1990s sterling silver ballerina earrings
Annie's Micro-Museum

How I had to be tricked into getting my ears pierced

In my family there were certain rules we had to follow, like no singing at the dinner table or TV on when we were eating. Mom thought it was important that we all sat down for dinner together and at least for fifteen minutes talked to one another about our day. We each sat at the same spot every night. I was to the left of my older sister Sarah always. She hated when we’d eat chicken because I loved to use my fingers instead of a fork and would tease her with my greasy hands like I was gonna touch her.

“Don’t touch me with your chicken fingers!” She’d say.

Other rules were: no sugar cereal for breakfast, but spooning sugar onto our cereal from the sugar bowl was acceptable. We also had to think before we spoke, and eventually start doing our own laundry.

I remember when my mom stopped doing our laundry and my Dad had to start doing his own too. We found out one weekend that he actually called the back of a Tide laundry detergent bottle to ask for help!

But rules were rules, and Mom had certain things she enforced even though we sometimes didn’t understand why. The age at which we had to wait to get our ears pierced was one of those rules we didn’t really understand.

PG 13 Movies and ear piercing!

One of Mom’s rules was that we couldn’t get our ears pierced until we were thirteen. It seemed like a really long time to wait, but for some reason it was a well known fact that this was a right of passage that came when we turned thirteen. So, along with being able to get into the PG 13 movies, getting ears pierced was something I knew was coming when my thirteenth birthday rolled around in 1995.

Now, I’d like to say I was excited about the whole thing. But actually, the story about how I got my ears pierced is quite dramatic. At least it seemed so at the time.

The inspiration for recalling this memory comes from my last post: The year I slept in our dining room and used an old wardrobe for a closet. In that post I include a picture of me with an earring holder that looks like a ladder by my bedside. It’s holding a bunch of earrings all organized. That same year I slept in the dining room I turned thirteen, and was when I got my ears pierced.

Anyway, I was reminded when I looked closer at the picture about the whole experience and knew I should write about it next. Here’s a close up of the picture and the little ladder earring organizer I’m referring to:

Close up of 1995 ladder earring organizer
My 1995 ladder earring organizer

I wish I still had the first pair of little pearl earrings I had when I got them pierced. I looked for them in my jewelry box but I couldn’t find them. They were gold with a little pearl in the middle, just “studs” we called them.

Claire’s Boutique: the first visit

So I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin and more specifically the East Side of Madison. The main mall we went to was East Towne Mall. Claire’s Boutique was the place to go for getting ears pierced. It was right next to the food court and next door to Gloria Jeans Coffee. I loved the smell of that store! I used to buy my Mom a bag of freshly ground coffee there for Mother’s Day or her birthday.

On the day my Mom took me to get my ears pierced we walked in and I got to pick out a pair of earrings I liked. I sat in the chair and remember the girl drawing a blue dot on each of my earlobes with a marker. She held up a mirror to my face and had me take a look to make sure I liked where the holes would be going.

But as soon as I smelled the alcohol wipes used to clean my ears I lost it. I felt so woozy and dizzy I told my Mom I just couldn’t do it! I got down off the chair, and we walked out.

I remember feeling embarrassed and sort of like a loser. Here I had waited until I was thirteen to get my ears pierced and I was too “chicken” to follow through with it.

I don’t remember much after that initial visit other than having to explain to my sisters that I didn’t get my ears pierced. I knew my Mom felt bad also.

Mom’s clip-on earrings

My mom actually never had her ears pierced. She still doesn’t today. But she did have one pair of clip-on earrings that looked like seashells. They were all gold, but modest I’d have to say. She’d wear them only on special occasions like going to one of Dad’s Christmas parties for work or a wedding. I’m not really sure why she never wanted to get her ears pierced. After my failed attempt to get mine pierced, I’m sure I wondered if I’d be only wearing clip-ons for the rest of my life too.

But knowing I really wanted to get my ears pierced, Mom found a way to get me to go back to Claire’s.

Claire’s Boutique: the second visit

My mom drove me to the mall again, maybe a week later. She made up some story about looking for a mattress or something really strange. I had no idea what she was really up to. We walked into the mall and just as we were walking by Gloria Jeans Coffee and taking a big inhale, she said: “Wanna get your ears pierced?”

I had no real time to react before we swooped in and did it.

I think the anticipation the first time was what got me. All the build up to it being some sort of right of passage was a bit too much for me to handle before. But when she surprised me and sort of made it spontaneous I wasn’t as afraid for some reason. Plus, I knew what to expect.

What also helped was that they had two ladies pierce my ears at the same time. That way I wasn’t doing one ear and freaking out before they could do the other one. It worked pretty well. I do remember the burning though! Oh my. Oh, and that I think one of the blue dots they drew on was slightly lower than the other. I didn’t wanna have them redo it and I wanted to just get it over with, so I never said anything. If I look really close at my ears in a mirror I can see a small difference in the placement of the holes.

I couldn’t believe I did it afterwards. I think my Mom felt proud she got me to do it, and I learned a lot of it was mind over matter. I just had to do it and be done with it.

Other than having to clean my ears with a special solution for six weeks, and twirling the earrings around so my holes wouldn’t close up, there isn’t much more to the story. Like I said, I wish I still had the little pair of earrings. But since I don’t, I found a couple of other earrings I’ve had just as long. They were both hanging on that little ladder earring organizer that inspired this post. I found them in my jewelry box I use today. Here they are:

1990s sterling silver ballerina earrings
My Sterling Silver Ballerina Earrings

I loved these ballerina earrings because I was in ballet at the time, and had been since the second grade. My oldest sister Jenny was also in ballet and got to be in the “Nutcracker Ballet” in Madison probably about the same year I turned thirteen, so 1995. These remind me of that.

1990s dream catcher earrings
My Dream Catcher Earrings

The dream catchers are sorta funny to me. I’d never wear them today. I guess I wouldn’t wear the ballerina ones either, but they remind me of how I started to value self expression and more natural things at the time. As you can see in the picture above where I’m dressed like a Hippie, not that I wanted to be one for real, I had somewhat of a curiosity with being a bit more “free.”

My Mom was a Hippie in Madison during the 1960s. She has told me a lot of stories, but that’s enough for a whole other post. If I am to sum up this story, it’s simply to say that it’s kind of ironic that even after I had to wait all those years to get my ears pierced, when it came time to do it, I wasn’t ready yet. Even more interesting is that the same person who told me I had to wait was the one who nudged me to go through with it in the end, even though she herself had never done it before.

I love my Mom.

She is the reason I’m strong. She is the reason I feel independent today. She taught me that if there is something I really want to do, I have to go for it even if it’s scary. I’ve learned that being brave isn’t about doing everything alone, it’s about knowing that certain people in our lives have got our backs… or earlobes.

And.. when it’s all over, no matter how many tries it takes us to do anything, we’ll at least have a story to tell.


What’s something you did as a child that took a lot of courage or freaked you out at first? I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment below.

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