When I was 22 years old, I went on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Las Vegas with two of my best friends. One of us came back with a tattoo, two of us came back with body piercings, and one of us came back with the knowledge that her friends were very, very stupid. I was not the latter. My belly button was pierced.

For a while, I liked it. I was young with a cute little stomach I didn’t appreciate enough, and the belly ring was my “I am a grown up and can make adult decisions about my own body!” statement. Which I suppose is better than a face tattoo or sleeping around.

I was crazy about keeping it clean and infection-free. But it was a belly button ring, and I was 22 and cheap. I bought a ten dollar ring that had a sparkly moon and dangling star on one end, and a ball on the other that screwed on and off for easy removal. I put that ring through my piercing, and never changed it out.

A few years later, I heard a horror story about a girl whose belly button piercing had stretched and expanded when she was pregnant. I wanted to vomit. Yeah, I was only 26, but I knew I was going to be with Mike forever and who knew when we’d want to start our family. My only way to avoid further disfigurement was to remove the ring and give my belly as much time as possible to heal.

I went to twist off the ball that secured the ring, but it wouldn’t budge. “Just a little stuck,” I thought. I tried harder, and harder, and harder. I started to get alarmed. No movement at all. During the four years I’d worn the ten dollar sparkly moon belly ring, the ball had rusted closed.

I panicked. I was going to have this stupid moon ring in my stomach forever! And it was missing a rhinestone so it was even MORE tacky! I considered calling 9-1-1, but someone talked me out of it. I tried WD-40…FYI, that stuff will burn your skin.

There was only one option that I could think of that didn’t require hospital personnel or EMTs – my parents. But there was a catch…neither of my parents were even aware of its existence. But they were my parents, and they always had the answers. I just hoped the answer they had didn’t involve murdering me..

I seriously considered going to my grave with the sparkly moon ring. Maybe I’d replace the dangling star, which had fallen off years earlier. I’d bring moon and star jewelry back into style!

Finally I got up the nerve and went to my parents’ house. My mom “tsk tsk’d” me and shook her head. My dad just looked at me silently, then left the room. I felt like I was 13 and had just been busted for climbing out of my bedroom window.

Suddenly, my dad reentered the room with a few tools. One was a pair of pliers. “What are you doing?!,” I said as he grabbed the moon between the needle nose. With his other hand, he grabbed a pair of the scariest looking scissors I’ve ever seen. “DON’T CUT MY STOMACH!!!!” I screamed. In a swift motion, he placed the bottom of the ring inside the scissors and squeezed. I shrieked.

He cut through the post like it was made of butter. I was free! I had my belly back! He left the room, having not said a word. I looked at my mom. She shrugged her shoulders.

I pulled the sparkly moon out of the top of my piercing. “Aw! I think I’ll put it in my jewelry box.”

“THROW. IT. AWAY.” My mother said.

The ring was removed in time. My belly had time to heal and the scar didn’t stretch out during my pregnancies. But I still think back wistfully to a time when I bought ten dollar jewelry and had no sense for quality merchandise.