I pierced my belly button to look like Britney, and I’ve been hiding it ever since

It wasn’t meant ironically

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I’ve probably loved Britney Spears since the millennium party where some faceless family friend handed me Baby One More Time along with Now 47. A little early for a belly button piercing but I learnt from an early age dancing with your tummy out was the winning move.

I really just wanted to look like her, be like her and dance around my classroom with my sparkly navel flashing to all my friends whose mums were too tight to let them get one.

My sister had hers done, so my mum couldn’t refuse. It was my prerogativeLike the moment when your parents finally promise you can get a hamster, as long as you read up on the care books from the library, I poured over websites about belly care on our dial up connection.

Little b mostly makes her appearances on the beach

I knew I wanted a bar and not a ring, that I had to clean it with a cotton bud and rotate it every now and again. I saved up my 50p pocket money and circled flashy bars in the Argos catalogue.  The needle was the only bit that scared me as I sat at the back of a Goth clothing, piercing and tattoo shop. Blue Banana was the hot destination where everyone else got it done and, like my sister before me, I was strewn across a sticky black leather chair, the sacrificial seat.

Top hoisted up and gazing trustfully into a kohl eyed adult with a septum ring, I had to trust them. My belly was buzzing with nerves, fully aware of the oncoming incision. I breathed and imagined how this metal bar, soon to be a piece of me, would up my street cred. I didn’t realise it would then be the focus of my embarrassment for most of my teen years.

Belly piercing aged two and three quarters

They applied the numbing cream, reminiscent of my friend’s ultrasound. I can’t really remember the pain. I was upset my beautiful belly button was now blocked by a plaster, and as I pretended to listen to how to clean it while a woman passed me tea tree oil over the counter, I pictured myself in a Britney video. We’d be belly button buddies and pop princesses.

Unfortunately I think Blue Banana had subliminal messages in their numbing cream as I swiftly entered my Goth phase and Britney and belly bars just weren’t cool. Plus I really didn’t have Britney’s abs. Slightly doughy Goth suited my awkward years, so instead of buying a bar to match my every outfit, she stayed largely out of sight until crop tops made a comeback. I still don’t have Britney abs, I probably never will, but I’m a slave for the basic 90’s crop and jeans ensemble.

I tried to make it ironic by wearing bars with dollar signs, UV weed insignia – which worked a treat at raves – or my personal favourite, the Playboy bunny. But wearing cheap belly bars not only makes me look cheap – and to some people quite classic – they also made my navel ooze.

Infections are gross. Lines of puss can be squeezed out of it like a spot, it makes strange stains on all of your tops and then, in the healing phase, there would inevitably be some crusty bits which have to be carefully dabbed away. If you really want to see what it’s like hit up Google images – just don’t do it over breakfast.

Taking the belly bar out wasn’t an option. Every time I tried to let it go, it would look like an alien vagina and the skin gets kind of flappy. I generally just try and cover it with high-waisted jeans, but the bar always gets caught on the edge, pulling at my skin, dying to be seen.

Terrified it will be torn off by my trousers, I have to oddly adjust around it whenever sitting down because, as bad as a flappy hole is, a dangling strip of skin would be a lot worse. I’d have to continually hold it against me.

I now live in fear of my belly button: of another infection, of it getting ripped or of future suitors trying to nibble it – a true sign of a womanizer.

It’s really not sexy and my stomach will disappointingly never be the star feature of my outfit. These are probably the only photos in existence where you can see it because, even though we have been physically attached for eight years, I still don’t love my belly button as much as I love Britney.