So, you want a hole in your nose for jewelry, she said piercingly

The hollow steel needle is 2 1/2 inches long. It has been sterilized in boiling water and bathed in surgical disinfectant, and now it is going to pass through the skin of Susan Hyde's ice-numbed left nostril.

But first a carrot, organically grown as if to match the intense purity of this moment, has to be whittled down to fit up her nose.


"This will catch the needle when it comes out the other side . . . so we don't also pierce the septum," explains expert body piercer Annie Bogdan, as she dons a fresh pair of surgical gloves.

"I don't want to know," says Ms. Hyde, 32, of Hartford, Conn. The night before she meditated on the ideal of painlessness. Still, she didn't get much sleep.


Ms. Bogdan lets her clients choose their music. Ms. Hyde picks a group called "World of Skin." As a woman's voice sings over cicada-like guitars, Ms. Bogdan makes a quick, deft motion with her thumb and forefinger and harpoons the ink-marked spot on the side of Ms. Hyde's slightly upturned proboscis.

Ms. Hyde digs a thumbnail into her palm. A thick tear, nervous condensation, rolls down her cheek. Seconds later, it's over. Ms. Hyde has a gold stud and her birthstone, a sapphire, firmly rooted in her nose.

She checks the mirror: "It's exactly what I wanted, and it looks as nice as I thought it would!"

These days, lots of folks are starting to like piercings and adornments far beyond the traditionally accepted lanced ear lobes.

Pierced and decorated noses and navels, once the sole province of those from the Indian subcontinent or Muslims, are going mainstream. Even piercings of the nipples and genitalia, while still primarily a phenomenon among gay or sexually libertine subcultures, are on the rise.

Different perforations for different persuasions, right?

Not exactly. Like the punctured punk fashion of the early 1980s, this new wave of piercing probably draws more winces than devotees.

"It's a cultural thing," says Jim Ward, founder of a Los Angeles-based chain of body-piercing salons. "These same people that are so negative about piercing . . . think nothing of tummy tucks or face lifts."


Beyond questions of beauty and taste, there's the issue of pain, pain that runs counter to our popular culture of analgesia.

Piercing devotees insist that professional expertise makes a big difference. "If you're going to do this yourself on the dining room table with an ice pick, it's probably going to hurt," Mr. Ward says.

Piercings can take weeks or even months to fully heal and must be kept clean to avoid infection.