Hold My Ear

Can I bend your ear for a minute? Actually, if you’d like, I can also twist it, punch it, kick it, and grind it into a wrestling mat. If you’re a physical contact avoiding Humanties major like me, whose only calloused body parts are the fingertips with which you hammer your laptop keyboard, the idea of having your ear turned into a vegetable probably sounds likes a net negative. But to some, the attaining of cauliflower ear is a combination rite of passage and badge of honor. The goal is not a little, harmless nibbling of the ear, nor a full Mike Tyson lobe-otomy, but rather a hard-earned collection of destroyed blood vessels and pus. Pain, injury, permanent disfigurement: all music to the ears. ESPN’s Ryan Hockensmith put his ear to the ground (softly) to report on the beautiful and grotesque honor of cauliflower ear. “When he was 8 years old, Bo Nickal went to his parents like so many little kids do. He figured out a major goal for himself. ‘I want cauliflower ear,’ he announced. A second-grader dreaming of permanently damaged ears would generate panic for most parents, but Nickal’s dad and mom, Jason and Sandy, are combat sports people. And for combat people cauliflower ear isn’t a lifelong injury. It’s a sign of a life well led. Bo’s dad had cauliflower ear. His dad’s dad had cauliflower ear. And his mom is a former amateur boxer who smiled with pride at her young son. It was like a kid saying he wanted to take over the family business someday.” I’m not sure it counts, but I’m still emotionally scarred from a wet willy I got in elementary school.

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