry whenever I rock a crop top or swimsuit. Hey, if Beyoncé says it’s cool, then I am fully on board. Maybe belly-button rings are 2020’s hottest piercing trend?

Or maybe not. Cassi Lopez-March, the owner of So Gold Studios in Brooklyn, revealed that she’s seen a major decrease in belly button piercings over her 17 years in the industry. “I think it’s because body jewelry has become more dainty and delicate, and most navel jewelry just isn’t.” I know I certainly had more than one chandelier-esque moment with mine.

She’s also seen plenty of people like me who have old piercings and want to revisit them with better jewelry. “It usually happens during a conversation for another piercing they’re getting. They’ll say, oh, I had my belly button pierced but haven’t worn anything in years. I’ll take a look, and lo and behold, it’s open.”

Piercer Adrian Castillo of 108Studios notes that most of the belly-button clients he sees these days are looking to revisit an old piercing. “It’s way more common to come in with an existing belly button hole and have me do something with that than get a new one. I take a more delicate approach and put fitted gold hoops in them. I like the look of a small sliver of gold on the stomach.”

So perhaps the belly button ring had its time in the spotlight, along with tongue piercings and lower back tattoos. Sure, ’90s fashion is back in a big way, but can it extend to body piercings, too? And more importantly, do I care? I’m no stranger to piercings—I have 14 between both ears and my septum—and I have no plans to remove any for the foreseeable future. Maybe a slim gold ring in my navel will help round out my collection, or maybe it will remind me of a time when obnoxious spring breakers weren’t putting their communities at risk of contracting a deadly virus.

More likely, it’s just another way of loading myself up with pretty jewelry—an accessory I can show off when we can all walk back out into the sunshine and wear our crop tops together again. For the time being, I’m channeling 18-year-old me, when life was a little more carefree and the most pressing choice I had to make was what kind of sparkly belly ring I should wear that day. One can only hope we’ll all feel that unburdened again soon. But one thing is for certain—you can catch me at my local piercing studio before 2020 is over. 

Photo: Getty 

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