Wife went to spend Christmas in Arequipa one week earlier than me (my limit is one week). She said a day or two after she got there that her mother and aunts wanted to pierce our 11-month-old daughter’s ears.
This had come up in conversation between wife and I before, but this time I had to act if I were going to protest. But at the same time, I want to be a good expat adapting to the local culture.
I’ve been to the local playgrounds a million times. I see that any girl who makes it to six years old without earrings will be the neighborhood prude, if not worse. Maybe like the children who can’t dress up for Halloween or don’t get presents for Christmas because their parents are fundamentalists. Do you want your daughter to be seen as one of them?
So instead of levying a direct protest, I turned to social media in what I now see as a brilliant crowdsourcing campaign for wisdom. Say what you want about Facebook being immature or a time-sink, it came through for me this time. The feedback was so interesting I’m turning it into a blog post.
The vast majority of my FB friends are either straight gringos or straight Latinos. But this post was interesting for how many people with ties to both Latin America and Gringolandia chimed. Names are removed, but I have indicated each commenter’s gender and nationality (all “expats” and “deported Colombians” are men).
DEAR AMERICAN PARENTS (and Euros too). What is the standard age for your daughters to get earrings? Why?
Wife wants to know.
Three deported Colombians, an Española and an Irishwoman.
Peruana: Any time.
Gringa: A lot of parents do it within the first year.
Gringa: i got my first around 11-12 then the 2nd and 3rd around 16.
Gringa: My parents made me wait until I was 12 or 13….personally I say anytime but the younger the better…get it done and over with.
American Expat in Peru: Personally I would consider it abusive and wrong until the girl could make an educated, conscious choice. Guessing between 8 yrs and 10yrs old, that time would come. Don’t have girls, however, so can’t say with any certainty.
Gringo: Abusive? Are you kidding?
American Expat in Peru: no, but luckily it’s only my opinion.
Gringa: Think about it this way Colin Post…is your son circumcised? Then why is it any different to pierce a girls ears (which can grow closed later) its way less painful and obtrusive…
Englishman: From about 13 and above. From 1 if you are from a socially disadvantaged class.
Aunt: I was 4 or 5 because my sisters did! They were 9 and 12 years older though.
Canadian Expat in Colombia: Right out the womb down here, hahaha!
Gringa: My Mexican friends say when they are born or a few weeks later.
Gringa: My granddaughter has hers done and she is 7 mo old….got them done 2 mo ago…
Gringo: Personally, I think it is mutilation and I would prefer it later in life, but fathers will get outvoted on this everytime. So, it does not matter what you think, Colin.
Peruano: Has just born bro.
Dutch Expat in Colombia: Whenever the daughter says she wants earrings? I.E. As long as the she can’t express her preference, don’t pinch holes in the poor little girl.
Deported Colombian: Its very comun here in Col to do it when they are a few months old….Crazy shit…..that shit hurts.
Gringo: Did circumcision hurt? No, no it didnt. Too young to remember. Same with ears. Do early so not traumatized when old enough to remember.
Deported Colombian: Nobody is talking about trauma….you are exaggerating….It just hurts….that’s it
Female Cousin: My only worry would be that I had very sensitive ears and they would hurt and get infected if I had certain metals in. Or if they tend to pull on them. I think you guys are still good parents if you do it or not lol. Im judgement free about ear piercing.
Irish Expat in Peru: Teenage
Gringa: I got mine done in 7th grade and I had to save up to get it done. I remember it was a really expensive thing to do it was $45.
Canadian Expat in Colombia: My daughter was born in NY and she had hers at like one month.
American Expat in Colombia: Daniela did that shit shortly after Alanna was delivered. I wasn’t even consulted. They sold the earrings to do it there in the hospital.
Me: Many great replies. But I think this one wins!
Peruano: I think… one year.
Mexican-American woman (US citizen): Baby for me. KC didn’t care. My two girls @ 3 months and 12 months. The 12 month old cried more than the 3 month old. But in our culture it’s practically at birth. J
British Expat in Peru: Here Leia had it done but she kept playing with it and soon became infected. This happened twice so I’d say wait!
Aunt: Well I made grace wait to her 13th birthday so she was responsible enough to take care of them herself! I have always given in on everything but held tight to that one decision!
Female Cousin: I let me kids whenever they’re ready. Monica (9) doesn’t have them done, but Marlee (7) got hers when she was 3
Española: Few days/ weeks 😉
Colombian-American woman: I waited 8 weeks. My daughters cried for a moment and got over it.
Irish-American (not citizen): I’m not a parent, but I know many Hispanic cultures like to do that when their daughters are still babies. American parents don’t seem to do it that early in their girls’ lives. If the posts on the earring are gold, and not a generic metal, their ears shouldn’t get infected where the piercings are. And yes, if they are done while the little ones are very young, they can close up and might have to be done again later, but it should be easier when they are older, maybe. Just my contribution.
Gringo: We waited and let our daughter choose and when she did it it felt like a big deal to her. Her first big decision.
Gringa: We only waited because you made such a big deal about it. I wanted to do it when she turned 1! Then, when she wanted to do it, she was all kinds of freaked out about it hurting and what if she doesn’t like it…it wasn’t a big deal for you because your the Dad and didn’t have to deal with a freaked out teenage girl.
Deported Colombian: Better yet Colin, ask yourself, do you really want to be standard?
Me: Thank you everybody for sharing your opinion. I would’ve thought the gringo standard for piercing girls’ ears was somewhere around 13, but it seems that may have been based on when I was that age … almost 25 years ago. Some still see it that way, but not all and a baby with earrings would clearly NOT be seen as a “stripper’s daughter” kind of baby that I told WIFE it might be.
Mexican-American woman (not U.S. citizen): En serio Colin Post , si es niña es obvio que va a querer aretes . Porque no mejor ahora que no siente tanto dolor que cuando este grande ya sabrá lo que es el dolor . No soy americana pero yo deje que le hicieran sus aretes después de los dos meses por eso de las primera vacunas.
Deported Colombian: Vacunación, La Verdad Oculta
Suegro: querras decir usar aretes
I was initially against it because, as I said, I thought she would be seen as an “hija de puta” in the States. But hearing so many gringas say that it’s becoming normal to do it to baby girls, I opened up my mind to it. But I didn’t want to see my baby cry, and there were only four or five days before I joined her in Arequipa.
So I called wife and said it’s fine. I won’t lodge any kind of protest, but she had to do it TODAY because I won’t be able to suffer my beautiful little sweetheart crying. I can be tough with the boy but I won’t bear any suffering from the girl.
Wife said she changed her mind, she doesn’t want to do it anymore. She doesn’t want to run the risk of infection.
And you? What do you say?
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Colin & Monica, I feel you made the eight decision based on your situation. Thought-provoking article; thanks for sharing.
I have been a professional piercer for 10 years, and I am part latina. I have pierced tens of thousands of people. I don’t pierce anyone who is unable to consent (babies, toddlers). The parents who let their children decide on their own to choose to be pierced have created a bonding experience, show them that they have ownership over their bodies, aren’t forcing gender roles on them, and have given a reward for the child to work towards. The children are happy and involved with the process, and 99% don’t cry, because I have a talk to them directly. Most children don’t even notice when I pierce them, because it doesn’t hurt. They are also fully aware of the need to keep the piercing(s) clean and are happy to feel responsible. Quality jewelry of appropriate size and material allows the piercing to heal in 4 to 6 weeks normally. There is no trama. The characteristics that define gender are more than just what is worn. Forcing gender roles on children is unnecessary. It is not required to have piercings to be an amazing and successful woman. “tradition” is not the same word as “logical”. As society expands it’s knowledge and understanding, so to should the things that are considered common practice. “Traditionally” women had no right to work or vote and in many instanced, to choose who or when they marry. Does puncturing a babies flesh without their consent make them a better student, worker, friend or parent? Giving in to the peer pressure to adhere to a certain image seem odd when you think of it from a logical point of view. The option of awareness and a different way of thinking is not a personal threat or attack. We don’t progress if we don’t question.
My 12 year old decided that she would like her ears pierced. Anyone know anywhere good in Lima to get it done? Google shows tatoo parlours only.