My two four-year-old girly girls like to hang rubber bands and Christmas ornaments from their ears and pretend they’re earrings. (That’s H wearing some Christmas bell ornament “earrings” — and yes, she’s gorgeous, friends.) They barely speak English, yet they’ve already asked to have their ears pierced “like mommy.” When I wear a big pair of earrings, they call them “wonderful” and declare me “pretty.” So lately I’ve been thinking about what my rules are going to be when it comes to ear piercing for my daughters.
I had my ears pierced when I was 14, but I was clamoring to get it done before I hit my teen years. My mother wouldn’t allow it until I was old enough to take responsibility for caring for my own ears (and earrings). She also wanted me to be able to find my way around a mall to get it done: As a woman who has still never worn an earring, she wasn’t particularly interested in making it a mother-daughter bonding experience — but she also didn’t mind my having it done eventually.
My father, on the other hand, didn’t want me to ever do it, because he was studying acupuncture at the time, and apparently there’s an important acupuncture point on the ear lobe that he didn’t want me to mutilate. Fourteen-year-olds could care less about such things when vanity is on the line, of course, but it all came back to me when I started seeing an acupuncturist 10 years ago; I prayed I wasn’t doomed.
When I moved away from home to attend university, I discovered there were many girls who had their ears pierced much younger than I did, some even as — gasp! — babies. But I soon learned that cultural norms, beliefs about femininity and beauty, and family traditions went into such decisions. For some friends, it was no big deal — as soon as they asked for it, their mother or babysitter drove them somewhere to get it done. The more rebellious ones did it without telling their parents. And for others, it was a special birthday treat or “coming of age” gift.
There’s nothing in any cultural heritage our family observes that calls for early ear piercing, and I like my mom’s rule of needing to be able to take care for your own ears before getting it done. I also like the idea of making it a “coming of age” event — though I’m not sure what age that would be. Thirteen? Sixteen?
What’s your approach to this? At what age did you have your ears pierced? What rules did you set for ear piercing in your children? (I’m aware this is no longer a female beauty norm, and men and boys get their ears pierced, too.) I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Image: Zoe Saint-Paul