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Ear-Piercing Plot

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Danny: D.J. got her ears pierced when she got to junior high. You can get your ears pierced when you get to junior high.
Stephanie: But I'm not D.J.!
Danny: Hey, I'm sorry, but I don't make the rules. ...Actually, I do.

Alice is finally a teenager! She's ready to get out, see the world, hang around town, and do all the cool stuff she couldn't before. She's also eyeing the fashion trends set by the cool girls at her school and concludes that there's only one way to prove she's finally a grown-up: get her ears pierced.


There's just one problem: Her parents won't allow it, citing how she's too young for ear piercings, how dangerous ear piercing is, how easy it is for a piercing to get infected, how she doesn't need earrings to look beautiful and True Beauty Is on the Inside, etc. No matter how vocally Alice protests that all the cool girls at school have pierced ears, that everyone will think she's a loser if her ears aren't pierced, that she's not a baby anymore, and that she understands the risks, their minds are made up.

Alice concludes that she can't possibly wait until she's 18 (or whatever minimum age her parents set) to get her ears pierced, and sneaks out of the house to go to the mall and get the procedure done. She'll find out how much it actually hurts, but still be glad she went through with it. Alternatively, if the place requires parental permission and she can't get it (or even fake it), she might try to DIY an ear piercing with a sewing needle, which will probably end badly.


After that, many wacky shenanigans ensue trying to hide her newly pierced ears from her parents with hats, scarves, silly hairstyles, etc. until they inevitably discover what she did. Or the piercing gets infected, forcing her to come clean to her parents on her own while bracing herself to hear, "I Warned You!" Either way, she's almost certainly going to be grounded for life and/or forced to sit through a long, boring lecture about safety and responsibility.

Sometimes her parents aren't the obstacle, though; it's actually Alice herself who's too scared to go through with it because she's Afraid of Needles. Luckily, she has supportive friends/parents/siblings who promise to go with her to the store and be there with her as she gets her ears pierced. And when it's all finished, she'll have beautiful earrings and be one step closer to being grown up.


This trope is nearly Always Female. Male examples exist but are less common due to the stigma around boys piercing their ears in some places.

And lastly, it is important to note that the societal rules regarding ear piercing aren't the same in every culture. For example, in most Latin American countries, it's traditional to have girls' ears pierced when they are babies since the parents can better monitor the aftercare that way. Elsewhere, generally it's only the most conservative households that don't let their kids get their ears pierced at all until they're legally adults, though others may set a limit like 15 or 16.

Sub-trope of Rite of Passage. Related to Fashion Hurts, Afraid of Needles, Face Your Fears, and Forbidden Fruit. Likely to overlap with Didn't Think This Through if Alice doesn't consider that she won't be able to hide her newly pierced ears from her disapproving parents forever. Has nothing to do with ear-piercing sounds.


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    Comic Books 
  • Smile (Raina Telgemeier): Raina desperately wants to get her ears pierced, and even gets a few pairs of earrings for her 12th birthday, but her mother is hesitant to get it done. She cites that it was because she got an infection when she had hers pierced, to which Raina then retorts that it was because she "did it with a sewing needle and an ice cube." Eventually, her mother relents and lets her get her ears pierced as consolation for needing to get braces.

    Comic Strips 
  • Peanuts: In one arc, Lucy and Peppermint Patty want their ears pierced. Marcie tells them about all the dangers of getting it done by an unskilled amateur; Patty freaks out when she mentions a penicillin shot. Eventually they decide to go the safe route and have a doctor do it, but Lucy chickens out and runs after hearing Patty overreact to it.
  • Luann: The protagonist spent a lot of early strips badgering her parents to let her get her ears pierced. They eventually gave in.
  • Heart of the City: Heart frequently rails against the monstrous injustice of her mom not letting her get her ears pierced. Her mom remains unmoved.

    Fan Works 
  • Fugo's Ear-Piercing Fiasco: Fugo wants to get his ears pierced because the other boys in his ballet class have theirs done, but Bruno and Abbacchio forbid it until he's 15. Later that night, when their parents are out of the house, he bribes Narancia to pierce his ear using a sewing needle stolen from Mista's room, with disastrous results.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the slumber party scene in Grease, the prospective but bumbling beautician Frenchy offers to pierce Sandy's ears. It doesn't go over so well.
  • In Working Girl, Harrison Ford's character explains that the scar on his chin was a result of him fainting when he got his ears pierced and hitting his chin on the toilet. (The story did the rounds as being taken from his real life, but in actual fact, he lost control of his car while driving to work and trying to put his seatbelt on at the same time, hit a telephone pole with the car and the steering wheel with his face, and describes "inept emergency surgery" as the reason he ended up with the scar. He didn't get his ear piercing until about a decade after the movie was made.)

  • The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes: Before starting middle school, Abby wants to get her ears pierced, but her parents won't allow it. Her older sisters suggest clip-ons as a compromise. When she trips and falls in the hallway, one of her earrings falls off, exposing that her ears aren't really pierced, and Victoria makes fun of her for wearing clip-ons. When she goes as far as to make up a humiliating song about "the one-earring wonder" and sing it loudly in the hallways, Abby decides to get her ears pierced without permission so she won't be laughed at anymore.
  • The Baby-Sitters Club: In Mallory and the Trouble with Twins, Mallory negotiates with her parents for permission to get her ears pierced. They agree on the conditions she takes care of them properly, gets only one hole in each ear, and doesn't stick to small simple earrings (as she'd offered to do) because, as her mom says, part of the fun of pierced ears is wearing wacky earrings sometimes.
    • One of the summer special storylines also involved Mary Anne agreeing to have her ears hand-pierced in secret to demonstrate how grown-up she was, but everyone involved eventually chickened out.
  • Getting your first pair of earrings is a part of the Rite of Passage for all citizens of Beta Colony, whether male, female, or hermaphrodite, in The Vorkosigan Saga; When you reach the age of consent (or have your first period, if you're biologically equipped to) you get your contraceptive implant, have a session with a licensed practical sexuality therapist, you get your ears pierced and select your first pair of earrings (which are used to signal your sexual preferences and availability, "to get the weird guessing-games out of the way"), and (at least if you're Kareen Koudelka) go out for ice-cream afterwards with Grand-tante Naismith. On hearing how matter-of-fact and straightforward her daughter's introduction to adulthood was, her mother Drou sighs "in a kind of reverse-nostalgia, not seeking to return to days past but earnestly glad to have escaped them".

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Americans: In the first season episode "The Clock", it's played with in that Elizabeth is actually the one who decides to have Paige's ears pierced (in the same way her mother pierced hers) once she realizes Paige is starting to become a teenager.
  • The Big Bang Theory: In "The Holiday Summation", Sheldon gets into an argument with his mother, and so he goes out and gets an ear piercing. He then screams in pain, and decides to get it removed.
  • On The Brady Bunch episode "You Can't Win 'Em All", Cindy is endlessly obsessive about her appearance on a TV quiz show. After changing outfits and hairdos multiple times, she asks her frustrated sister if she should get her ears pierced. The response:
    "Cindy, the last thing you need is two more holes in your head!"
  • The Cosby Show: Theo gets his ear pierced without telling his parents, only for the piercing to become infected.
  • A variation in CSI: NY. Lindsay has a flashback to her young teenage years when she and three of her friends hid in her bathroom for her to pierce one of the other's ears. Girl #3 holds a potato behind the piercee's ear while Lindsay prepares the needle and they hear a thud. Girl #4, who was supposed to be keeping an eye out for Lindsay's parents, passed out from the thought of seeing their friend get stuck.
  • Dog with a Blog: One episode has a B-plot revolving around Chloe trying to convince Bennett and Ellen to take her to get her ears pierced. When they refuse multiple times on the belief that she's too young, she instead decides to trick Tyler into giving her a ride by lying about being given permission to go there. Their parents eventually find out and punish both of them for it.
  • Family Matters: Played with in one episode, where Laura wanted to get her nose pierced. After arguing with Harriot over it, she shows up at home with a ring through her nose but then reveals that it's actually a clip-on after her mom panics.
  • How I Met Your Mother: In "Murtaugh", Barney decides to do all the things in a list Ted created of things you're too old to do after thirty. The first thing he does is pierce his own ear, which gets badly infected over the course of the episode.
  • Full House: "I'm Not D.J." has Stephanie wanting to get her ears pierced though her father tells her she can't. She gets D.J.'s friend Kimmy to do it but wasn't anticipating having to leave the studs in place until her ears have healed over the holes, which means she needs to find a way to keep Danny from seeing them, which she resorts to a Princess Leia hair bun style for. She's forced to give up the deception when it becomes clear her ears are infected, admitting it to Danny who takes her to a doctor to get her ears checked out and then for some ice cream since it's the last she's going to have for a while.
    Stephanie: Grounded?
    Danny: Mmm-hmmm.
  • Life with Boys: In "This Time the Problem Is with Dad and Not with Boys", Tess breaks her promise to her father Jack that she wouldn't get her ears pierced until she was fifteen but before she can tell him the truth, he gives her permission... but can she go to a party knowing she lied to get there?
  • The Sydney to the Max episode "Never Been Pierced" deals with Sydney wanting to get her ears pierced like Sophia, but against Judy's wishes. She secretly gets them pierced while on an outing with Mrs. Harris, but when Judy decides to go along with it, Sydney freaks out and has the cashier pretend she's getting pierced for the first time so Judy doesn't suspect a thing. But then Mrs. Harris comes in and reveals Sydney already got pierced behind Judy's back, and Sydney was in for it.

  • Twilight's First Day: Twilight's First Dance has an equine variation with Twilight getting her first horseshoes for the school dance. Her father asks her if she's too young for horseshoes, but she says that all the cool ponies have them. The mares working at the horseshoe shop reassure her that the procedure won't hurt, but when she sees them pull out a hammer and nails, she gets scared and changes her mind, deciding to get a hooficure instead.

    Western Animation 
  • Arthur: In "D.W. Gets Lost", D.W. gets jealous of her friend Emily having gotten her ears pierced, but Mom refuses to let D.W. follow suit, telling her that it'll turn her ears green. After getting lost in the local department store later, D.W. runs into Emily returning the earrings, because this warning was Not Hyperbole. Truth in Television — sometimes ears can turn green after being pierced, though it's less due to the piercings and more caused by cheap copper jewelry.
  • Beavis and Butt-Head: In "Pierced", the titular duo decide to each pierce one of their ears after a confrontation with Earl, who attacked them for making fun of his own earring. When they're unable to get piercings at the mall due to them not having written permission from their parents, they decide to crudely pierce their own right ears with a geometric compass and power tools. However, when they go back to the clerk at the mall to brag about it, she informs them that a man piercing his right ear means that he's gaynote , much to the boys' horror.
  • In Daria. Daria is painfully keen to be seen as something more than the best friend of Trent's little sister. Seeing an older girl who hangs out with Trent has piercings, Daria, encouraged by her best friend Jane, goes to a tattoo parlour for a belly-button piercing. However, she ends up having an allergic reaction to the metal in the piercing, and she takes it out before the healing process is finished, meaning it closes back up the next morning. Meanwhile, her little sister Quinn rats her out to her parents, who are outraged. Daria grins her most sardonic grin and shows them her fully unpierced navel...
  • Generation O!: In "Pierced Ears", eight-year-old Molly wants to have her ears pierced for several reasons — a celebrity gave her an earring, she wants to hang pretty things from her ears, and she knows three girls who have piercings, one of whom is three years younger than her. However, while her father's on board with it, her mother forbids Molly from getting her ears pierced until she's fifteen. Molly tries to persuade her mother to let her get her ears pierced now.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot: "Ear No Evil" has Jenny wanting Dr. Wakeman to make her some pierced ears, as she was built without any external ears initially, after the Crust cousins flaunt their new ear piercings at school one day and mock Jenny for not having any ears to get pierced. While her creator/mother refuses, Sheldon is more than happy to make a pair for her. This results in Jenny spending a portion of the episode sporting a pair of comically large pierced ears which make her the unwitting subject of much mockery by her peers (even her own mother was holding back laughter when Jenny showed off her new ears to her) as well as prove to be a hindrance in her fight against the episode's Monster of the Week Lancer.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Alluded to in one episode where Candace listens to Stacy's plan to get her ears pierced, then to Stacy crying in pain over it, and finally, denying to Stacy's mother about knowing anything about Stacy's plans in the first place and how wrong it was for Stacy to go behind her mother's back.
  • Robot Chicken: In one of the parody sketches for Inside Out, Riley is at a slumber party and one of her friends wants to pierce her ears as a teenage rite of passage. Her Emotions discuss if this is a good idea or not. As one of her emotions panics, it quickly turns into an Inception reference as her emotion's emotions and two "extractors" try to make Riley decide for herself. It later smash cuts into Riley's funeral, revealing that Riley went through with the ear piercing but then bled to death after asking her friend to "stab her in the ear."
  • The Simpsons: In the B-plot of "Simpson Tide", Milhouse gets an earring, which makes him popular with his classmates. A jealous Bart decides to get his ear pierced against Homer's wishes (at a piercing store that quickly becomes one of many Starbucks at the Springfield Mall), only to find that everyone else in the class has gotten pierced as well. When Homer finds out, he confiscates Bart's earring. Near the end of the episode, when a naval submarine Homer and his friends are on is being flooded due to a pin-sized hole in the hull, Homer uses Bart's earring to plug up the hole, saving everyone onboard the sub.
  • Stick Girl: The series has a multi-episode plot about Stick Girl getting her ear pierced. The episodes show Stick Girl chickening out on one occasion, with much of them talking about ear piercing itself, be it the reasons, or even the process, and instructions. The final one focused on Stick Girl dreadfully sitting down to get it pierced...and it's over rather quickly, with Stick Girl glad to finally have a piercing.