The painful truth about earbobs

September 3, 2021

14  comments

Those seated near me in church surely thought the Holy Spirit was doing a number on my heart, when in reality, the vintage earbobs I wore were doing a number on my earlobes. The pain, pinching and pulsating pressure sent tears streaming down my face. 

Once belonging to my grandmother, the tiny enamel bouquet of flowers seemed to burst from beneath my hair to perfectly complement both my dress and eyes. Bam-bam, double fashion blessing. 

Decades after finally being allowed to have pierced ears (If God had wanted you to have holes in your ears . . . ), and wearing regular old earrings,  I later inherited granny’s gorgeous earbobs, and a new world of fashion awaited. Loving vintage jewelry for its unique craftsmanship and style, I thought they were beautiful. I wore one pair for about an hour at a luncheon and casually swooped my hair behind my ears. The ladies reacted as if I’d pulled up in a Ferrari with Harry Connick Jr. in the passenger seat. 

The next earbob experiment lasted a bit longer, counting Sunday School, meet-n-greet time, and the full-length, full harmony, full-gospel, all-stanzas, traditional service. The heavy earrings were the screw-on type. Not wanting to have them plop into the little communion cup, or roll beneath the pew, I made sure they were screwed on good and tight. At first, the pain wasn’t so bad, because at that point, my ears were numb. But after the 10-minute prayer for missions, the numbness wore off and I had the sensation of rabid chihuahuas hanging from my ears. If the missionaries had experienced similar torture, I would have written a huge check and delivered it to the Congo in person. 

Earbobs - vintage

My stomach hurt, and my heart raced. I slyly tried to pull one earbob off, only to find it was going to require at least two hands and a bit of neck gymnastics.  I glanced across the aisle at a man who was a surgeon and tried to wiggle my eyebrows to alert him of the possible need for medical attention, but he only rolled his eyes and fanned himself with the bulletin.

I wrote a note to my husband on the offering envelope that said, “Like Jesus, I’ll be right back.” I tried to be graceful as the pain radiated to my shoulders, but the usher caught my elbow as I staggered out the door and plopped down on the front steps. 

“You okay?” he asked. “I need to get these *!#^ earbobs off!” He watched as I clawed at my ears. Sensing a breakdown of some sort, he asked, “Honey, do you need to talk to a deacon?” “No, I’m fine. Don’t you know I always cry and curse on the front steps of the church?” “You’re not the first” he said. 

A 5-hour headache made me wonder how in the world women used to wear such awful contraptions. “It’s because they were too distracted by the pain from their girdles to notice their ear lobes were on fire.” my mother explained. 

I found a jeweler who converted the prettiest of the ear bobs into modern day comfortable pierced earrings. And now, all is well with my soul. It seems God did in fact want me to have holes in my ears after all.

This story first appeared in the AL.com newspapers

  • Oh this is so good!
    My Mama used that same cliche on me about holes in my ears. So as one of my first acts of adulthood, I went to Rich’s in downtown Atlanta not long after I arrived from my Florida hometown and got my ears pierced. Honestly don’t remember what Mom’s reaction was once I went home for Christmas and she saw the holes in my ears, but what could she do at that point anyway? I think she was so thrilled I’d passed all my classes and was on the road to being an RN (Real Nurse) that she just ignored the ears.
    And thank the Lord we now have Spanx instead of girdles!

  • Oh yes! The pain is awful. How did they wear them? The earrings from them are awfully tempting to wear but I am with you on the pain being unbearable. Thank goodness for no girdles too:)

  • So glad you’re back. I missed you while you took your break. This is priceless and I cracked up. I wish my mother were alive to read this! Thanks for the needed laughter today.

    • Thanks Dena. It’s good to be back. I needed the break, but don’t we all these days? I’m glad you related to having your ears pinched off!

  • I can still see my Nanee flick off her ear bob when picking up the telephone receiver to make a phone call. We wore them when playing dress-up and could only tolerate that pinch for a minute or two. How did they do it? I did not realize ear bobs could be converted for pierced ears. Thanks for the tip!

    • Oh yes, the earring/telephone maneuver we all remember so well. I also loved it when the ladies would dial the phone with the eraser end of a pencil. I guess that doesn’t happen much anymore either.

  • I remember the pain of some clip ons before I got my ears pierced, ouch! And girdles, how did ladies ever wear those, I can barely stand wearing a bra all day ?

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