Rite of passage

February 4, 2008 | family, Original NSS

shapeimage_3Olivia had her ears pierced yesterday, without so much as a whimper or tear. This momentous occasion was as big a deal for me as it was for her. Back when I was a girl, I desperately wanted my ears pierced, but my mother ruled that I could not wear little gold studs in my ears until I reached the age of 12. I never did figure out what made earrings acceptable at 12 when they were not acceptable at 11, but I gladly and quietly acquiesced, knowing that things could be much worse. Her age requirements for dating, nail polish, leg-shaving, and the most minimalist make-up (even for proms) were verging on Victorian.

As far as she was concerned, earrings and nail polish in any color but “clear” were the markings of a hussy. And I didn’t even dare mention ankle bracelets or bikinis. My sister and I declared that we would not subject our girls to similar restrictions, within reason. I did push Olivia’s request for earrings off for about a year, but that had to do with concerns about hygiene and potential infections rather than fears that she would be labeled the class tramp.

So we traipsed up to the mall to Libby Lu, where they cater to little girls who cry when they get a vaccination from the doctor but are willingshapeimage_2-2 to let teen-agers shoot earrings through their tender lobes. Olivia sat in the chair stoically, later telling me that she was thinking of other things, like cookies. The teen-ager in charge marked Olivia’s ears with a pen to try to keep things even, but I had them erase and remark her ears three times because things looked uneven from where I was standing. Finally, the moment of truth. They distracted her a bit, lined up their guns and fired away. She didn’t even flinch. She practically floated out of the store minutes later with her pink certificate and bottle of ear cleanser.

To this day I remember going to get my ears pierced with my Aunt Louise, who gave me the earrings and piercing as a confirmation gift. I know that Olivia, too, will remember this day fondly, thinking back to all of us standing around her, cheering her on, and then going out for hot chocolate and cookies afterward. She will remember coming home and calling her best friend and taking a self-portrait (at right) with the computer camera.

I suppose it’s possible that one day she’ll look back and think I was out of touch for making her put this event off until the ancient age of 7, but I’m hoping the more likely scenario is that she will look back and remember a mom who celebrated this as an exciting and harmless rite of passage. Now, tongue studs and eyebrow rings are another matter entirely. Here’s hoping they have long passed out of fashion by the time the thought crosses her mind.

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