Who would have thought that a couple of tiny little holes, each no bigger than a single caviar egg, could cause so much upheaval in our family?
It all started when our daughter, Lauren, was ten years old. She came home from fourth grade one day, plopped her backpack down on the kitchen table and announced, "Mom, I'm going to get my ears pierced!”
I don't recall exactly how I responded. (I seem to recall the phrase, "over my dead body”, or something like that.) At any rate, I denied her request. But before you judge me as being too harsh, let me give you my reasons.
First of all, at age ten Lauren was still riding skateboards and digging forts in the nearby vacant lot. The only dress I could ever convince her to wear to school was her Girl Scout uniform, and even then she was likely to sneak a pair of cut-off denim shorts underneath. I still had to remind her to wash her hands and take a bath. At this point I had serious doubts that she would be responsible enough to handle the task of keeping newly pierced earlobes clean.
Second, I've never been particularly keen on the idea of pierced ears, even for myself. It probably goes back to the time I was in Junior High, when I sat on the bathroom floor and watched my older sister, Jeri get her ears pierced. The "attending physician” was her best friend, Susan, who at fourteen considered herself an expert on the task. To begin the procedure, Susan numbed Jeri's ear lobes with an ice cube. Then she took a raw potato and cut it in half, holding the cut edge against the back of Jeri's ear. A sewing needle (unsterilized, of course) was thrust through the lobe (one of which wasn't even numb yet) and into the potato. This barbaric scene and its accompanying horrific screams were like something straight out of Frankenstein's laboratory, and I never quite got over it.
And now here was my own daughter, pleading to have holes jabbed in her ears, too! So what did I do? I stalled, of course. I told her "Wait until you're twelve”, and then I patted myself on the back for solving the problem – at least for two more years.
But oh, what a two years it was. The subject of pierced ears was never out of Lauren's mind, even for a minute. In the mall we would pass a mother holding a baby girl not more than one month old, and the baby would already have teeny tiny gold studs in her earlobes. Naturally my daughter would give me a withering look that said, "See? Not every mom is as backward as you are!”
When Lauren was eleven, we attended the funeral of a dear friend of my mother's. At the end of the service, as we filed past the open casket to pay our final respects to Dorothy, Lauren took one look at the deceased and in a loud whisper wailed, "Look Mom, even she has pierced ears and she's DEAD!” All the way up the aisle Lauren sobbed. The other guests looked at her sweetly, thinking, "Now isn't that touching? A child so young, bearing up under so much grief.” Little did they know – she wasn't bearing up under grief. She was dishing it out!
At last the big day came. Rather than going to one of those "punch and run” kiosks at the mall, I elected instead to take our firstborn to the pediatrician to get those stupid holes drilled into her ears. It stung a little bit, as evidenced by the tears that crept into Lauren's eyes, and the cost stung a bit, too (about $90 for the five- minute procedure) as evidenced by the tears that crept into my husband's eyes when he got the bill. But it was worth it.
She dutifully swabbed her earlobes with alcohol twice a day, and "twirled” the studs to keep them from getting infected. She never had a moment's problem. And she's loved them ever since. In fact, just after her eighteenth birthday, she even had them "double pierced”.
As for my own lobes, I've managed to keep them respectfully intact, although I'll admit there were times when it wasn't easy – like back in the eighties, for instance, when everybody was wearing those cute little painted wooden earrings shaped like Santa Clauses or howling coyotes. I'd go into a department store to buy clip-ons (or "ear screws” as my grandmother called them), and the sales clerk would give me the same look that someone from the Best Buy Computer Geek Squad might give a customer asking to purchase a slide rule.
These days whenever I pass a jewelry counter I sometimes stop to gaze at the beautiful silver hoops, the lovely sparkly dangles, and the stunning diamond and pearl studs – and for a brief moment I'm tempted… But then I remember the ordeal with the raw potato, which usually snaps me back to my senses. After all, I need that like I need another hole in my head!