Thursday, November 30, 2006

Things you wouldn't think would be complicated

We decided not to get Robin's ears pierced when she was born. Most Costa Rican parents routinely pierce the ears of newborn girls, but I figured (and Alex agreed) that it was a personal decision and that we'd have it done at such point as she asked for it. Some women never do. And, aside from having to clarify to some people that our newborn child was in fact a girl, that was that.

So here we are, eight years later, and Robin has decided she wants pierced ears. We agreed to let her, but since it only came up a month or so ago, we figured we'd tie it to her eighth birthday, partly as a symbol of growing up, and partly as a way of putting Julia off when she says she wants to get hers done too. (She doesn't say it as often or with as much assurance as Robin, and I've seen those hands. They are just not clean enough often enough to share a body with newly pierced ears.)

I asked the mothers of a couple of Robin's friends where--outside of the neonatal unit--one goes to pierce ears, and nobody seemed to know. One of the other mothers is actually looking for the same information, so I told her I'd let her know what I found out.

In the states, my first stop would be the mall - Spencer Gifts pierces ears, right? And probably most jewelry stores. So when Alex and I were at a strip mall a few weeks ago, we stopped by a tiny little jewelry store to ask. Sure, we were told, there's a lady that does that, but she only comes in on Sundays. I asked what time, looked at the studs they had, and then, for some reason, it occurred to me to mention the piercing gun.

Oh, no, she doesn't use one of those.

Excuse me?

No, no. She just pushes them in.

Alrighty then. You have yourself a nice day.

After getting out of there, I kind of forgot about it for a while. Or maybe I blacked it out. Last week we were at a bigger, better, nicer mall and Alex reminded me that her birthday was coming up, so we stopped at several jewelry stores and kiosks there. Not a single one of them pierces ears or knows of anyone that does, although a couple of them asked why I didn't just do it myself. One of them said she's been looking for someplace to get her daughter's ears pierced, and has had no more luck than I.

On the way home, we stopped at a nice jewelry store - the kind of place where they speak English if they think you need them to, and where Alex and I got our wedding rings lo these many years ago. Again, very friendly, but again, no. They had heard, though, that a nearby pharmacy offers the service.

We didn't have time to stop by there that day, but I went in this week and, finally, was rewarded with a Yes. The lady who does it wasn't in at the moment, but she is available during regular business hours and, yes, she uses a piercing gun. The customer supplies the earrings.

Today I set out to buy the earrings, so first I stopped by to see if there was anything special I needed to know. I asked for the lady and was directed to a back room where I found an actual nurse in an actual medical office. Better and better. I asked about the earrings and she said any kind would be fine, although it's helpful if they have a pointed tip. I asked how it's done and she said she applies a topical anesthetic first. Excellent. I asked to see the gun and she said Oh, no, nobody uses those. You just push them in.

Square one, why do you look so familiar?

Apparently, people used to pierce ears with the gun, but because of the risk of infection, nobody does anymore. How, exactly, pushing any old earrings (and not even pointed ones) through a kid's ears with your hands is supposed to reduce infection, nobody has said, but the nurse actually mentioned HIV.

Fine. If that's the only way to do it, it'll have to be done that way. I'm certain that the nurse will use all medical precautions, and the topical anesthetic is a plus. But is she good at it? Can she get them straight and even, shoving an earring in with her thumb?

I know I can't change Costa Ricans' views on the subject, but y'all will indulge me for a moment here, won't you? The CDC knows of no instances of HIV transmission through tattooing or body piercing. No instances. That would be none.

So what to do? Well, we'll go to the nurse, I guess. But on the way, we're going to stop by Heredia's only tattoo & body piercing studio. If it looks clean and professional, we're having it done there. HIV is a non-issue. Regular infection is possible, but is more likely to come from her own hands than the rubber gloves of whoever does the piercing. And whether they use a piercing gun or simply do it by hand, at least at a tattoo studio it will be someone who has some experience, and who is used to being held accountable not only for the sterility of the environment, but also for the aesthetic of the final result.

And like Alex says, if she's watching some hairy guy tattoo a skull and crossbones on a biker, she'll be so distracted she won't feel a thing.


Erin November 30, 2006 7:05 PM  

I'd love to see the look on the tattoo guy's face. Especially if you wanted to mess with him a little and told him that you wanted to get her a tattoo for her 8th birthday. hee hee! hm. sorry.

I found this post actually very interesting. People who pierce their daughter's ears in the states is so rare and it sounds like it is exactly the opposite in Costa Rica. Interesting.

Jennifer November 30, 2006 7:27 PM  

Really? I didn't think eight was that young for pierced ears. Or did you mean it's rare for people to do it when their daughters are babies?

Ana's Mama November 30, 2006 8:20 PM  

I just had my daughter's ears done about a month ago when she was 8 months old. Her pediatrician's office actually did it and they used a gun. I have never heard of the just poking the earrings through the ear...scary. Hope it all goes well for her!

The Teacher November 30, 2006 8:56 PM  

I was eight when I got MY ears pierced! (the first holes...)

*blinks at the "just pushing through"* Although, I'm pro-needle rather than pro-piercing gun, but that's just me. I've had all my ear holes (six currently) done with the gun and it wasn't until I got to the cartilage that I had issues. So, I'd actually highly recommend the tattoo/piercing place. :) I love Alex's's awesome.

charlotte November 30, 2006 11:48 PM  

Good luck - the no-gun thing sounds a little scary. Weird isn't it, in a land full of pierced ears, that no-one does it outside of hospital.

PS Well done on your last Nablopomo post!

meredith December 01, 2006 2:47 AM  

This post effectively caused squirming in my computer chair, I mean really, just push them through...ouch.

mom December 01, 2006 6:01 AM  

Mine were pierced by a college friend using an icecube for numbing, and a needle. How did she hold the needle? I don't have a clue. Are they straight? Definitely not the right ear. But nobody seems to notice.

I wouldn't pierce the ears of a baby - both a cultural and a preference thing - but I love having pierced ears. Earrings and rings are my favorite kinds of jewelry.

I hope all goes well for Robin - we'll be thinking of her - probably calling, too, to wish her a happy birthday.

Laylabean December 01, 2006 9:19 AM  

My eight-year-old wanted her ears pierced for a while, until I explained that it would require someone to make an actual hole in her actual ear. She's backed off about it now, which is good, we were going to make her wait until she was in double digits agewise anyway.

No gun though? That gives me the willies.

juliloquy December 01, 2006 9:25 AM  

I agree that the cultural differences are fascinating. My mom grew up in the midwest in the 40s-50s, and only "loose women" pierced their ears. So she made my sister wait until she was 16 and me when I was 13. (The youngest always gets to do more than the older siblings!) Mom got hers pierced shortly afterwards, mostly because it was too hard to find nice clip earrings. And the loose woman stigma had obviously changed.

Oh, and I think Erin meant people who pierce their daughters' ears *themselves* (rather than having it done at a business) are rare in the States.

lisa December 01, 2006 12:13 PM  

I know I'm missing a lot of the girls' growing up, but I really thought I had a shot at seeing them again before they hit their first tattoo/body piercing parlor.

gabriella December 01, 2006 9:13 PM  

go to your dentist's office. explain the situation. see if they'll let you have package of black silk suture thread with an attached cutting needle. that'll work just fine. it's so sharp, it's sterile, and a large enough loop of black silk can be knotted so that during the healing process the silk can be 'turned' in the hole and alcohol applied.

lisa December 02, 2006 4:27 PM  

My friend Leslie says a straight needle is better for the ear. She's had a few piercings herself. She also said if she ever got her ears pierced again she'd go to a tattoo parlor, because they use straight needles instead of guns. So...what's the verdict in Costa Rica?

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