Forget Religion, Earrings Highlight Cultural Differences.

Kelli’s article on her baby bling versus the rules of school made me think how it’s often the small things that really highlight cultural differences.

In this case, it was two Trinidadian women, one American man, one Canadian woman, a three-month-old baby and a pair of gold earrings in a doctor’s office in Arizona.

Like Kelli, I had my ears pierced early. I don’t remember getting them pierced the first time and I’ve always worn little gold hoops in my ears. Most of my friends growing up, no matter what racial background, also had their ears pierced and it was rare to see a girl above the age of ten without pierced ears. Of course, by time we were teens most of us had multiple piercings, wore necklaces and even anklets. Hey, I didn’t say we were classy about our jewellery.

There are many reasons to pierce children’s ears: religion, culture or even as basic as wanting your child to be seen as female instead of having to constantly answer the question, “Boy or girl?”

But back to Arizona. Laura (the born Canadian) and I were invited to visit my childhood friend Natasha and her American husband Lars. Natasha had just had her first child, Audrey. While we were there, Natasha planned to get her daughter’s ears pierced. While Natasha and I saw nothing wrong with this, Lars and Laura didn’t approve of piercing Audrey’s ears. In their families – white and middle class – you don’t pierce children’s ears until they’re old enough to ask for earrings.

This led to multiple arguments between the four of us. Natasha and I argued that piercing Audrey’s ears now meant that while it would hurt momentarily, she wouldn’t remember the pain and besides, we had it done where we were younger and we were fine, just fine.

Laura’s argument was that piercing young children’s ears was low-class and traumatizing. Lars’ argument was similar but he also didn’t want to see his daughter in pain.

Of course, this led to Natasha and I making extremely sour faces at Lars and Laura and fighting in the doctor’s office. After all, how dare they imply that our families were low-class because they pierced their daughters’ ears early? Natasha and I had grown up wearing jewellery from before we even knew what it was. We had received baby bracelets, chains, rings and earrings from our parents and grandparents. Even my brother got jewellery. I had a talent for losing my earrings but my mother still has all my baby jewellery.

Eventually, Audrey got her ears pierced and yes, she did cry.

This incident slipped my mind until Kelli mentioned it in her article. My niece is two and her ears aren’t pierced. I asked my Polish sister-in-law if they were going to get them pierced and she said no. The choice, she said, would be hers when she got older.

When my niece is ready, we’ll have quite the collection of jewellery for her.

This post is part of the Ethnic Aisle blogging project. If you’re interested in race, ethnicity, diversity and the GTA, check it out.

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