different as night and day. Its true with my sister and
metwo girls, born of the same parents and growing up in
the same household. Im average, blond, green-eyed. Shes
tall, brown hair, brown eyes. There are other defining differences,
as well. Take the whole pierced ears saga
the end of ninth grade, pierced ears got to be a big thing. All
the girls were doing it. Theyd poise little gold balls or
tiny polished pearls in the center of their lobes, and it was
so neat, and then with index and middle fingers, theyd
push hair behind their ears in a stylish display, as if to say
Look what Ive got.
wanted it, too. I wanted my ears pierced, but Mama said no. Its
just a fad. Youll be sorry twenty years from now when you
have holes in your ears. I was sick over it, just plain
sick. I didnt want to be left out. I wanted to be like everybody
else, to be in and have those shiny balls or sweet
pearls, but Mama was bound and determined that I didnt need
another hole in my head.
the arrival of the pierced-ear fashion, there also came a line
of fake pierced earrings for girls like me, whose mamas were hell-bent
on their daughters not having any more holes than they already
had. They werent like the old timey screw-on kind. They
were lightweight, with a ball or pearl on each end of an inconspicuous
U-shaped gold wire, to be positioned around the lobe and pinched
together, front and back, to stay put. Thats what I had
to settle for. From a few feet away, they looked like the real
thing. Unless the light hit one and reflected off the metal wire.
jewelry box with red velvet lining had little squares perfectly
sized for holding earrings. I bought the faux ones from Ben Franklins
Five and Dime, and there mine lay, with little gold wires against
the crimson nap.
I put them on and looked at myself in the mirror, I tried my best
to see them as piercedjust little balls isolated in the
center of my lobes. But somehow those wires, not much bigger than
a strand of hair, were magnified, huge against my ear, obviously
holding those balls in place, and had the weight of steel bars,
like those of a porch railing.
I walked down the long school hallway between classes, and especially
on the stairways where the light was intense, I felt hundreds
of eyes on me. They werent looking at my smile, or my blond
hair bouncing in a flip with a faddish grosgrain ribbon matching
my outfit. They werent looking at my stylish fishnet stockings
or cute new patent Mary Janes. They werent looking at my
dress from Jays, modeled in Seventeen. They werent
even looking at my padded chest. They were looking at my earsthose
gold wires, like pipes, supporting the gold balls. Big lines drawn
there that separated me from the girls with real pierced ears.
just wasnt quite there without pierced ears.
I listened to Mama too much. I was obedient, safe, followed the
along came my little sister. She wanted pierced ears, too, and
Mama gave her the same runaround. Its just a fad.
Youll be sorry twenty years from now when you have holes
in your ears. Judi always walked a little closer to the
edge than I did. She did what she wanted to do. When she thought
she was old enough, she made an appointment with the family doctor,
took her best friend Sherrie with her, marched downtown and took
care of it. She had a job making pizzas and bought her own earrings.
Mama never knew. Judis hair was long and thick and curly,
and waved right over her little gold hoops. Until one evening,
Judi forgot and wore her hair rolled up to the dinner table. Mama
noticed right off. But it was a done deal at that point.
this day, well over thirty years later, Judi maintains: If
I hadn't had my hair up in rollers, she'd never have known.
neighbor who lived across the street summed it up succinctly after
Judi and I were both adults with our own children.
used to watch you ride your bike, he said to me. Youd
ease down the driveway and get to the street and stop and look
both ways. You were careful. But now, that little sister of yours,
she never looked a lick either way. That Judi, she didnt
give a damn.
sibling toeing the line, one . . . well, not.
wish I had walked closer to the edge. I did finally get
my ears piercedwhen I was twenty-six, married, with a child.
And thirty years later, Im still not sorry I have these
holes in my head.