A middle-aged Asian couple walks through the Galleria, leading their two young children sipping a shared fountain drink from lunch and poking each other. After passing Macy’s on the third floor, they stop and look over the railing at the ice rink below. A kiosk to the mother’s right catches her eye where a young girl with dirty blonde hair and a septum piercing sits reading Black Hole, a graphic novel.
The mother walks over, catching the attention of the saleswoman who looks up for only a second. The woman looks at the vendor, brow furrowing as she leans in to the vendor interrupting her reading for the second time. The vendor knows she can’t make the sale, but they’re both curious about what each has to say.
“Does it hurt?” the Asian woman asks the vendor, pointing at a navel piercing on the stand. The vendor at Body Jewelry, answers her question and buries back into the pages as the family walks away.
Lainie, a 19-year-old sophomore English major at Collin County Community College, sits for 11 hours every day at her first retail job. She’s done cupcakes and ice cream, stuff like that, but likes that she can go to a job she knows something about to help pay for school.
Besides the boredom, the thing that frustrates her the most is that Galleria employees have to follow dress code, where she can’t wear what she wants and isn’t allowed to wear piercings. The anger builds in her voice as she says she is getting tired of the “conservative outlook.”
“Actually, I don’t really care,” she said with a grin with a grin that soothes the scene. “I mean it’s a piercing shop so it makes a difference if I actually have the things that we sell.”
Lainie knows many people with big gauges, young people obviously with faces that look like they fell into a tackle box.
“The thing is when my generation is in the workplace 15 years from now, do you have any idea how many people will have stretched ears?” she said, not waiting for a response. “So many, because I feel like it’s 25 percent of my generation with gauged ears.”
Some vendors that are more desperate to make a sale will stand up, pacing, interrupting mall guests from their texts as they walk trying to get to the next store, but Lainie hasn’t felt the need to do that yet. People just come up to her throughout the morning, sometimes they’re older people fascinated by the concept of body jewelry, but usually it’s the alternative crowd or girls with a small nose stud who know exactly what they want.
Sometimes, her customers don’t know what they want or don’t have the piercing yet. She loves when she can help someone learn more about piercings. She will hand them a business card for a tattoo and body piercing shop she recommends and sends them on their way. If they look young, she will give tips on how to clean jewelry and what kind of cleaning solution to use for different jewelry.
“Like, you can’t use anything with alcohol on anything with the little plastic balls because they’ll explode,” she said. “If it’s metal, I just tell them to use warm water and soap. That’s all you need.”
Lainie is annoyed when people just walk around and look at things. When they ask her the price, Lainie responds politely and professionally, sometimes aggravating the customers. She’ll haggle to an extent, but not very much.
“I’ll be a lot more willing if they get more than three things,” she said, her soft voice picking up intensity and volume. “That makes a huge difference and the prices go down really well when you get more than two or three things.”
All the boredom washes from her eyes as the alternative crowd shops. She stands up, bookmarks the page and grins when people come and they have all these tattoos, huge gauges and gauged noses. She’s particularly fascinated by the concept of gauging a tongue, where the customer gradually increases the size of their tongue rings until they get a hole in it.
“You can get a hole in your balls too,” she said. “I think that’s kind of interesting.”
Lainie had her ears gauged up to eights but went back down to 14’s. She wasn’t really into it and is now back in regular earrings after healing. Now, she just plays with her septum ring as she turns the page, waiting for the next customer.