I was 16 years old when I borrowed a
friend's ID and marched myself into a tattoo parlor. I was there to get a belly
button ring. All my friends had them and I knew my dad would never consent, so
in a rare moment of teenage rebellion, I did it behind his back.
Of course, it became terribly infected
and by the end of the week my entire stomach was swollen and ringed in
red. I had to tell my dad, so really, the joke was on me. I had somehow
forgotten that my entire life I had been extremely sensitive to metals. There
was a reason I didn’t wear earrings or any other jewelry, and why I was forever
having to paint the buttons on my jeans in clear nail polish. A horrible
infection really should have been expected here.
But no one ever accused teenagers of
being smart. And at least this was one bad decision for whom I had no one but myself to
At 30, I still don’t wear jewelry, except on the rarest of occasions. Raised by my father and forever competing
with that sensitive skin, I just never developed much of a longing for bling.
I’m the girl you are more likely to find rocking yoga pants and a hoodie, wild
hair piled on top of my head and not a lick of makeup to be seen. Every piece
of jewelry I own fits in a sandwich baggy tucked away in my sock drawer. I would guess there is maybe a hundred
dollar value to the entire collection.
So it should surprise no one that
piercing my daughter’s ears is pretty low on my list of priorities. What has
been surprising, however, is how many people have seemed shocked by this decision.
Part of being a parent is accepting that everyone and their mother
(perhaps especially their mother) is going to have an opinion on how you
should be parenting your child. From diapering to feeding, everyone feels as
though they should have a say. They
know what’s best. They understand. They just hope you’ll listen.
This was something that was difficult for me to get used to in
becoming a mother. I had done my own research and come to my own decisions, so I wasn’t
exactly feeling warm and fuzzy towards all the unsolicited advice I received. Particularly
from those who seemed to be pushing something as inconsequential as ear
piercing. It baffled me.
Why we can’t just let babies be babies for a little while?
Now, for the record, I understand that this is a cultural thing
for many, and I don’t judge that. To each their own. When everyone you have
ever known is doing something, I get how you might not even think about doing
the same. And as disinterested as I am in the opinions of others when it comes
to parenting my own daughter, you should absolutely adopt the same attitude
towards my opinions here.
But for me, there was nothing cultural about it. Piercing her ears
would have been a purely vanity-driven action. It would have been about
showing the world that she was a girl; a permanent body modification done so
that I could look at my daughter with pride and say, “Isn’t she cute?”
Call me crazy, but I kind of felt like the same could be
accomplished with a headband.
And when I sat down and really thought about it, I couldn’t see
any good or logical reason to pierce her ears before she was old enough to show
an interest in actually having them pierced. Why would I want to push something
like that on my daughter? Why not let her decide for herself when she gets
older, recognizing that she may never
want her ears pierced? We live in Alaska, after all. Our lives are dictated by
fishing, hiking, camping and being outdoors. While I certainly have friends who wear earrings
and other jewelry, vanity isn’t really a big theme in our lives up here.
And let’s be honest, that really is what piercing a babies ears
comes down to: vanity.
Because, after all, how does a baby really benefit from having her ears pierced? The answer is, she
doesn’t. This is a choice that isn’t about the baby. It is about the parents.
About their desire to help their
little one conform to societal norms from an early age. Which, you know, whatever, do your thing! But I personally just don’t see the point.
Again, this may be because this just
isn’t a cultural thing for me. But I have to wonder why we can’t just let
babies be babies for a little while? Why push this societal need to be “pretty”
upon them with something so permanent when they are still so young? Before they
even get a chance to have a say for themselves?
I plan on raising a rough-and-tumble Alaskan girl. One who
spends her youth chasing after her friends and jumping in the lake or prompting
a snowball fight without warning; not one overly concerned about the bling
adorning her ears. The way I see it, there is plenty of time for that. I would
rather let her be a kid unconcerned with how “pretty” society deems her to be
for as long as possible.
Now, is there a chance that she will one day see the earrings
her aunties wear and ask to have some of her own? Absolutely. And should that day ever come, I will be there to hold her hand as
the holes are made. But then it will be her choice. Her responsibility.
And since these are her ears we’re talking about, isn’t that
kind of how it should be?