It happened many years ago when my toddler niece, Nicole, grabbed a gold hoop earring dangling from my ear and gave it a good yank which ripped my pierced ear. When huge, heavy earrings made their debut in the 1990s, I wore the biggest, heaviest ones I could find.
After all, every girl needs some decoration.
“If you keep wearin’ those big earrings,” commented a friend, “you’re going to wind up looking like Dumbo with big, long ears.”
He wasn’t too far wrong. The rip, initially begun by Nicole, tore further. For the next 20 years, I continued to wear earrings though one always hung lower than the other. I never went anywhere without earrings — or earbobs as Mama used to call them. Every Sunday when I picked her up for church, that was one of two questions, “Do these earbobs look all right or do I need another pair?”
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The other question was, “How does my hair look in the back?” Here I will detour long enough to say that, sadly, I never thought much about how my hair looked in the back. I just worried about the front. I was blissfully ignorant for decades about the state of my hair in the back until recently when I was asked to eulogize at a dear friend’s funeral. This is a lot of stress. I wanted to do her proud and I did not want to cry. I figured if I started crying then I would be making that moment about me so I wanted to stay clear and focused. When the hymn finished and it was my time to speak, I arose from the pew and started to the pulpit. The church was packed, every seat taken with dozens more spilling out into the foyer. Just as I got to the altar, I thought, “Oh my gosh. How does my hair look in the back?”
My friend, whom I was eulogizing, always had perfect hair. In front and back. So, she would giggle to know that my epiphany came at her funeral. After that moment of horror, I now care, at least somewhat, about how my hair looks in the back. On the other hand, I was so concerned with what the preachers sitting behind me thought of my hair that I didn’t cry.
Anyway, about my left ear: Tink kept saying that I needed to get it fixed because it was about to rip through completely. Finally, I took myself to a cosmetic surgeon, DJ Campbell, a longtime family friend. “That’s easy,” he said. This is what you always want to hear a cosmetic surgeon say. He numbed the ear and as Tink watched so he could report, he cut a pie-shaped piece from the ear and stitched it back together.
“In a month or so, come back and I’ll re-pierce it,” DJ said.
About a week after I got the stitches out, I had a speaking engagement. I dug through my jewelry box and found clip-on earrings. They were uncomfortable because my ear was still tender. A few minutes before speaking, I took them off then took the stage. “I have done over 1,200 speaking engagements,” I told the audience of women. “And this is the first time I have ever spoken without earrings on.” They clapped for my courage.
Over the next month, I did not wear earrings which I have worn faithfully since I was 15. At first, I felt somewhat naked but then I got used to it. Packing for trips became easier because I didn’t have to coordinate earrings to outfits. In hotel rooms, I didn’t have to search and make sure I had each one before I left. It was liberating.
Don’t worry, though. I’m going to get my ear pierced and return to wearing earrings. Just because I’m now fixing the back of my hair is no excuse to give up fixing the front.
Ronda Rich, author of ‘What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should), writes the Dixie Diva column that appears in several newspapers.