I had my tongue pierced … and couldn’t eat the turkey – the Christmas present I’ll never forget

No, I don’t know why I asked my girlfriend for a tongue piercing for Christmas.

It wasn’t exactly “me”, an introverted, 21-year-old indie music fan not prone to bold style statements. Was it a desperate attempt to hang on to some youthful irresponsibility after recently leaving the safety net of university life? Or a nod to my immersion in DayGlo psychedelic trance raves – surprisingly popular in Leeds around the turn of the millennium, and often frequented by the kind of person who thought forcing a steel bar through a crucial muscle was an eminently sensible idea? Or maybe I was simply trying to impress said girlfriend?

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that I was just a 21-year-old, and a bit of a bellend.

Either way, I found myself in my home town’s city centre a day or two before Christmas, at an establishment I’ll describe as having a unique interpretation of hygiene standards. Was the piercer, as I half-recall, smoking a fag in one hand as she flashed the needle with the other? It seems unlikely, but the smell of fag ash was certainly upon her, along with a thoroughly uninterested demeanour. She knew I didn’t belong there, and so did I. So did my girlfriend, who I can only imagine found the whole thing hilarious.

At least it was over swiftly. I stuck my tongue out and watched as a thin needle came down before my eyes. It didn’t really hurt. Well, not at the time. Afterwards, my tongue began to slowly swell in my mouth. An hour or so later it was impeding my speech to such a degree that people thought I was taking the piss when I spoke to them. To make matters worse, chewing and swallowing solid food were now virtually impossible. I hadn’t considered this – nor the fact that I would soon be sitting down to the biggest family meal of the year.

A mouthful of roast turkey is not the most moist of gastronomic experiences. Now, each bite was a war of attrition, taking minutes to slowly break down until a swallow could be attempted. After three or four attempts I admitted defeat, slinking off to the kitchen to find a tin of Heinz tomato soup and a straw. Merry Christmas, everyone!


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