Coffee Chatter: Ear Piercing and Other Rites of Passage

“Mommy?”  Bugaboo stands on tip-toes, head back so her nose just barely peaks over the edge of my jewelry box on the dresser.  She reaches in and picks up a long, dangly earring, the kind I haven’t worn in years. She grasps it by the hook and holds it up;  dropping back on her heels she twists it between a chubby thumb and pointer, and watches as the light makes it sparkle.


I smile and remember doing the same in my mother’s room.  I remember the marvel I felt running my fingers across her jewels, how little it mattered that most were fake, the fake ones sparkled best.  I remember the desire I felt as I held each bangle to my own neck or ear, how in my mind those treasures could at once transform me from girl to woman.

“Mommy?”  Bugaboo questions, an earring held to each lobe, “Can I get my ears pierced?”

“Some day,” I answer, I return the earrings to the box and pull out the sheet of stick-on ones we bought together at Claire’s.  I brush back her hair and gently press one onto each unmarred lobe.  Immediately her shoulders square and her chin lifts; she shakes back her curls and slowly turns her head side-to-side admiring her new look.

Watching her I know these earrings have a power  far beyond adornment. And I understand more fully, perhaps for the first time, what my parents meant when they told me ear-piercing was a rite of passage, something they reserved for my adolescence.  Until then, I always believed my folks put too much importance on those little holes; their rule seemed excessive and outlandish, but watching Bug I see,  like lipstick and high heels, shaved legs and pantyhose, the rite is less about the small physical change and more about the internal one.  It is an invitation for a girl to move from mimicking and pretending womanhood to participating in it.  Such an invitation should be neither offered nor accepted lightly.

“How old do I have to be?” She prods.  “Maybe on my birthday, when I turn six?  Some girls in my class already have theirs pierced!”

I don’t have an answer for her question, or her assertion.  I know some parents are more permissive on this issue than I’m inclined to be, and I also know she won’t get her ears pierced when she’s six.  What I don’t know is what age will feel appropriate.

What do you think? Grab a cup of coffee and chat with me in the comments section below!

At what age did you let or will you let your girl pierce her ears?  Why then?  Do you view it as a rite of passage?  Am I over-thinking it?

I’d love to know your opinion!  Let me know in the comments section, and I’ll respond as soon as I can!


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10 thoughts on “Coffee Chatter: Ear Piercing and Other Rites of Passage

  1. Inimini says:

    In the Philippines our mothers have our ears pierced a few days after birth. I was told it was a way to tell the difference in gender.

  2. Kelsie says:

    I just went through a transitional time and I’m considering piercing my ears for the second time to symbolically show what I’ve gone through. I don’t know if that helps or not but I thought I’d mention 🙂 sometimes our beliefs link back to past lives, so I’m sure my choice has something to do with being taught rites of passage from a past life. I don’t think it’s a bad belief because I’m not over the top about it.

  3. myfullcup says:

    My oldest was 12.5 and my youngest was 10. They hadn’t asked before then. My intent was to wait until they asked and could pay for it themselves. As it turns out, the ear piercings were gifts from their grandparents.

  4. val says:

    This is going to be long.
    Thank you so very much for this entry. I feel the same way about it being a rite of passage, and this is coming from someone whose ears were pierced before age 2.
    At first I got a moderate amount of flack for not piercing my daughters ears when she was an infant. Various reasons were hurled at me. “It’s easier to clean them on a baby, and they won’t mess with them.” “I had mine done at the hospital before we left.” “You’ll do it when people say “he’s so cute.”

    It’s a cultural thing since she’s latino on one side and Italian on the other, so it’s just automatically done. I even had someone give me a pair of diamond earrings at her baptism with the message “maybe this will compel you to pierce her ears.” UGH!!
    For me it’s lot more than a simple act that you do to your child because it’s “cute.”
    1. I don’t feel like it’s my right to pierce her body for such trivial reasons. She will get to an age and decide if she wants it. It won’t happen right then, but at least it will be her choice.
    2. Why don’t little girls have rites of passages anymore? Earrings at birth, toddlers in bikinis, makeup before they’re 5.?
    3. I feel she looks perfect in all of her non decorated state. She has the rest of her life to decorate herself.
    4. If we’re honest, worrying about people thinking your child isn’t a girl because he ears aren’t pierced or she’s not head to toe in pink is plain asinine.

    So I’m with you, and I thank you again for this entry.

  5. Staci says:

    I was 5 when I had my ears pierced. I still vividly remember the excitement and anticipation. And the smile so big that it made my cheeks sore. I was able to clean them myself and did not have any problems.

    I allowed my daughter to have her ears pierced at 5 as well. She had been asking and in my opinion was ready. No problems with her either.

    You will know when your daughter is ready. And if you aren’t ready at the same time as her, then you will have to decide if you compromise or if what you say goes – because you are the mom and that is our right. 🙂

  6. Lothea says:

    My mom allowed me to get my ears pierced at 4…but understand it was a bribe to get me to stop sucking my thumb. However, my parents did not want me messing with the earrings, so they got a set with locking backs.

    One day, the left earring was on to tight and it was really hurting me. So I asked my daycare lady to loosen it a bit. She has, apparently, never seen earrings with locking backs before, and instead of pinching it to unfasten it…she pulled. Hard. Really Hard. So hard that she ripped the earring out of my ear. I had to get stitches to close the wound, and the other hole closed up, and I was so traumatized, I didn’t get my ears re-pierced until I was 14.

    However…I did stop sucking my thumb.

  7. Rebecca Nunciato says:

    I was seven. My mom and I went together. She had hers done too. I remember it vividly. I was old enough to care for them myself. I dont think there was much thought beyond that. I have thought for my own daughter that having her old enough that it is special and memorable. Instead of doing it when she was a baby. But I dont have a specific age in mind.

  8. Beth Crane says:

    For me it was definitely double digits. Cait had her ears pierced at about age 12. It was a coming if age ritual for us. I thought then and still do now that it’s important to set aside se experiences that are special to adolescence. Children race towards more and more experiences that were formerly for more mature stages. This was one I held back so make a space for my beautiful daughter to step into as she grew from a child to a young woman.

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