Dare to Ask: Baby, why are your ears pierced?
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why do some parents have their infant's ears pierced? Why risk the child
pulling her ears or getting an infection?
T., 20, female, Macomb, Ill.
I think it is just plain selfish to get an infant's ears pierced. That baby
does not come out of the womb saying, "Mummy, I do think that a dazzling pair of
earrings would go quite wonderfully with my onesie, don't you agree?"
Alaina R., 28, Cincinnati
When I was 6 months old, my mom pierced my ears because I had no hair and she
was tired of people saying "Oh, he is so cute" even though I was dressed in
pink. When taken care of properly, the piercing will not get infected.
S.S., female, Branchville, N.J.
My mother had my ears pierced when I was a baby and did the same thing with
my sister. I never thought about it like that, but I think most people do it
when their child is a baby to get it over with.
Cee, 20, female, Philadelphia
I asked an acquaintance this after she mentioned she pierced her baby's ears.
(I have tons of piercings and tattoos and I highly disagree with doing
unnecessary, non-consensual procedures like this.) She said she felt she should,
because her ears were pierced as a baby. Also, the mother could take care of
Stephanie, Newark, N.J.
Before we get to why it's done, let's quote from the Association of
Professional Piercers' official policy on piercing minors, from
www.safepiercing.org (plus since it's official-sounding and stuff, it allows us
to write about naughty bits in an official-sounding way):
"For any piercing of a minor, a parent or legal guardian must be present to
sign a consent form. Proof positive, state-issued photo identification is
required from the legal guardian, and a bona fide form of identification from
the minor. . . . Under no circumstances is it acceptable or appropriate for a
piercer to perform piercing on the nipples or genitals of an individual under 18
years of age."
Piercings for infant ears have been around in Hindu and Mesoamerican culture
for a long time, as a religious rite of passage or to distinguish gender early
Other cultures - say your typical Caucasian North American - jumped on the
bandwagon in more recent decades, said Christine Whittington, co-author of Body
Marks: Tattooing, Piercing and Scarification.
"It's become more popular, like any fad," said Whittington, who has a number
of piercings. "Earrings have been around for millennia. It's more natural to see
the body as a canvas."
Whittington herself is cautious about infant piercings.
"I wouldn't do it; I'd want my child to have a choice. . . . You should get a
piercing when you're old enough to request it without being asked, and are old
enough to observe the hygiene that's needed with it."
But, different pokes for different folks.
"Some parents . . . pierce the ears when young, so the infant won't remember
the pain," Whittington said.
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hear his
podcasts or watch his