A Piercing Double Standard

by paige on March 30, 2011

THE ROCK, AKA my sweet daughter, turned 6 last week. She asked for a simple gift, but her request turned our family on our collective ear.

More than one of my daughter’s kindergarten girlfriends have pierced ears, and she’s anxious to join the club. I have no problem with piercing, ears anyway. My own were pierced for my seventh birthday, causing no end of ire directed towards my own indulgent mama. She still remembers classmates’ moms calling her, horrified at her letting me blaze that particular trail.

The Rock is drawn to all thing sparkly, so the more jewelry the better is her motto. Why wouldn’t she want her ears adorned? All was well with her request, which she made driving home one afternoon from school, until her brother joined the conversation.

“I want to pierce my ears.” This is also no surprise: the kid wants to be a rock star, and as he plays two instruments, was Gene Simmons for Halloween, and sports the coolest wardrobe in the 4th grade (think skinny jeans and rock ‘n roll T shirts,) I think he’s on his way. I’m good with his alt-ambitions, just as I’d be fine if he developed a passion for accounting. (He’s a math whiz, too.) But the ear piercing request, coming from him, stopped me short.

Mind you, when I met my husband, he had long hair and an earring in each ear. He’s cut the hair shorter and shorter over the years, and hasn’t worn an earring since, oh, 1999, but there are no knee-jerk macho reactions to pierced male ears happening in this family. So why my hesitation? Why did I tell my kid we’d have to think about it a bit before signing him up for the needle, too?

I realized that what made me hesitate was my fear of what others would say about an ear-pierced 9 year old boy. We live in a very tolerant community, by and large, where the prevailing ethos is either “It’s all good”, or, for the more conservative, “Mind your own beeswax.” But what about outside our little small town bubble? As I said to my husband, the first kid at camp who made fun of my kid for wearing earrings would have to deal with one enraged mama bear–not a pretty scenario. And so, I took a deep breath and started to explain, with a kind of heavy heart, the idea of a double standard, the idea that yes, it is sometimes different for boys and girls. As the daughter of a first-wave feminist (ERA marches, anyone? Oh, yeah, I was there in 1978) this was anathema to me.

My son, though hardly pleased, understood my concerns, and agreed to revisit the issue in a couple of  years. He has yet to give up on the idea of shaving his gorgeous locks into a mohawk…though we’ve tabled that one until at least high school. What say you, sisters? Have you ever felt yourself betraying your own beliefs to protect your kid? Did I do the right thing? I don’t know; I’m still waiting for my copy of the handbook.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

marionroach March 30, 2011 at 3:35 pm

When you get the handbook, do please scan it and send it along. Love this.

Lori N March 31, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Ah yes, how to respond to these little requests. I think I would handle the piercing request the same as you did. However, we have both let T shave his head bald and wear what we termed as a faux-hawk. (In fact, Dad held the razor both times.) It was a little shocking for me, but if I’m going to preach the attitude of “no big deal”, I have to live it too…at least as it concerns hair. We also figured we’d let him do it while he was younger — and it was kind of adorable. :) (btw, he decided not to cut his hair like that again for a while because he didn’t like all of the comments he was receiving — and they were all positive!)

Dan Shaw April 1, 2011 at 8:16 am

All children should be so lucky to have mothers as thoughtful as you, Paige. I think explaining that there are double standards and hypocrisies in the world is important.

Debbie April 3, 2011 at 10:03 pm

When you get the handbook, please pass a reference along. I did solve the issue of the mohawk with our son by allowing him to sport a mohawk for a day once a year. Every year for three or four years, just after school was out for summer, my husband took him for a haircut. He wore the mohawk, yes, even in public, for twenty-four hours, then returned to the barber shop for a summer buzz cut. Thankfully, he has outgrown the mohawk phase and moved on to a surfer persona. I like the long curls, especially when they have blond highlights in the summertime.

Wendy April 4, 2011 at 7:12 am

I think explaining it was a good idea, but after that, it could be up to him to decide if he wants to go through with it or not. My niece and nephew both just shaved their heads (8 and 4 years old- and granted it was to raise money to fight childhood cancer), and they’re having to deal with the fact that people are always going to be judgmental about appearances when we don’t conform. And it’s always up to us as to how to respond. While their reaction isn’t within our power, our reaction always is. And that’s a good life lesson.

Joanna April 4, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Hi Paige, gosh yes, these things, they jump up at us and nibble at our heals don’t they. My girls have all had to wait until they are old enough to be able to make ‘life-long’ decisions. That’s how we’ve done it. I liked having my ears pierced as a kid, but now wish i hadn’t. Anything that is going to leave a permanent scar or hole or mark should be (as you have done) seriously considered. Well done!

hilary April 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm

great post! alas i have no wisdom. but if any fourth grader could pull of pierced ears it is Jordan.

Sheila Cameron April 10, 2011 at 3:01 am

I’m still trying to recover from Layla getting told by class mates she couldn’t wear Toy Story pull ups to preschool because they were for boys. It was a very sad and angry day.

Leave a Comment