“Like many Latina women, I got my ears pierced when I was a baby—my mother took me to the pediatrician to have it done less than a month after I was born. (According to her, there were many other new moms and infants in line at the doctor’s office to do the same.) She says I cried through the night afterward, but she kept the earrings in because, as Puerto Ricans say, Antes muerta que sencilla. Better dead than plain.
I’ve worn earrings ever since—mostly hoops, the cheapest pair my mom could find at the mall still made from real gold. And I had to be careful with them: One time, after I lost mine, my mom tightened a butterfly back so hard on my new earrings that we needed tweezers to take them off. But I loved these hoops. They were a rite of passage, one that Latina mothers offered their daughters as a symbol of their womanhood. I was raised to always be accessorized, no matter the occasion.
To me, my hoops were an heirloom, until I learned I’d have to set them aside to be taken seriously in certain circles. When I decided to take my ballet dancing seriously, I ditched the hoops for a pair of stud earrings (or dormilonas, as we call them back home)—the former represented a heritage of salsa and more rowdy dancing, which had no place in professional ballet. I stopped dancing when I was 17, but I kept the feeling that, if I wanted to be perceived as polished, my accessories needed to be more delicate.”