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In One Ear and Out the Other

From Saints and Spinners series of Children's Books that Never Were

Maisy Jane is the pigeon. She wants to get her ears pierced. I cannot tell you how horrified I am, because it means that I have to finally get my ears pierced too because I can’t be the wussy-mommy whose 8 year old out-ear-braves her. Although if I have to lay a bet?

I think this story is going to end with weeping and only one ear being pierced. She may get both done, though.

Weeping and a single pierced ear per person is my best case scenario. I am ACTUALLY bracing for lobe infection and death for me, and an emergency ear-ectomy for Maisy Jane. She wants to go to Claire’s in the mall (“Mom, my BFF got HER ears done there, and she is totally FINE!”), but then I think about her becoming a poor little one eared half-orphan and I shudder and reject the idea.

I am so scared of it that I decided to go to a doctor, and so I have been on hold and button punching with the automated answering systems of a slew of dermatologists, pressing numbers to get to a person who will tell me they no longer do ear piercing, because they, ahem, they are doctors. Not teenagers with an afternoon mall job. WHICH YES, of course they are doctors.

But I have to admit, when one automated answering system began by saying:

“Thank you for calling Nearby Dermatology, if this is an emergency…”

I immediately thought the next words would be, “Then why the hell are you calling a dermatologist?” So.

Still I liked that automated answering message better than the one with a smooth, boomy man voice who trumpeted “Botox is the new face of America!” Really? Is that true? I hope not. But these days it isn’t only the over-thirties on TV who claim their anti-depressants are responsible for their eggshell smooth untroubled brows, when really it is secretly Botox.

Meanwhile I am staggering around violently mood swinging with a forehead like a rumpled sweater, because if there is one thing that scares me more than ear piercing, it is putting pig botulism in my own, personal face. And if there is one thing that scares me more than pig botulism being put (WITH A NEEDLE! A NEEDLE!!!) into my own personal face, it’s anti-depressants, because I have weird body chemistry. Except for mild antibiotics (like that pink liquid kind they give cats and little children), I react to most prescription drugs by having all the side-effects, or worse, I get allergic and puff up into a rashy pink anaphylactic sausage.

Also, I hear you can’t drink if you take them. *beatiffic smile*

If I can’t drink, how will I be able to take the required three shots of pre-ears-piercing Jack “Courage” Daniels? And if I do not take the required three shots of pre-ears-piercing Jack “Courage” Daniels, how will I get my blood thin enough to bleed out after the first piercing, thus avoiding the SECOND piercing and the long, painful, infected piercing site death by blood poisoning?

Should I get them pierced at Claire’s? And do not say Tattoo parlor. I am not GOING to a tattoo parlor, one, because I don’t want my over-trend-concious Maisy Jane agitating for a bare-breasted-mermaid-holding-a-gun-and-a-skull tramp stamp until she is at least ten, and also I hear they they use real free floating enormous piercing needles. Supposedly needles are more STERILE but I also hear that they are made out of ACTUAL VISIBLE NEEDLES. No. No no no.

I want to be shot with a GUN. Like an American.

Anyone know a piercing dermatologist? This may very well be an emergency.

45 comments to In One Ear and Out the Other

  • Kacie

    If you go to Claires, see if you can get 2 associates to help you. They’ll usually put one on each ear and then pierce at the same time. That way, you can’t wimp out after the first ear is done. I’d still suggest the tattoo shop because of the cleanliness factor, but you didn’t want to hear that…

    It also won’t be as painful as you’re anticipating. More often than not the piercing gun or forceps they use to prepare for the piercing pinch more than the needles do. It’s all over in a second any how.

  • FWIW, you CAN drink on antidepressants (at least the one I’m on anyway), it will just make you very, very sleepy. A win-win, in my opinion!

  • Beth R

    OK, you said you don’t want to hear about a piercing parlor, so I won’t tell you how that’s the only place this needle-phobe would go to get another ear hole.

    A sign of how long I’ve been hanging out here? I’m sitting here thinking, “she’s not seriously going to let beautiful-Maisy-who-is-3 get her ears pierced???” Um, yeah. She’s 8 now. dang. How did THAT happen?

    If you want the gun method, then definitely do the 2 associates thing done at Claires. The actual pinch/hurt that you feel isn’t the piercing, it’s the clamp that holds the earlobe in place.

    One other suggestion based on my own various piercing experiences: All the piercing studs they have at places like Claires are “hypoallergenic”, but I react to the metal. As soon as I was comfortable doing it (about 2 days post piercing), I changed the piercing studs out for a pair of 14K gold earrings where the POSTS were also 14K gold. As gold is non-reactive, I healed much better when I did that.

    I would also recommend that you use a sea-salt soak rather than the weird chemical concoction they sell at Claires. H2Ocean is a great spray, but you can also get sea salt and create your own solution to soak your earlobes. Aftercare is the most important part of the whole thing!

  • Jill W.

    I pink puffy heart Mo Willems.

    I have no advice about the piercing. My 5 yo occasionally asks about getting it done, but she is still young enough to be distracted by something shiny (preferrably not an earring). I waited to get mine pierced until I was 16 because I was scared, and it really was not bad, but I understand the fear.

  • Kelly

    I’m with Kacie. Go to Claire’s and have them do both at once. My 8 year old just got hers done two weeks ago and they had no problem doing that for her. Also most everything they use is in sealed packages and whatever isn’t sealed they clean in front of you.

  • Jill W.

    I did a little research (mostly to procrastinate on doing other things I should be doing) and it looks like there are some pediatricians offices in your general area that will pierce ears:

    Decatur Pediatric Group in Clarkston
    KenMar Peds in Marietta
    Children’s Medical Group

    Hope that helps.

  • I just had new holes pierced three months ago at Claire’s (my old piercings had closed up). It was painless, really. I’m not kidding. They did an excellent job and made sure I was prepared to clean and care for the piercings for the required six weeks. It went well. DO ALL THE THREE TIMES A DAY CLEANINGS.

  • Midj

    All four holes in my daughter’s ears were done at the pediatrician so I second that recommendation. After poking my second set with a needle (only ice for numbness) I asked at the pediatricians and they actually gave us a numbing cream to put on her ears before we came in. Worth a shot… 🙂

  • A recommendation I haven’t heard yet – try a real actual jewelry store as opposed to Claire’s. My mom let me have my 1st hole for my 8th bday, and she got her 2nd hole in each ear at the same time, and we went to Arthur’s, a locally owned real jewelry store. They also did my 2nd hole when I turned 13. The subsequent cartilage piercings I got in my ears I did at Claire’s when I was in college. ALL of them are perfectly fine, but if having a grown-up who knows a lot about jewelry and metal allergies, etc. makes you feel better than a teenager with a bad gum-popping problem, going to a real jeweler may work.

    And SWEAR TO GOD, the gun does not hurt.

  • liz

    My daughter thinks she is the only. girl. in. America. without pierced ears — how can I tell her Beautiful Maisy is getting hers done now too? (We’ll be going to the pediatrican when the time comes…I’m not sure how much longer I can hold her off!)

  • Well, I was going to say Tattoo Parlor until you said not to say Tattoo Parlor, because that’s where I took my own kid, and they did a fantastic job and were very careful and sterile and great with her and even cautioned me not to let her look at the Book of Tattoos while we were in the waiting area because there were things in there that were “inappropriate.” (Um, you think? COULD BE.) And someone else I know whose kid had a liver transplant was told that she *could not* take her kid to Claire’s and that a tattoo parlor was strongly recommended, because it’s safer.

    However. That said. While they were actually piercing my kid’s ears I thought that I might faint. She herself was fine, because she could not see the big needles sticking into each ear. But I could see them all too well, and the effort to keep a bland and encouraging mommy-smile plastered on my face might have aged me by a year or two.

    So, yeah. Maybe a jeweler. Or pediatrician. Or something.

  • Dani

    “I want to be shot with a GUN. Like an American.” I laughed so hard I scared my grandfather awake (he was sitting on the couch snoozing).

  • My mom had her ears pierced with a needle and potato, so my experience at Claire’s 20… oh, god, 30 years ago was a piece of cake compared to that. However the hassle wasn’t worth the fashion (and I’m so unfashionable anyway that it hardly matters), so I let them close about 15 years ago. Whatever you do, good luck. As for anti-depression meds, I’ve been taking St. John’s Wort for a little while and I’ve noticed an improvement. It has a few potential side effects and can interact with other medications. If you’re taking birth control pills, you can’t take St. John’s Wort. I actually like the one side effect I’ve noticed – I have extremely vivid, complex dreams every night! According to the Mayo Clinic, there is “strong scientific evidence for St. John’s Wort in Mild to Moderate Depressive Disorders.”

  • JulieB

    Skip the Botox, pierce your ears. Got to Claire’s. Panty-up.

  • JulieB

    OK, I did that for effect. I really <3 you. 🙂

  • Jessica

    Yum, bubble gum medicine! I wish they’d give that to me again. 🙁

    I’d say a piercing/tattoo parlor as well, but you said not to say that, so maybe the pediatricians that your lovely reader has mentioned instead. 😉

  • Haley

    My mother had my ears pierced when I was very tiny, like less than six months old. She took me when I was six weeks old but they said my ears were too small. I am the only person I know to have had it done that early. I think my mom was desperate to play dress-up with me and wanted it to have a jewelry component. I think it was done at the pediatrician’s, but I am not sure. This was, um, quite a while back.

    I have to say I am skeptical of the Claire’s thing. If you are sticking a sharp object into my body, I want you to have a medical degree for god’s sake. I would even take the tattoo parlor over a fifteen-year-old girl at the mall. When did we start trusting our health to people like that?

  • Haley

    Also, as a writer I tend to want to do things the way that I know will make the best story. Unfortunately, in this case, it is probably either the tattoo parlor, or even better, having your mom do it at home with a sewing needle dipped in vodka (how much Jack Daniels would you need to make THAT happen?).

  • Don’t go to a doctor. Doctors know doodly-squat about piercing. Don’t go to a tattoo parlor either…is there an actual piercing place near where you live? Do not be put off by the amount of metal stuff in a piercer’s face…in fact, if you think about it, lots of piercings means they know what they’re doing. You don’t have to look at the needles. You can ask specifically NOT to look at the needles. Claire’s would probably be ok, but be very, very sure to clean the new piercings three times a day with saline solution, as you don’t know how clean that gun dealie is. Another point in the piercing place’s favor…they have to (by law) sterilize the needles or use single-use ones. Good luck with it all! And remember, if you don’t your pierced ears or Maisy decides she doesn’t like hers, ear lobes heal up really quickly and don’t scar.

  • JulieB

    I’m pretty sure the gun things are disposable. It’s been a while since my kids got their ears pierced, but I seem to recall and plastic thing that was tossed afterwards.

  • JulieB

    Also, the only thing that goes into the lobe is the earring. It is the piercing object. They took it out of a sealed container.

  • Mary

    My friend’s mom is a nurse. She has great stories. Every once in a while someone will object to the nurse putting in an IV and insist that “a real doctor” come do it instead. She laughed and said “Geez! Most doctors haven’t put in an IV since medical school, the nurses do it all day long. How foolish can you be?”

    Go to Claire’s and let the people who do this all day long do it. You doctor has no clue how to pierce ears and he probably does not want to learn.

  • Lizzy

    I got my ears done at the doctor, and they had these disposable squeezers, not gun or needle, hurt a lot more, AND gave me crooked holes. Claire’s is, well, Claire’s. 50/50 chance of infection, ugly choices of first earings.

    I know you hate the idea, but the tattoo parlor is probably your best bet. A little research, and you will be in a nice, clean parlor, with people who know what they are doing, and probably pierce ears or other parts at least once a day. Just sayin.

  • Kati

    I gotta say I was very, very pleased with the job my pediatrician did with my infant daughter’s ears. (Cultural thing to get the ears done; it’s fine to do after the first few vaccinations.). The doc involved took almost half an hour to place the holes (marker dots first) before shooting away. And we had four stud styles to choose from. She said she also does parent earrings too upon request. Best way to find the right place is to ask pierced folks (piercees?) in your area for a rec, but check the pediatricians first – sterility and experience are a part of their gig.

  • Brigitte

    Guess you DON’T want to do like my old college room-mate. SHE just had a couple courage-shots and then jammed an earring RIGHT THROUGH HER EAR. :-O

  • GAH this is hilarious! I have so many people, here and in real life, saying I have to do it at the doc because the other two options will kill me, or CLaire’s because the other two options will kill me, or a tat/pierce place, because the other two options will kill me.

    THEREFORE logic dictates that getting ones ears pierced is COMPLETELY unsafe. I might as well stab maisy and then take her to lick a public toilet—I would have less chances of death or hepatitis THAT way.


  • Just following right along with interest, as my own personal eight year old wants to get HER ears pierced for her birthday. As someone who got a belly ring in a less-than-sterile room in downtown Barcelona in the 90s, I hadn’t really thought about the dangers and was just going to take her to Claire’s…but now I am skeeved! If you come to a conclusion on this, please let us know!

  • Tequila Cookie Chris

    I had my first set done at a Merle Norman at 14. I had another one added at a Claire’s at 16, then to balance that out did the ice cube/ sewing needle thing. I did burn the needle first to sterilize it:)
    I let the extra holes close up along the way and am thinking of getting them redone at a piercing place(Kola). Honestly, since they are regulated and inspected I feel a whole lot better going there than the mall and there are several professional piercing places in the Atlanta area.

  • Shelley

    You know getting an infection isn’t actually dying. It’s amazing that a person who has had two kids and that octopus incident without dying would think that ear piercing would do the trick. Of course you don’t actually have to get over your fears either, no one said Moms and Daughters ears need to match. But if you do then think of all the wonderful gift opportunities you have opened up for all your loved ones.

  • Aimee

    I’m not sure I really have any advice, except to say that I got my ears pierced when I was 5 or 6, at a place at the mall, and it didn’t kill me. I think the really, really main thing is to make sure that you clean your ears as specified. Oh, and this:

    I want to be shot with a GUN. Like an American.

    is one (OK, technically TWO) of your best sentences, EVER.

  • Laura B.

    another vote for the jewelry store. I took my daughter to a small locally-owned one and the woman was very experienced and knew a lot about metal allergies. and she used a gun.

  • Peggy Fry

    pooh! I had my first ones done at a Dr’s office in teenager hood. It hurt and he lost one of the earrings and he didn’t tell me how to keep it clean… “use peroxide” How? How often? etc. The second hole in the left ear was done at a mall by a teen with a piercing gun. It didn’t hurt at all, and I was seriously stressin’ at the time. What did make me jump was the sound the gun made right by my ear. That was it. No problems at all. Get her the 14K gold post earrings in case her Delicate Flowerness (and yours) is hyper sensitive. She will be enchanted with herself and so will you if you do it. Love having all those sparkly, pretty things to hang by my face!!!! It is totally worth it. Get ’em pierced wherever it is easiest and/or cheapest.

  • Jill W.

    “I might as well stab Maisy and then take her to lick a public toilet—I would have less chances of death or hepatitis THAT way.”


  • Em

    Eh! A little earitis is good for you. It tests the immune system!

    I am a nurse and I did have my daughter done at the mall. I watched and they did do a good job of (I won’t call it sterile technique) clean technique. I suppose it depends on who does it though. I would just watch them and be ready to jump in and put the kibosh on if someone takes the safety pin out of their nose ring to try to pierce your baby’s lobes.

    Antidepressants scare me too. They are obviously a necessary thing for people but brains are pretty complicated. I don’t think they (they being the people in the labs with white coats dark rimmed glasses and clipboards and shiny metal tables with bubbling beakers on them) really have a complete understanding of all of the workings of the brain and the chemicals within so to start messing around with the chemistry in there, well it makes me nervous.

  • Josh, I did not read all the comments, so likely someone else has already told you this, but…
    Ask the people at Claire’s if they can have 2 people wielding the piercing guns, one on each ear. That way, both holes are punched through at the same time, and you don’t have to worry about the second one.
    And I am going to guess that the stores all have to maintain pretty high standards of hygiene, or they would not have licenses or insurance, or be in business any more.
    And, since earrings are the only thing I can go overboard on (other than chocolate), it is well worth the upheaval. In my opinion…

  • Traci in GA

    Keep calling Pediatricians offices! Our Pediatrician’s office had a sign up regarding ear piercings the last time we were there!!! (We are just south of ATL)
    Do not let WalMart jewelry counter do it, bad experience there.
    To be fair Claire’s does alot of ear piercing, ask for someone that has experience. But still, I would prefer a doctor and sterile equipment…..

  • Lori B.

    My old boss got her ears pierced for her 50th birthday. She had always worn very fashionable “clip on” earrings, but decided it was time to take the plunge and “de-virginize” her ears. Some of her friends picked her up in a limo, got her a few stiff shots of courage and took her to the tattoo parlor/piercing place. Even with Jack Daniels on her side, she was still nervous and asked many questions. She said the piercer was a piercing snob and told her all the reasons he was much better qualified than the teenagers at Claire’s. My advice, take Maisy to the tatoo parlor, blindfold her and get her in the chair. Then take the blindfold and put it over your eyes while the “procedure” is happening. Rinse and repeat. BTW, everyone knows that little girls in the South are NOT allowed to have their ears pierced until they are 10. At least that’s what my two girls have been told 😉

  • I got mine done at Wal-Mart about 28 years ago and my daughter has NO INTEREST in pain on purpose, so we’ve not been to Claire’s. I’d say at least get it done over Christmas break so she doesn’t have to go to the nurse for mid-day alcohol rubs or whatever. . .or is that part of the fun?

  • Jill Sturgeon

    Claire’s did my second hole – yes – I have two in each ear – AND my thirteen year old daughter’s two holes in each year – they are awesome – it is quick, really -just take care of your ears per instructions – really, earrings are SO much fun!

  • I have a gun. And I’m not afraid to use it. A piercing gun that is.

  • LMAO
    OK. Centuries ago, when I was 13, I had my ears pierced at Claire’s. One associate held a gun in each hand and did both of my ears at the same time. It felt like a pinch and then I was fine.

    My mother wore clip on earrings until HER 50th and then had her ears pierced. (I think at Claire’s, too.) She’s still fine, too. 😉

    My daughter wants her ears pierced, she thinks but keeps wavering, too. She’s 12. We’ll see!
    Good luck!

  • Kaye

    Many years ago I was an assistant buyer in fashion jewelry for a department store chain. My wonderful and lovely boss did not have piereced ears and made sure we had lots of fashionable clip earrings in our stores.

    On one store visit, we were helping a women find earrings for her mother. We asked if she wanted clip or pierced. She wanted clip. After much time spent looking for the perfect earring in clip, the customer said ‘Oh heck. She is dead. I am sure they can pierce her ears when they do her makeup.’ And she took the pierced earrings.

    In horror, my boss grabbed my arm, pulled me into an office and said ‘DO NOT PIERCE MY EARS WHEN I AM DEAD.’

    Doesn’t help much with your decision, but 20 years later we still talk about this. My promise to her still stands.

  • sillyme

    I am a little weirded out by the corpse ear piercing story.
    That’s all I have to say.

  • Haley

    Me here, chiming in again because I am sorry I am one of the ones who spoke out strongly against Claire’s. To be the voice of sanity, none of the piercing methods are going to kill you or Maisy. None of these methods are going to give you hepatitis. The absolute worst thing that could happen is that one of you gets an infection and has to take a short course of antibiotics. More likely, neither of you will get an infection, or you might have a bit of discomfort that subsides after rubbing your ears with alcohol and/or saline. Whether or not you want to get your ears pierced it up to you, but death is not imminent in your immediate future.

  • Lizzy


    omg that is the best story you could ever tell ever. A++ for epic crazy story.