In summer 2001 (age: 16), I took a class trip to Europe. We went to London, Paris, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, and probably somewhere else I'm forgetting. I have particularly fabulous memories of the Costa del Sol, where I experienced my first European-style topless beach. Wow. I remember what really impressed me was the Spaniards' lack of self-consciousness about body type and shape. Everyone from little kids to grandmothers was running around without their shirts, and no one batted an eyelash.
Anyway, in Spain, we visited a piercing salon. I decided to have my right eyebrow pierced, and the guy did one heck of an awful job on it. He didn't go deep enough, so the too-large barbell stuck awkwardly out of my skin. It didn't particularly hurt, but I didn't take very good care of it. By the time we returned to the States, and my mother's look of exasperated disapproval (good thing I'm the youngest!), the piercing was looking raw and red.
A few weeks later, I went to be a part of the leadership team for the area United Methodist youth summer gathering. As the team and I were walking around the Baker University campus late one night, a little gossamer cobweb hanging down from a tree limb cottoned onto my face. Without a second thought, I reached up and used my open palm to swipe across my face - pulling my eyebrow piercing plumb out! Oh, the blood and the fear! I thought I had somehow been blinded by the spider or something. All week long I had to wear a bandaid over my eyebrow, leading to some fun comparisons with Nelly.
I still have a little scar in my right eyebrow. It makes a nice conversation starter. One thing I will always remember about that trip is something I learned about Portuguese culture. They have a long tradition of what is called "saudade," or a mode or feeling of deep longing. There are songs and stories and paintings that convey saudade. When I learned about it, I felt I finally had a name for something I'd been feeling my whole life. A kind of emotional exhaustion. A yearning for a different time. A reminder of youthful days gone by, when the top of my list of worries was my mother's face when she picked me up from the airport. I still feel saudade every day.