Last summer, when we announced to our family and friends that I was pregnant with a little girl, my husband and I got an outpouring of excitement and support from our family and friends. I'd been a boy mom for seven years at the time and everyone who knew me was well aware of my yearning to complete our family with a little girl and to no longer be outnumbered by boys in our home. Because I'm pretty much as girly as it gets, I spent my entire pregnancy dreaming of everything frilly, glittery, and pink for our little baby-to-be, but even in the midst of all my excitement, I knew there was one thing I wouldn't ever do to my daughter's body without her permission: I won't let her get her ears pierced before she can make that decision on her own.
In addition to all the excitement from all of our loved ones, we also had lots of questions come our way: "Where will she sleep?" (Because we live in a tiny New York City apartment.) "Will you baby-wear to get up and down the subways steps?" "How will you manage when you use a stroller?" "What’s your birth plan?" They were the typical questions everyone asks a pregnant person living in a major city, but one question totally surprised me: "Will you get her ears pierced right away?"
I found it quite odd that so many people were asking us this question. I don’t know if it stemmed from the fact that I exuded so much feminine energy that they assumed I'd go all the way and have someone pierce her ears as soon as she exited my womb, but it definitely got me thinking.
I remember whenever I was 6 years old and wanted nothing more than to get my ears pierced as my birthday present from my parents. It was pretty much all I talked about starting the month before my birthday, and I counted down the days until my sixth birthday weekend when we could go to the mall and I would complete (what I felt at the time) my right of passage as a girl.
I stood in line at The Piercing Pagoda (remember those?), chose a pair of gold ball studs that were 14-karat gold and super shiny, and I waited as patiently as I could until it was my turn, palms sweating, to walk past the gate and into “the chair.” Unfortunately for me, the man ahead of me in line to get his ear pierced (he already had one ear done) jumped up high out of his seat, hands flailing in the air right after the piercing gun went through his ear. His reaction was enough to ruin my excitement.
To be honest, his reaction was it for me. I decided right then and there that my sixth would not be the day I'd get my ears pierced, and I promptly decided we needed to leave the mall immediately. “Are you sure?” my mom asked me, “I don’t want you to leave the mall and regret not doing it, but it’s your body and your choice. You just let me know what you want to do, OK?”
But I'd already decided: I just wasn’t ready to get my ears pierced. I could feel it in my gut. I remember walking away, both disappointed because I'd been looking forward to the milestone so much and also thrilled because I felt like I'd made my first big-girl decision all on my own about what was right for me.
Some people might think that it’s a small issue, it's not. It's a huge, powerful, important lesson to teach my little girl that it’s her body and her choices and that she holds the power to make decisions for herself.
Two weeks later though, I decided I wanted to go back to the mall and have my ears pierced. Sure enough, those gold studs were sitting exactly where I'd left them, waiting for me. I know that the decision was mine to make all along, but something about returning to the mall, knowing that I wanted to get my ears pierced because it was something I wanted to do to my body made all the difference. So I sat in that chair with all the confidence in the world, overflowing with pride for my choice.
So during my pregnancy, when people were so insistent on asking me if I was going to take my baby — someone who had zero control over what was happening to her body, and zero influence on the decision making — to get her ears pieced, that pivotal moment from my childhood stood out to me. While some people might think that it’s a small issue, it's not. It's a huge, powerful, important lesson to teach my little girl that it’s her body and her choices and that she holds the power to make decisions for herself.
This issue is so much bigger than ear piercing, really. Right from the beginning, parents need to help their daughters learn how important it is to make decisions all on their own. As a woman, I know that there are going to be so many bigger decisions in life than getting your ears pierced, but I’m so thankful my mom helped me work through that one and helped me to realize it was my choice to make whenever I was ready to make it. In the moment it seemed so small, but it really helped lay the groundwork for me to develop future decision-making skills.
Today, my daughter is 6 months old, and there is absolutely no way I'll budge on this issue one bit. Her body. Her decision. Her choice. Period.
And whenever she is old enough to take note of what ear piercing even is and shows interest in having it done, we'll open the table for discussion and I'll gladly take her.