When I came out to my mom at 12, the response was very favorable, which I knew it would be because very shortly before she told me, “Danny, if you ever think you might be gay, that’s okay.” Which is of course oftentimes Mom Speak for, “Dear sweet little boy, you are so gay and I acknowledge that.”
So when we finally did sit down to have “the talk”, she pulled out her Menthol Lights, the little skinny green and silver package and she had one question for me. She asked, “Are you sure?” And as I entered high school with my overflowing Ricky Martin scrap back, and completed successful tryout for Tall Flag Team, there was no question lingering.
The Tall Flag Team performed with the Marching Band spinning and tossing flags during the football games and parades on weekends and it wasn’t so much that it was at the bottom of the social hierarchy, it was just that it didn’t even register. But my parents were so glad I had found a circle of friends, but my mom felt it was so important that I feel accepted and supported and she wanted to make sure I felt that way sometimes a little too much.
She found out during Freshman year that a lot of the girls on the team with me had their noses and their belly buttons pierced so she very nonchalantly one day asked me, “Oh, Danny, have you ever thought about getting anything pierced?”
“Um, no, I haven’t.”
“Not even your ear?”
And I shouldn’t have been very surprised by this line of questioning from my mom because this was the same woman who, when I was two and a half years old, and couldn’t find the beat to the song on the radio, had remedied the situation by immediately enrolling me into jazz dance class. But she wouldn’t let this go and so, “Have you ever thought about getting a piercing in your ear” became “You know if you wanted to pierce your ear, I’d be okay with it” which turned into, “Have you thought any more about getting your ear pierced?” and by the time it had turned into, “Let’s get your ear pierced!” So I gave in. This was not your run-of-the-mill peer pressure, this was Mom Pressure. So we got in her car and we went to Claire’s. She figuratively held my hand while I got my cartilage pierced in my gay right ear because I wasn’t going to do it like everyone else and do my earlobe, I was going to go all in and do it my way.
Not long after that I started my sophomore year of high school and our first football game of the year was the first Friday of the school year, and so as the flag team was getting ready in our uniform which were white spandex and black velvet, our coach came over to me and pulled me aside and said, “Danny, just wanted to remind you of the rule that you can’t have visible body jewelry during performances.” And apparently since my earring was up here instead of down here it was body jewelry so I wouldn’t be allowed to wear it on the field. It was too new to take out without the hole closing up so I didn’t know what to do, but fortunately our co-captain, Erin, who had her ear and belly button pierced, had a spare post that she let me borrow. So she rubbed it down with rubbing alcohol for me, put it in, did her job, and we went to the football game.
I do not remember who won that night, but I do remember the warm sensation that started at my upper ear and sort of emanated a little farther through the course of the night so the time the game was over and we got back to the band room, my ear was hot and puffy. It had actually swelled thicker than the post was long. And then, the post moved. So we could feel it kind of stuck in my ear but we could not get it back out. It was more fun for me than you hearing about it I can assure you. So my parents raced to the school to take me to the emergency room. And at this point, i was not so worried about my ear, as my little 15-year-old self was worried about the post making it into my bloodstream and floating directly to my heart and stabbing me from inside. So I was all in favor of my first trip to the emergency room. So as we got there my parents both stood there beside me as the doctor x-rayed me and then gave me a little anesthetic and then pulled out a scalpel. And it was a lot like the Leona Lewis song at that point, because he cut me open and I kept bleeding. I kept, kept bleeding. Now I was numb, half asleep, and facing the other way so I was genuinely unaware that that was happening. All I knew is that I walked out of there with two little stitches, no post in my ear, and no post making its way to my heart to kill me.
The next day my mom told me that seeing that much blood coming out of her only child was the scariest experience of her life. And hearing that from her made me feel really mad. Because the only reason I had that stupid earring in the first place was because of her. So she had not earned the right to be scared about it. If anyone was going to be scared it was going to be me, but I was too busy feeling victorious because a) I had cheated clear and present danger, and also, more importantly, I was right and my mom was wrong about that earring. The only thing I didn’t really understand was why did it matter to her so much in the first place that I get that earring. So I thought about that for a while, and once the stitches were out, all two little stitches, I asked her. And something I had said or done at some point convinced her that I really wanted an earring. So I couldn’t really be mad about the earring, well, I could, I could be mad about the earring, but I couldn’t be mad at my mom because it wasn’t about the earring. She was just trying to make sure that her son knew, that no matter who he wanted to be, he was going to be loved by his mom.