Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

'Letting Your Freak Flag Fly'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

'Letting Your Freak Flag Fly'

Article excerpt

WHEN Tony Kunce turned 41, he put an extra hole in his head.

Getting his left ear pierced this summer "wasn't one of those midlife crazy things," says the Maplewood man, reassuring himself. "It's just, as you start to get older, you're losing your hair, you've got the family and the kids. If you don't keep a rebellious distinction, when people see you on the street, they might mistake you for a . . . a Republican."

Granted, it would have been easier to get a bumper sticker emblazoned with a donkey, but Kunce, like many other men his age, is opting for the '90s version of letting his hair down.

Local jewelry stores report that the number of middle-aged men getting their ears pierced is doubling and quadrupling. In the summer of '94, Piercing Pagoda in the Jamestown Mall pierced 20 to 25 older men each month; this summer, the figure was about 40 per month. At Claire's Boutique in Chesterfield Mall, the total sprang from five to 20 a month.

Men usually choose demure studs and stones, or small wires, says Shannon Taylor, former manager of Piercing Pagoda: "On some of them, it looks really sexy. On some of them, it just looks goofy."

Most are brave about the pain, but once in a while they act like babies. "One anesthesiologist nearly passed out in my chair when he heard the click of the gun," Taylor says.

Getting an ear pierced is a way to say "I'm not old," says Fred Rabinowitz, co-author of "Man Alive: A Primer of Men's Issues."

"As men approach middle age, they realize they're not going to get all their dreams fulfilled, they're not going to live forever, they've used up half their lives. Getting an earring, or hair plugs, or a fast car is a way to question themselves and challenge others," says Rabinowitz, who got his ear pierced recently.

Some call it a midlife crisis. Others, like Douglas Gertner, co-author of "Teaching Men's Lives," prefers the term "midlife illumination."

"Getting an ear pierced is a counter-culture statement - like a ponytail was in the '60s and '70s," he says. "It's letting your freak flag fly."

For Kunce, a criminal investigator for the state's public defender system, getting an earring was "a way to get out a little frustration," says his wife, Mary. …

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