Do you remember the first time you watched the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap? I do, because for the last two decades, I’ve been trying with all my might to live in London (like Elizabeth James), avoid anyone remotely like Meredith Blake, and cover up the scar on my left ear lobe that proves I did, in fact, try to pierce my own ear with an ice cube and a piece of fruit.
If you never watched The Parent Trap, here’s a brief recap of the famous cabin scene that inspired my courageous endeavor: Just moments after Hallie (played by 11-year-old Lindsay Lohan) and Annie (also played by Lohan) figure out they’re twins (!) and should switch places to meet their respective father and mother, Hallie tells Annie she needs to pierce her ears so their plan can go off without a hitch.
Hallie insists she’s up for the task, saying, “I’ve gone with all my friends to get their ears pierced – it’s nothing!” She instructs Annie to hold a piece of ice behind her ear as she burns the end of a sewing needle with a match. Hallie then replaces the ice cube with an apple slice moments before stabbing said needle – with absolutely zero precision – through the center of Annie’s lobe. Annie screams, Hallie screams, the camera pulls away, and, the audience is left to assume that they finished the job with the other ear and continued on with their genius plan.
Before Hallie pierces her sister’s ear, she assuredly coos, “Just relax. I’m telling you, this is not a big deal.” But… isn’t it? That’s the debate I’ve had with friends, coworkers, and relatives for almost 20 years. Considering the fact that I tried it for myself and totally failed, I figured it was about time to ask an expert. So, I called Brian Keith Thompson, L.A.’s most in-demand piercer, at Body Electric Tattoo.
Turns out, I’m not the only one who copied the twins – Thompson says clients still regularly bring up the scene in his shop. And it certainly wasn’t a first in 1998. “In the 80s, I [saw] kids just taking a stud earring and shoving it through their ears in the bathroom. We didn’t have access to [piercing] guns or needles, so that’s what we used to do,” Thompson laughs. “ I don’t know if I’d deem it safe, but is it life-threatening? I’d say no, but I would not recommend it.”
Thompson debunks the entire Parent Trap scene, ahead.
First of All, Is Hallie’s Approach Even Sterile?
“No, it is not,” he says. “She is, in a way, sanitizing the needle by heating it, but she’s only using a match – it’s not sterile.” Thompson explains that sterilizing your piercing equipment is key for avoiding infection. He tells us that there are only a few ways to do effectively do so, including heat, steam, and pressure from an autoclave (his personal preference) or alcohol.
What About Ice? Does It Actually Numb the Lobe?
“They’re using the ice to avoid, or deaden, the pain. All ice will do is reduce swelling, inflammation, or bruising, but it won’t make it pain-free,” Thompson confirms.
Why the Apple?
Thompson explains that it was held there to steady the ear: “The ear is spongy and moves around a lot. Putting something behind it, on the back, makes it a little easier,” he says. It also keeps you from poking your fingers or neck with the needle as it slides through the other side. But you won’t find fruit in Thompson’s parlor. “Clients always come in and bring up this scene with the fruit,” he admits. “I always joke that no fruit will be harmed in this piercing.” Instead most piercers using body forceps or a clamp to hold the skin in place.
Lohan may be a lot of things – a club owner, beauty guru, amateur tattoo artist, Paris Hilton’s greatest foe – but a self-made piercer she is not. If you’re going to DIY one thing from the movie, stick to Oreos and peanut butter.