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Monday, November 3, 2008

Socially Acceptable Body Mutilations, A.K.A. Pierced Ears

If God wanted us to have holes in our ears, we would have been born that way!

In the Bible, ear piercing is a sign of slavery! (See Devarim (Deuteronomy) 15:16-17)

When I discovered that my father was against piercing your ears, that was OK with me. I did not really want anyone putting unnecessary holes in my body. (Little did I know....)

Over time, I acquired a pretty nice collection of clip-on earings.

I was proud to have unpierced ears.

And then.... betrayal!

My daughter wanted pierced ears.

"You can make that decision for yourself, when you are eighteen," I declared, just as my parents told my sister, repeatedly, every time she asked for pierced ears.

My daughter persisted.

In an effort to placate her, I lent her (and her sister), my clip-on earings.

For a while, I thought I had succeeded.

I was pleased that they were using my earings. Even though they lost several pair, I thought it was worth it if they would lose interest in piercing their ears.


Much to my chagrin, my daughter continued to beg for permission to pierce her ears. (This made me quite sorry that I lent them my earings, since it is IMPOSSIBLE to find clip-on earings anymore, and I cannot replace the ones they lost!)

This summer, I discovered that my daughter had a powerful ally.

One bright, sunny day, my sister pulled me aside. I thought she was about to share with me some super secret. With the greatest air of sharing confidences, she quietly suggested that... I let Y pierce her ears before school starts. Woah! Y is only 14!! She is not even close to turning 18!

My sister, ever so gently, suggested that I do not really want to make my daughter wait that long.

"No way!" I told my sister.

My sister was not so easily deterred.

Over the next several weeks, my sister cajoled me, little by little, wearing down my resistance.

She assured me that my daughter would not "grow out" of her interest in pierced ears. She explained just how much she resented not having pierced ears when she was a kid. And she described how appreciative my daughter would be, if I relented.

I stuck to my guns, and school started with no bodily mutilations.

But my sister did not let it go.

"OK, we missed the beginning of school. But think how nice it would be if she got her ears pierced before Rosh HaShannah...."

"I don't want her to pierce her ears," I repeated, but my arguments were beginning to sound weak, even to me.

I love my daughter. In some ways, she is a lot like me. But not in all ways.

Unlike me, my daughter really is a "girly girl." She is like my sister. She is "into" clothes; she likes shopping, she likes nail polish, she wants to use make up. (My other daughter is the same way, btw).

What can I say? I was never interested in those things. Neither was my mother. But my sister was.

I do not really understand that facet of my daughter's personality. But my sister does.

So, despite my strong facade, I listened when my sister explained how important earings can be to a teenager, and how the desire for pierced ears will only grow stronger, and she will get them anyway, and quite possibly resent me for preventing her from piercing her ears earlier.

I listened.

I recognized the truth of her words.

I resisted.

I reflected.

I wished things were different.

I started noticing who did not have pierced ears.

A lot of my friends and acquantances do not have pierced ears. (As a group, we are a statistical anomaly)

I started asking these unpierced women, "Did you want pierced ears in high school?"

They all answered the same.


I could not ignore the evidence.

I had to ask myself, 'if my daughter is going to pierce her ears anyway, what advantage is there to making her wait until 18?'

I had no good answer.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,


Anonymous said...

wait until your son asks....

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

Arnie - ROTFL

RivkA - My mom got her ears pierced AFTER I did. But I think piercing my ears was her idea, so I don't have much wonderful wisdom for you on this issue. I will tell you that for my girls the decisor (and this is IMPORTANT) is that they will take care of their hygiene. Ears get infected. If they cannot take proper care of their ears while the hole is healing, and afterwards, they are not ready to have pierced ears.

E got her ears pierced at 12. She was not ready. The holes closed. We repierced them at some point. I don't remember when.

Having said that, know that I personally never got infections as a teenager. But E gets them and then has to deal with them. They HURT.

Now daughter #2 is lobbying, and I have said that I will let her on her 11th birthday - so as not to tie it in with bat mitzvah. This is an idea someone else gave me.

Daughter #3, who is only 4.5, has friends with pierced ears and she is the loudest lobbier. I'm not even considering it. We will wait.

Dear Husband has nothing to say, because his girls wouldn't listen anyway.

And RivkA, while I have your attention, know that I'm still waiting to finish that phone conversation!


Anonymous said...

Hmm...I think the issue is really one of responsibility. They need to be cleaned and taken care of lots in the beginning. If she is responsible around the house, and you feel that she will be responsible, then I think it is okay. I can't remember how old I was, but it was definitely high school, and I didn't want it any earlier. (I actually have two holes in one ear...my dad and I split a pair--really!)

Good luck

Noa said...

Getting the first pair was no big deal - i think I was 8 or 9 (and I took care of them myself). However, my mom drew the line at the double piercing (which is what everyone had). Once I left home (at the age of 16) the first think I did was get a double piercing. In one ear. Then shortly after I got 3 in one ear! Then I decided to match them up.

14 seems old enough to me to be responsible for keeping them clean. I'm still trying to understand your aversion to them, though.

Unknown said...

My mother does not have her ears pierced.....and i wasn't allowed to until i was 14 after extreme lobbying. My dad took me to get them pierced. That all being said, ear MOST WOMEN have their ears pierced and it seems a little cruel not to let your daughter get hers as well..it's really not a big deal...not anymore than wearing any other type of jewelry--and of all the fights you can have with your daugther--this isn't one I would wage. For the record, I really wanted that second hole which the parents forbid and I DID grow out of that desire.......

mother in israel said...

My mother had hers pierced as a child, and regretted it. My older sister's are pierced, and my brother made fun of her, which is one reason I never did it. My husband's sisters ears aren't pierced either, although many of my nieces' ears are. My daughter 14 isn't interested, esp. after I told the story in her hearing of my sister's daughter who thought it was too icky to turn the new earrings, and had to go to the doctor to get them out.But I don't think I would make her wait until she was 18.

Anonymous said...

my mom had my ears pierced when i was 6 months old. sometimes i wear earrings, and sometimes i don't - but never had a problem with infections or closing holes - and i've gone for months without wearing any.
my extended family was shocked that i didn't take my daughter as a baby, and waited until she was a bit older and asked for it and could be more responsible (at 5 or 6 though - she had asked earlier and we waited a bit)

Anonymous said...

ok, first off, you want to get bible quotes right:-)if you're not interested in bible referances, skip down:
- getting your ear nailed to the door post only applied to male slaves who didn't want to leave.
also i believe that women having peirings (ears, nose etc) was commonly referred to in the bible
- eleizer brought a variety of jewelry (i think ear/nose rings too) as a dowry gift for RIVKA (who was how old?),
- and the women of israel used their jewels (again the whole variety) for adornment to "seduce" their husbands in egypt and later as a donation to the building of the mishkan (which Moses wants to refuse and gets rebuked by God for the above reason),
- and while we're at it, men (not women) used their jewelry for the golden calf.

today of course cultural norms are diferrent than they were then, but pierced ears for girls still happens to be - normal. i understand you wanting them to be "mature" enough, in order to take responsibility for the technichal aspects of hygene, for the not technichal aspect of making the decision and living with it too. "18"in this respect is an arbitrary sounding number, what is it meant to accomplish - a mature enough decision, or simply a postponement either in the hopes of her changing her mind or as a powerful display of your personal distaste for the decision?

if the last, you might want to recosider how your fast maturing daughter is going to feel about having your taste standards forced on her. how important is this to you on her behalf, versus on your own behalf?

anyway, you already know I think you're amazing, not least at parenting.


Anonymous said...

I wanted pierced ears badly when I was in elementary school, and I didn't manage to wear down my mother until I was 12.

I have since then acquired three more holes in both ears. Earrings are fun; they're like playing dress-up when you're a little girl, another form of personal expression, I suppose.

I looked through the verses you cited and I don't see the connection to pierced ears.

Eliyahu S. said...

Just a bit of moral support ... I'm with you in disapproving of ANYONE putting holes in their body (or ink, as in tatoos.) While I know that there are Breishit references to the Imahot having ear and nose rings, I recall that there is also a general issur of "wounding" oneself, although I'm having trouble finding a good source. I have asked more than once, and have never been given a good explanation of why the only exception to this seems to be permission to women to put holes in themselves for "beauty".

Regarding men, I have heard in shiurim that it is forbidden ... that there is an exception for women only.

Just because the exception exists, though, doesn't mean that you "must" do it ... it seems to me more of a b'dieved thing : "We know that women will do this no matter what we say, so better not make a fuss about it."

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I got my ears pierced when I was 12 and could take care of the holes myself. When I was about 18 (I don't remember exactly) I went for a second hole in one ear together with my best friend, and the third hole on the same side followed shortly after.
And yes, I also have a nose piercing. Before I had it done, I asked my rabbi, and he said "it was done then, so why should it be forbidden now?"
My daughter is only 3.5 years old and does not ask for pierced ears yet, but I want her to wait until age 12...

Batya said...

I had begged my mother for years to let me, and finally when I was almost 16. Later she and my little sister did it together. We had it done at the doctor's.

I told my daughter's half year before Bat Mitzvah.

I love having pierced ears. My daughters had a third hole and then took me to an earring place for a third for my birthday, almost 11 years ago.

I've been keeping an earring in one which had been my grandmother's. She died before my third birthday...

Ilana said...

I totally understand your not wanting pierced ears and not wanting your daughter to have them either! (Please do not share this story with my daughter -- I want to wait as long as possible before she gets ideas that this is something worth making a stand on).

It is very usual for women and girls to have holes in their ears or in other body parts. But I still see it as mutilation. Common mutilation that isn't too likely to hurt or damage -- but mutilation nonetheless.

I tell my kids not to write on their hands, either. I'm even picky about having their hands stamped, although I permit it somewhat reluctantly. I explain that God gave us our bodies and they are holy. So we don't write on them and we don't punch holes in them. I don't think my daughter completely agrees with me, but so far she hasn't pushed it at all.

Baila said...

I came home from my year away in Israel with a SECOND hole in my ear. My mother was not pleased about that.

I have three daughters and I had their ears pierced before they were old enough to start pulling at things (4 months?. My pediatrician did it. I never thought there was anything wrong with it. All my girls are girly-girls (I am not), and I love that too. Now they can also go for months without wearing earrings and the holes don't seem to ever close up.

Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

BTW, I also had to beg and cajole before my mother would allow me to pierce my ears.

Anonymous said...

How funny, my mother in law asked me today why we do not pierce A's ears... No way, I said, besides, she is only 1 year and 10 months old... My mom and I weren't into clothes, shopping, make-up either but my mother in law is. I would not know how to deal with that but then I still have a few years to go.

frogswisdom said...

I have got my ears pierced when I was 16, it was really painful and I realized immediately it was one of the stupidest things I ever done. Still it draw attention of my grandfather (and I could never imagine that he ever notice how we look) he said it was savage thing to do-I was stoned- that he noticed at first place. My mother didn't pierced her ears till now and doesn't have any regrets about it still she permitted us (my sister at the tender age of 6) to do it-she says she considered it our decision -as it is our bodies and after umbilical cord was cut we are main share holders(and she have not found any medical reason against it). PS. My sister got her self 5 more holes in her ears eventually-and she became medical student-I see clear S-M hint in it. Still those holes close back in no time if you do not wear earrings- so why put on restrictions?
I am not sure what am I to do with such a request, several years ago I told my daughter it was painful-and it deflected her (possibly temporally) still she joint a "hnun" peer group last years and it is not considered cool there (to my luck)

Sarah said...

I invite you to read an article I wrote about my own experience with ear piercing:



Marion said...

Ear piercing was a sign of slavery FOR MEN. We know that women piered their ears for beauty because their earrings were taken by the men to melt for the egel (golden calf), just as later they gave their mirrors for the kiyor (sink) in the mishkan (tabernacle).

Anonymous said...

My father had a similar belief - that one is not permitted to mutilate ones body. He did not allow me to get my ears pierced until I was bat-mitzvah. Since he felt it was a religeous prohibition, he chose when I became a women from a halachik perspective.

Anonymous said...

Neither I nor my mother have pierced ears, and of my two daughters one was never interested. The other was, but I managed to postpone things, until one day when she was around 16 she just went on her own and got them peirced. Then again, and again, until she got 6 holes. Thankfully, no piercing besides in the ears! I figure that this was her big rebellion and it could have been worse.
Ellen L.

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

RivkA can you believe how many comments this one entry has gotten?

Anonymous said...

My MIL took my oldest daughter when she was six to have her ears pierced (at her request), and I took my youngest at a few months old because at that age it doesn't hurt.
The older ones suffered terribly from infections with the standard studs (two part), but once I changed over to the longer ones (one part only)which aren't touching the ear all the infections disappeared.

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