November 15, 2011

Girl’s Rites of Passage–Ear Piercing to a Room Full of Earth Mothers. ~ Nicole Maniez

Photo: Gideon Wright

I feel the stirrings of ritual as the fluorescent lights beam down upon us. We are most definitely within a rite of passage.

After a small tide of her friends, my own daughter decides she too needs her ears pierced. My own young thing, the little girl who consistently chooses to wear boy’s clothes, wants to travel this rite of passage that I qualify in memory as very girl. Some small vessel within me whispers with pride that, yes my sweet girl is becoming a young woman. She is nine.

I got my ears pierced when I was 12. We went to the mall. It was the new mall. The mall was very cool and I wore my hair curled up with a thick layer of sheen, trying to be as totally rad as the mall itself. My teeth were too big for my face and my chest looked like it always had. I wore a bra anyway. I already wore eyeliner and I really wanted to shave my legs. A year or two before that, make-up, bras and leg hair were not part of my universe. This sudden awareness is strange, mysterious, and utterly imminent.

As an adult, I look back and realize these things I decided I needed to do to enhance my appearance were part of my rite of passage for a young American girl growing up in New Jersey. I romanticize other cultures that have meaningful, creative rites that allow the young ones to recognize their inherent worth and strength so that they can grow into their new selves, benefiting their community. Does ear piercing fit this bill? Maybe.

Photo: Myriel Almighty

We enter the mall, my daughter and I, and she has brought a friend for support. Her friend is of the uninitiated; her ears are without piercing. Her friend is also upping the anti and in mild hysterics. My daughter has created a small circle of female support, which is exciting.

My daughter will also need to garner up some major courage to overcome the imagined anguish that her friend now delivers for her. I feel the stirrings of ritual as the fluorescent lights beam down upon us. We are most definitely within a rite of passage.

We approach the counter and my daughter begins to get kind of stiff. Her eyes focus on the options of earrings that can be shot into her ear, should she accept the challenge. Her breath gets shallow. I use distraction to keep her mind occupied away from fear as the counter lady lays out the needed tools. My daughter is now on the hot seat, ears wiped clean with alcohol, small dots marking the intended placement of small gold-plated imitation diamonds. The ear-piercing instrument gives a mild snap and my daughter’s head gives a slight jerk. Her breath is stuck in her chest.

“Exhale”, I offer and she remembers to breathe. Her friend is running around the counter, hiding her head. Passerbys stop to watch. I smile with some strange sense of pride. Yes, that is my daughter being so brave with the one earring in. Another deep breath and loud click and my girl is up and out of that chair, earlobes bright red and sparkling. My daughter gives a quick thank you and walks out into the mall with her arms tight against her body, not wanting to move her head for fear of earring entrapment.

I could say that the rite ended there. But I unknowingly extended this rite with a bit of a finale. In regular me-mode, I quickly get us into the car because we have just enough time to make it to this Afro Flow Yoga class with live music. We’ve never been before, but there will be drums and cellos. My daughter and her friend both play cello. My mind has decided this is a perfect fit for our girl circle.

Photo: Edson Hong

The room is dimly lit and packed with bodies, mainly female, already sweaty. There are drums, a guitar, a cello, and a woman singing with a deep, rich, sultry voice. The instructor is gorgeous, spirit emanating from her radiant skin. She leads us down to child’s pose, but it’s a moving, breathing child’s pose. Again, I find myself surrounded by ritual.

The sound of exhales fill the space. This room is alive. My daughter taps me, says it is freaky, kind of scary. I hear her and understand that this level of energy, this turning inwards, this intensity can be scary when really felt for the first time.

We are immersed in sacred space. We are a part of it and have helped construct it. The group labors on to the rich fabric of breath, drum, and voice.

We rise up and move. It’s time to dance. We are in a circle and following the lead of our instructor, but each of us has our own flair, our own mastery over the innate movements our bodies finally get to express. My daughter and her friend hesitate at first but then relax into what they knew so well as toddlers, how to shake it unabashedly. How to appreciate the simple act of being in your body, of listening, of allowing, of taping into the energy of community, of intuition, of trusting, of creativity.

This being in community with strong, brilliant women is a rite of passage for my daughter and her friend, bringing them into the greater circle of Women that will support them as they grow. It is also a passage for me as I embrace the wisdom and self-acceptance of my circle of sisters and find a deeper space to explore my own woman-ness.




Nicole Maniez is an acupuncturist, herbalist, yoga teacher and childbirth educator in the Boston area.  She is lucky to get to combine multiple loves into one sweet career, doing what she loves and helping people move closer to health and wholeness.  She is also a momma, an art maker, and an out-of-tune music maker.  Hoping that she will never lose the ability to laugh at her follies (and yours), she cultivates her curiosity in an attempt to keep life entertaining.  She loves mail.  Send her something inspiring – www.nicolemaniez.com.

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