How My Belly Button Piercing Taught Me To Love My Stomach

Image via @louis.piercer/Instagram
Image via @louis.piercer/Instagram
As a teenager, the coolest thing you could do was to get your belly button pierced.
Unfortunately, with a strict Zambian mother, I was forced to skip that edgy phase, and more than a decade on, I find myself compensating for lost time.
After making their mark in the '90s to early 2000s and resurfacing briefly five years ago, navel piercings are entering their third wave in Western popular culture. It's the natural next step after the Y2K revival and bimbofication era brought the return of 'tramp stamps', low-rise jeans, and mini skirts and unabashedly put the lower abdomen back on the fashion map.
After deciding to get one on a whim last month, the most surprising domino effect was how that little glistening double gem changed my relationship with my body in such a short space of time.
As a straight-sized woman, I am incredibly privileged to be able to see myself reflected back in advertisements, in clothing stores, and increasingly, on runways — for many people, that still isn't the case despite the momentous uptake of the body neutrality movement. But like many women, I have struggled with showing my stomach, and have relied on high-waisted pants to cover it up for the better part of the last decade.
Walking out from the impromptu piercing sesh, my jeans were zipped down and splayed for all the world to see. It felt vulnerable and somewhat subversive for a Friday afternoon to have my belly out on full display, and gathering from the many double takes and puzzled looks I got, it was a sentiment shared by the general public as well.
The shift started out as an attempt to be a stickler for the rules: not putting the fresh piercing under pressure with tight or irritating clothing to prevent migration at best, or a gnarly infection at worst, during the healing period.
However, I now find myself opting for skirts that sit on my hips or snuggle under my core to show off the piercing in its full glory, and for the first time in my life, I see my pooch and its accompanying stretch marks, snail trail and rolls as incredibly endearing.
The glistening barbell feels like a work of art regardless of whether I'm bloated, sitting down or around others. I'm not sucking my stomach in when photos are taken anymore, and have begun to view my softness and curves as beautiful, in a pivot that will outlive the piercing's lifetime.
A lot of the comeback trends we're seeing at the moment are proving a test of progressiveness — how far we've come in celebrating different sizes, genders and sex positivity.
There will always be a lot of naysayers who will try and shut down people who don't fit the mould for showing off more skin by latching on to outdated messages of what the piercing represents, and who it is for. But we should be championing that exact representation over everything else, so that countless others can feel equally as celestial — no matter what they look like, or how they choose to express themselves.
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