I received my first tattoo on my 18th birthday. I went to the DMV, traded my driver’s permit for a state-issued ID card, and headed to a tattoo parlor in a strip mall — one that did piercings on the side and was nestled between a Chinese restaurant and a Dunkin’ Donuts.
I would like to say I had some grand plan, or even that I wanted something cool, but no. No, I simply wanted a tattoo because my mother didn’t want me to have one. Go figure.
I spent several minutes scrolling through flash images because several minutes is an adequate amount of time to make a major life decision, right? (For those not in the know, flash is pre-drawn and, generally, stereotypical imagery — think cherries, skulls, and cartoon characters.) When a large man, bearded and burly, asked me if I needed help, I froze. I told him I wanted a tattoo and pointed to the first image I saw: a black cross with a yellow rose wrapped around it.
He tried to talk me out of it because 1) I wasn’t religious — at all! — and 2) I asked him to place it on the small of my back. You know the spot, about an inch above your buttcrack, where your low-rise jeans reside. The spot only others see when you are prancing around in your panties, a two-piece bikini, or…well, you know. (But before you judge too harshly, this was years before the utterly degrading term “tramp stamp” was coined, so no, I don’t have a tramp stamp, just a stupid lower back tattoo.)
Since that time, however, I have acquired several more modifications. In fact, I have become something of a body modification addict, i.e., I have 14 body piercings and more tattoos than I can count, since one piece melds into the next. But you know what? No matter how many piercings I get or tattoos I acquire, I’m still not getting my daughter’s ears pierced.
Yup, that’s right. The girl with the half-shaven head, wild-colored hair, and overall badass appearance isn’t shoving jewelry through her toddler’s ears.
Before my daughter could sit or crawl, I had numerous family members ask when I would be piercing her ears, or they would express their shock I hadn’t done it yet. “But I thought you would be all about piercing her ears. I mean, with all your piercings and tattoos…” they’d say.
Many of these same individuals also asked me my parenting policy on tattoos and hair color, which to be clear, are two very different things. While I could have answered snarkily, told them it was none of their goddamn business, or told them I was planning to take my toddler for an Elmo tat on her 3rd birthday, I informed them that piercing my daughter’s ears was not on my radar, at all, and it wasn’t something I planned to do.
What seemed like a no-brainer to them — I had modifications so of course my daughter would — is precisely the reason my daughter doesn’t have any. Only she can decide what she wants to do with her body, and that decision comes with age, maturity, and language skills, not motherly intervention.
But it’s just her ears. When I was a kid my mother pierced them in the kitchen with a sewing needle and thread (and in some cases, an ice cube).
While the piercing in question is “just my daughter’s ears,” they are her ears, and hers alone. Piercing my daughter’s ears before she can decide if she wants them pierced would do her no good and actually create a potential problem, and one which I see as the biggest problem with infant/toddler piercing: the issue of consent.
You see, all of my own modifications were my choice. Did I make stupid choices? Yes, but they were my stupid choices.
If my daughter comes to me at 6 or 8 or even 10 and tells me she wants her ears pierced, I will educate her and then gladly accompany her to the nearest APP (Association of Professional Piercers) shop. But I will not force piercing on her, nor will I decide for her. I will not permanently modify her for my own vanity because — let’s face it — piercing her ears would be self-serving, since it is neither a cultural consideration (for me) nor medically beneficial, and I will sure as shit not pierce her ears to save her from some perceived amount of pain that is no worse than a bee sting.
So while small CZ studs may be shiny and cute, they won’t make her happy, at least not right now. That’s what Cheerios, Mickey Mouse, more Mickey Mouse — aka Minnie — Cookie, and Elmo are for.