A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

C for Choice

Posted by Pepper on April 3, 2019

A few days after CottonCandy were born, people started presenting us with an imminent question. When are we going to get Candy’s ears pierced? After all, our culture deems it necessary for baby girls to get their ears pierced. Almost all women have pierced ears. It is the norm and it was universally assumed by all that we would get the ear piercing done soon.

I hadn’t given this much thought. Like the rest of the world, I assumed we would do this once Candy was a few months old. When I discussed the idea with Mint, I realised he was vehemently against the idea of piercing her ears. He said we should not do any piercing on her body just because it was a cultural norm. This had to be entirely her choice.

I am surprised I hadn’t predicted this line of reasoning from him. I should have. I mean, I know my husband is a feminist. And heΒ never does anything without giving it thought. Doing something because the world does it never works for him.

But I wanted to get her ears pierced, simply because baby girls look so cute with earrings and studs in their ears. When I said this to him, he seemed more offended. Are you saying she doesn’t look cute enough without earrings? Are you saying she needs a piece of jewelry in order to look her best?

He insisted this had to be her choice. Piercing was a permanent modification. He said our little girl had to get complete autonomy of her body right from the time she was born. Nobody would touch her unless she wanted it. If and when she was slightly older and did indeed want to get her ears pierced, then we would go ahead and get it done for her.

So I made another argument. That it is apparently more painful when you do it at a later age. And the odds of her wanting her ears pierced are far greater than the odds of her not wanting her ears pierced. So if she is going to make that choice anyway, why not make things simpler for her by doing it now when she is not conscious of the pain. Also, in the scenario that we did get her ears pierced now and she didn’t want it, she could always leave it alone and the piercing would close in no time. Fair enough?

Nope, he said. The piercing would leave a permanent scar. And why would we subject her to any kind of pain, keeping in mind the possibility that she may not have chosen it? Even if it was slightly more painful at a later age, we would make her aware of what it would entail and she could really choose whether or not the pain was worth it.

I wasn’t convinced by him. He wasn’t convinced by me. I told him I was a parent and I had some say. He told me was a parent too and had equal say. Since we couldn’t see eye to eye, we decided to take a month off and think about each other’s points of view.

In this time, I decided to read up and find as much information about this subject as I could. I tried to understand how society shapes our ideas of ‘beauty’. To my surprise, the more I read up, the more I began to see and even agree with Mint’s perspective.

Other than it being a matter of choice, it looked like it was also considered a matter of safety, of lack of it rather. I read stuff like ‘Β many parents and caregivers easily forget that any cosmetic piercing carries inherent dangers and health risks‘ Some were even petitioning to make the practice illegal and calling it physical abuse and child cruelty. What? I think using those words was a bit too strong. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also did not support this cosmetic procedure done on infants and called it ‘unnecessary’. I’m not going to link up to all the articles I read, but if you are interested in reading more about this, look for ‘infant ear piercing’.

By the end of it, I decided it was safer and more logical to go with what Mint wanted. Unlike most Indian baby girls, Candy does not have her ears pierced. Maybe one day when she asks us for earrings, we will tell her that the procedure could be painful and if she still wants it, we will get it done for her. It’s really going to be about giving her a choice. But as of now, our little girl still looks just as cute without earrings.

PS: Usual disclaimer – Ear piercing like most other things is a personal choice and I do not judge any parent who made or wishes to make this choice for their children. I was that parent a little while ago. This post is only about our experiences and thoughts.

22 Responses to “C for Choice”

  1. Deboshree said

    Super post! I can’t help agreeing with the varying POVs that you and Mint have. It will be less painful to do it now and chances are she will like it anyway. But how can we assume? Parenting does present so many challenges, no?

  2. Jayanti Dutta said

    Kudos to you two. My Mum decided not to get my ears pierced until I was old enough to decide it for myself. This transpired at an age of 12 for me, and I was so excited to get it done, I didn’t mind the pain at all! And I am sure, things are even less painful nowadays considering this was Kolkata in mid 1990s I am talking about. Candy is going to love you for it – and who knows, maybe Cotton will want it too!

    • Pepper said

      Wow, that’s impressive to have been given a choice back then. Respect to your mom!
      And yes! We had the same thought. That once they are grown up, both Cotton and Candy may want it. It will be fair to give him the choice as well.

  3. Ah! I love what Mint had to say here πŸ™‚ Because the Dude absolutely refused to consider piercing Zo’s ears too! Especially when she was little, because poor, poor baby! And we wanted to wait until she had a say in it.

    And guess what, she did! Sooner than you’d expect maybe, at 4 and half years of age, when she came back clearly demanding that we get her ears pierced, because she wanted earrings like her friends did. And I explained to her that it would be painful, and she said she wanted it anyway. So we got it done, and man, she was brave! Not one complain cause it was she who wanted it πŸ™‚

    • Pepper said

      Wow, that sounds awesome. I just pictured Candy asking for it and getting her ears pierced around 4 or so. I have also heard from several others that the kids don’t complain too much of pain when they are the ones who want it done. I know, I got my 2nd and 3rd ear piercing done at 18 and it was barely painful. One minute and done. Did you guys use a piercing gun too?

      • Yep! Went for the gun – the traditional way seemed a bit long drawn – the shot hurt, but it subsided in sometime. πŸ™‚

        • Pepper said

          Yes, the thought of the traditional process really scares me. I was curious though, cos a lot of folks around me insist that the gunshot doesn’t allow you to wear any earrings which have a big stem. Guess it doesn’t matter though.

  4. Ashwathy said

    Wow. I was completely on your side of the argument but by the time I finished reading your post, I am beginning to understand Mint’s POV. It makes sense. We are just so conditioned to one side of it that we automatically go ahead with it. I still don’t know what side I would take the day I have a daughter. But the arguments made by Mint are truly applaud-worthy.

    • Pepper said

      I’m just glad I was made to pause and think. Had it not been for him, I would have gotten it done without thought and that may not have been the best decision.

  5. yaadayaada said

    Ear piercing is the easiest of these decisions. What about dental procedures, vaccinations? Parenting is complicated!

    • Pepper said

      Vaccinations are a medical necessity so there are no decisions to be made around those. Anything that has a medical benefit can be justified in my head. It becomes complicated if it is done only for cosmetic reasons, like ear piercings. Dental procedures, even if cosmetic, come at a later age when the child is grown enough to have an opinion.So that makes it easier.

      • yaadayaada said

        I agree. But there are some optional vaccinations like HPV for girls which are very confusing to decide on. Little easier with a child who has opinions and it falls on parents when the child hasn’t formed opinions.

  6. The Bride said

    Yay that you’re writing again, though if anyone has an excuse for not writing, it’s you as a parent of twins.

    I never expected to feel strongly about earirngs until I became a parent, but I then was adamantly against them. If I’m honest, with the hundreds of things to do with babies, I couldn’t be bothered with one purely ornamental thing that could become a problem. I know as many people who had problems with festering ears than those that didn’t.

    But as the hubby, helper and the odd aunty kept pushing for it, I also realised that it’s just one more unnecessary thing to mark out little girls as girls. My principle is if we do it for Mimi, why not Nene?

    Anyway, I insist that they get it done when they are old enough to handle any complications, same as with a tattoo. They both fall into unnecessary body piercing category.

    • Pepper said

      I agree fully. I know enough people with festering ears too, especially babies who tugged and ended up with infected lobes. I still chose to not dwell on this because, oh, I thought earrings looked cute. I see the stupidity in that now..

  7. metherebel said

    Firstly, can Mint please get an applause?! I guess both of you are correct in your own way!

  8. renxkyoko said

    I had my ears pierced just before entering freshman year in college.

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