Holes in the ears open new world of jewelry

April 03, 1991|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Evening Sun Staff

GETTING YOUR EARS pierced is like a shot in the arm. In more ways than one.

There's that quick, stinging sensation just like those vaccinations you might have tried to forget from your childhood followed by a little warm skin and a little cool alcohol.

But once the sting subsides (remember those weight-reduction plans all say -- no pain, no gain) there's a new world to explore. Earrings forever to choose from. Big, funky purple plastics; tiny, elegant red rubies; wiry, silver shapes dangling with beads; handsome gold hearts hugging the ear.

L No more will you be resigned to basic gold and silver balls.

Your weary wardrobe gets a shot in the arm -- without great expense. (Of course, this new world of earrings does tempt one to overspend a bit.)

I have come to this cavalier attitude about pierced ears only after years, nay decades, of fear and delay. I began to think of myself as the last woman without pierced ears in the Western World.

But it wasn't this dowdy distinction that drove me to the mall. Rather, it was the law of supply and demand coupled with my own negligence.

Although the Jewelry Industry Council says that 40 percent of all earrings are clip-ons, they are often difficult to find -- at almost any price. And what you find is old-lady stuff, even though most old ladies I know wouldn't wear much of what's out there now.

And, besides, even when you find clip-on earrings you like, they turn uncomfortable on you. And that's where negligence comes in. My earrings would loosen so much they would fall off or pinch me to the point of distraction and I would pull them off without paying attention to where I was putting them.

I am not by nature a careless person, but in the last few years I have lost more earrings than I care to count. And unless you're a hip guy, one earring doesn't do you much good. I have mourned the passing one of the good gold shells my husband gave me, one of the colorful drop beads I bought years ago at an outdoor market in Los Angeles and both of the pearls I wore on my wedding day.

Now that my baubles are stuck in my ear, rather than hanging limply from it, I feel like I'll have more control. Another character flaw eliminated. Phew, I'm feeling better about this all the time.

So, what does it take to get your ears pierced? About 30 minutes, $30 and a dollop of courage. The actual piercing takes probably less than a minute. But you need to allow time to choose your earrings, be measured and get instructions on caring for your ears during the first weeks. You needn't allow time for recovery, though I did go for a beer afterward.

Most shops that pierce ears do it for free when you buy a pair of earrings -- the first are called "training posts." These earrings cost from $10 to $30, depending on the store and your taste (14 karat gold is the most expensive and also the most popular; the others are surgical steel, sometimes inlaid with gold). Then, there is a few dollars for a bottle of "pierced ear antiseptic" and some cotton balls. Some stores even throw in the antiseptic.

These piercing places range from neon kiosks in the middle of malls to discreet jewelry stores.

Go where you will be most comfortable. Saturday is the busiest day, most shops say. I went on a weekday afternoon, when the mall was relatively quiet. I also went to a cosmetics shop, where you sit at the rear of the store, away from the folks buying lipstick and eye liner.

The person who pierced my ears told me she had been doing it for four years; she was quick and confident. She also took a lot of time to explain how to use the antiseptic and how to change earrings when the time came. She didn't ask why I hadn't pierced my years 20 years ago.

Why I didn't pierce my ears in the 1960s had a little to do with fear and a lot to do with fantasy. I lived in college dorms when roommates pierced each others' ears by the ice cube-potato-sewing needle method. Not for me. That was the fear factor.

But more important was my mother's conviction that only "Gypsies" pierced their ears, that it was an undesirable, barbaric thing to do. I believed her -- for a long time.

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