From the time my daughter was about two years old, she has wanted to have her ears pierced. I wanted to put this off as long as possible. For one thing, the older one is for permanent body modification, the more able that person is to care for the mod themselves. Trying to keep dirty grubby toddler or preschooler hands off the jewelry and away from the holes as they heal sounds like a lot of work. For another, I wanted to make sure that she was absolutely sure of her decision, that she’d had time to consider the action, and the understanding of what “forever” meant. I wanted her to understand why it was important to me for her to not visit some tween-focused accessory store in the mall where an inexperienced teenaged clerk would shoot a dull-ended piece of metal into her head, why I wanted her to have it done by someone who had apprenticed in piercing, who used one-time hollow-point needles for each piercing.
It was important to me that my child made an informed choice, understood the risks, and that she was genuinely ready. At 9 years old, I felt she was. In spite of having friends who’d gotten pierced with a gun, she understood that it was better from both a healing and potential disease-transmission perspective, that needle piercing was a healthier option. I started looking for piercers in Toronto who would be willing to pierce a child as young as mine. Interestingly, I was turned down flat by everyone I asked. Not only that, but I was told that no one would do it until she was 16, because that is the standard of the industry. If I wanted to have it done sooner, I would have to have it done (improperly) in a mall.
In the end, I had to return to Ottawa to find a piercer willing to work with children my daughter’s age, who believed in ear-piercing as a rite of passage for little girls, and who felt it was irresponsible and hypocritical to not offer her service to minor children who were clearly consenting to the procedure.
So why today, after months, am I writing about this? I found this ad on my Facebook page today:
Your pre-teen can get Hepatitis B from ear piercing! You’d better get vaccinated against it to prevent this horrible tragedy from happening! Rather than creating standards for minors in a safer industry, the message being sent is that it is better to continue to use the services of non-professionals, and tools that cannot be sterilized. It is better to stick with the status quo of piercing, and to fix problems after the fact, rather than have the ability to make safer preventative choices from the beginning.
I’m not saying I’m against the idea of tweens being vaccinated against Hep B. It’s a sexually transmitted infection that can have serious repercussions on one’s health. What I am saying, however, is that suggesting that “the problem” of Hep B transmission is piercing-related and that the vaccine is THE solution is short-sighted, and comes nowhere close to identifying risk.
The more people who approach professional apprenticed piercers with requests from their consenting children, the more pressure we put on the legit industry to change their standards to incorporate their safer methods into common practice. The less we choose to use places like Claire’s to have our children’s ears pierced, the louder the message we send that gun-based piercing is not desirable.