St. Mark’s Place

by Mirabella Chau, age 14
St. Mark’s Place Mirabella Chau was born in New York and has lived in Jackson Heights for her entire life. She is a fun-loving girl, who likes to listen to rock music and write horror mystery. Some of her hobbies include playing sports and creating art, and she is still thinking about getting another piercing.

“Even though we continuously want to change our image, we could never go through with our plan because of our parents. If we dyed all of our hair, the result would be too obvious to hide, and we were not willing to completely disobey our parents with tattoos, so my last option was to get a piercing.”

Everyday after I come home after school, my mother always asks, “Any new grade to show me?” She never seems to understand that I would have to hand in a paper in order to get a grade. My mother is completely immersed in my academic life. She is always eager for my next A or waiting for my teacher’s latest comment on my essay. She checks my grades every night on the computer and talks to me about the A- that I received on a test, telling me to study more or to ensure that my grades would not continue to drop below a 95. Although I am still only a freshman, she countlessly reminds me that I should aim for valedictorian for my senior year and to think about ways to get into Harvard. This year, she tried to enroll me and my friends into multiple summer programs, which included a medical sleepaway camp and community service programs. My friends, thankfully, were not too excited about that idea.

My mother sees my friends as more of a hinderance to my academic life. She seems to think that they do not care about their future simply because they do not put in extra effort to get straight A’s. On the other hand, my friends would probably say that my mother is too strict and absolutely crazy. They describe her as one of those stereotypical Asian moms. My friends are the type of people that enjoy going to parties, being on their own, and, in general, doing things that their parents would not approve. In a sense, they’re what every other teenager aspires to be. They’re confident, bold, and independent, and those are only some of the qualities that I admire about them.

Many times, my friends and I would fantasize about getting piercings and tattoos and dyeing our hair crazy colors. I remember numerous text messages we sent of photos of only people with our desired look: gauges, facial piercings, a mix between adorable and edgy fashion. On Tumblr or other social media, I often find myself wanting to dress like these other girls and making them my style, but I always feel the need to hide my clothes from my parents. It’s not that I’m showing too much skin or that I simply look over the top. I’m really more concerned with how everyone, including my mom, always thinks that I want to copy my friends or that they have changed me negatively. Even though we continuously want to change our image, we could never go through with our plan because of our parents.  If we dyed all of our hair, the result would be too obvious to hide, and we were not willing to completely disobey our parents with tattoos, so my last option was to get a piercing.

I thought about the piercing for weeks. I was worried about how much it would hurt, whether or not it would heal in time for me to play volleyball and softball, but most importantly, how long I would be able to keep the piercing a secret from my mom. My friend, Lily, had already explained to me how much her cartilage piercing hurt during recovery, and pain was my biggest fear. Before getting the piercing, I thought a lot about how I might need my mother’s consent. I read numerous articles about St. Marks and underage piercings, so I wasn’t sure if I could even get it done. My friends and I even thought about going with Lily’s mom, so we could tell the piercer that I was adopted. I have always envied my friend for having one of those “cool” moms. She can talk to her mother about her boyfriends, parties, and fashion. Her mother even went to the piercer with her daughter. My mother, on the other hand, made fun of the idea of having multiple piercings. She believes that I should look more ladylike and less crazy. She says that she only let me dye my hair and go to parties so I wouldn’t do the same in college. I guess she thinks that if I have all my experiences in high school, I won’t need to have any more in the future.

On this day, Lily and I met up with our friend Nick. I told my mom that I was going to a Key Club event so I could be sure she wouldn’t call. I looked up multiple times the directions to St. Marks and for awhile, even got a bit lost when we exited the station. The street immediately made us feel apprehensive, especially when we stepped in front of the piercing shop. The clothing shops had the look of abandoned factories, and the workers all had either tattoos, huge gauges, or dyed hair. The three of us paused, waiting for someone to make the first move and go into the store. I was mostly afraid of looking like a poser since I felt that I didn’t belong at such an edgy place. I mean, all around me were six-inch platform creepers and leather chokers with spikes. Lily seemed to feel more at home at St. Marks. She wore clothes from Trash and Vaudeville and looked like the type of person that would fit in; multiple people have even mistaken her for Avril Lavigne. However, when it came time to actually get the piercing, she was as intimidated as I was. This first place we visited agreed to do it at first, but the piercer rejected us since I didn’t bring an ID. Disappointed, we walked further down the street in hopes to find another place. Luckily, as I was talking about the piercing, a shady man on the street jumped out from his small store to call me over. He was completely bundled up from head to toe in winter clothes. I couldn’t even tell where he was from because of his accent. It definitely wasn’t American though. He was willing to pierce my ear without an ID. I didn’t trust this bundled man at first, but in the end, agreed to let him pierce my ear since I felt that it was only option.

As I sat in the chair, I looked around to see dozens of photos of the people the bundled man had pierced before. His shop was tiny, probably even smaller than my bedroom. Lily even had to sit on Nick, sharing a single chair. There was no front desk or display case like the first store we went into and for heating, the bundled man worked around a small portable heater. He pulled out a couple studs for me to choose the design I wanted, but when I asked if I could get a ring, he strangely refused and tried telling me that using the gun piercer was better. (It wasn’t.) It seemed as if he wasn’t qualified to use a needle, so I didn’t mention it a second time. I thought about backing out multiple times. However, I couldn’t after dragging my two friends into the city. The bundled man was already marking my ear with a sharpie, and I was too afraid to even tell him to stop. I looked over at my friends, who were busy filming me for Snapchat, as I was experiencing the greatest fear of the entire trip. I thought over my decision multiple times in the short moment the bundled man was preparing to pierce my ear. Before I knew it, it was done. Strangely, I no longer felt worried about the pain or hiding the piercing from my mom. All of a sudden, the piercing wasn’t a big deal to me, and I even decided to get a second one.

After I got it done, I came back home confident that my mom would never see my piercing. In the first couple weeks, I had to cup my ear whenever she hugged me in case she would hit it in the process. She did that twice until I learned to protect it. I specifically got the piercing on my left ear since my hair would cover it. However, sometimes I even forget that it’s there, and I have to quickly take my hair out of a ponytail when she walks into the room. (The only person in my house that knows I have a piercing is my sister. She tends to keep all of my secrets and normally doesn’t judge the things I do, even if she thinks that they’re mistakes.) With my friends, I tend to show off the fact that I have multiple piercings by getting a matching earring with Lily and having my friends wait longer because I have to take out six earrings before the softball game. With them, I don’t have to worry; I simply get to be myself.

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