THERE was a certain breathlessness among a number of people at school that day — not enough as far as I was concerned, but that’s another issue.
“Hitchy’s got his ear pierced.”
“Right or left?”
“Right.” Collective sigh of relief.
“A ring or a stud?”
An air of slight disappointment greeted that answer, but Hitchy and his adornment had scratched at what was acceptable in the world of male/female accessorising and broken a stereotype.
Well, it would have done, but Hitchy was the sort of lad who would have kicked the head in of the likes of myself had I been so camp as to have my ear pierced in 1980, the beating no doubt accompanied by a volley of what he would have considered to be insulting terms. He was hard though, so no-one was going to say anything to him.
I went home and told my mum. “Hitchy at school’s had his ear pierced.”
My dad heard and my brother said he might get his done. “Do that and I’ll rip your ear off,” my father said.
The threat wasn’t enough and my brother duly went ahead, though my dad’s words had some effect as he walked around with his head tilted to one side for about three months in case it was seen.
Before long the studio in the village had a sign hanging up: “Male piercings £2.” Some lads even had two — in the same ear.
“It’s like the place has been taken over by bloody fairground workers,” my dad said. He didn’t actually, but he would have if he’d thought of it.
It wouldn’t be too many years before other body parts were having holes punctured in them and the number of male piercings was up there with the females.
“Next thing people will be getting tattoos,” someone might have said.
“Nah, they’re just for rough people, sailors and pirates.”
Fast forward to a school reunion ten years later and you’re deemed to have something wrong with you if you’ve not at least had an earring/stud then got rid of it. “Had my ear pierced years ago. Healed up now,” was the common get out. The tattoo would become a different matter for many and one that Hitchy has probably dealt with in his own way.
Having broken down gender barriers by sporting ear jewellery while simultaneously being the sort of lad who may have smashed your face in had you turned up to school with an Erasure album tucked under your arm, he would undoubtedly have been disappointed to see the fashion spread to the non too tough and the same when tattoos became just as likely to be seen on the necks of poncey boy band members as pub brawlers.
I feel he would be just as appalled — if it ever occurred to him — to learn that his machismo had somehow resulted in him taking the lead in smashing down the very social barriers he was there to represent.
He also, while we’re at it, became the first person in our year to have his stomach pumped after drinking.
Someone should have had a word in his ear.