I’ve recently witnessed parents (ordinarily mothers\) struggling with the decision of if and when to pierce their daughters’ ears. Having three daughters myself, and over their growing-up years having heard numerous parents’ points of view on the matter, I have a few observations to share.
Firstly, as regular readers can guess, I’m not wild about piercing in infancy for the purpose of marking girls’ gender. That aside, there are several good arguments in the site linked to above for doing so, and the same arguments apply to piercing boys’ ears, although with one exception, I don’t know any boys whose parents initiated piercing (the boy in question was three when I met him).
First of all, it appears that among a certain demographic, parents are loathe to pierce because they associate it with females adorning themselves in order to make themselves sexually appealing to males. While earrings were originally indisputably part of this adornment, what I’ve come to realize is that in our times, and especially among the five-to-ten set (the ages when girls start asking to pierce), earrings have largely lost this connotation. So while I fully understand parents’ discomfort with it, if this is your problem, own it, i.e., don’t hide behind “I’m making her wait until she’s X years old because then she’ll be able to care for them herself.”
Story: My mom and I got our ears pierced together in 1973. I was 13, she was 50. And guess what? We both needed assistance from others! My dad had to remove Mom’s piercers with pliers; meanwhile I went off to sleepaway camp where the counselor sent me to the camp nurse to get the piercers removed, that’s how impossible it was. I also came home a bloody mess because in 1973 no one was aware of nickel allergy and there were no nickel-free earrings, so you wore any garbage you bought at Kmart or at the mall. This is all to say that being “of age” to care for them didn’t help me; even being 100 years old wouldn’t’ve helped me.
So telling your kid you’ll let her pierce when she’s old enough to care for them is akin to telling your toddler that you won’t take her swimming until s/he’s able to apply sun protection herself. Swimming = non-essential recreation; earrings = non-essential Fun Thing. While it’s true that swimming is also an activity that has intrinsic value in that it is exercise and quality time, parents and kids can bond over earrings, yes, we can.
So, my two zuzim: Just do it as soon as they start asking, with the proviso that they can only wear hypoallergenic / nickel-free until their teens / bat mitzva. * You’re free to hold out, of course, if you like listening to kvetching and begging for months / years on end, until you deem your kid (really you yourself) “ready”. Have fun with that: You have been warned!
PS Anyone know why dads have such a visceral opposition to piercing? I’ve heard several men decry it as “mutiliation”, but never hear women doing so. Is this what they mean by inborn gender differences?
*Unfortunately, these are barely available in Israel. That’s where online shopping comes in. More and more stores ship to Israel, especially from the UK. If anyone knows differently, please let me know!