Holy Earlobe Remorse! Fixing Faddish Earlobe Holes Can Cost Thousands

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In retrospect, many fads look silly. But they’re typically harmless, and provide a little fun without costing much money. On the other hand, jumping on the bandwagon with certain recent trends—in particular, getting a tattoo or creating an ever-growing earlobe hole for those disc earrings—can wind up costing a pretty penny when the time comes that you wish they’d disappear.

How much? Getting a small tattoo takes only a few minutes, and may cost $100 or $150, which is chump change compared to what it runs to have it removed. Getting de-inked can easily cost over $3,000, and the process is usually described as far more painful than actually getting the tattoo.

A San Francisco Chronicle story delves into what happens when someone wakes up and realizes it looks ridiculous to have golfball-sized holes in his sagging earlobes. The process is easier and less painful than getting a tattoo removed, requiring perhaps a half-hour procedure with a good plastic surgeon, who must slice off the dangling flesh and figure out a way to smooth out the rest of the lobe so it looks natural.

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And how much does such a procedure cost? That depends on many factors, but the surgery will probably run close to $2,000.

The Los Angeles Times, while noting that health insurance usually won’t cover such surgery since it’s elective, estimates that simple earlobe repair jobs cost between $800 and $2,000. More complicated surgeries can top $4,000. The size of the hole has a lot to do with how much it’ll cost to make it look like the hole never existed.

Unlike a tattoo, which can be paid for and created on a whim within minutes, getting huge holes in your earlobes takes time and dedication—so you can’t blame the result on a momentary bout of foolishness. The individual featured in the Chronicle’s story, a 21-year-old college student named Coleton Tidwell, stretched out his lobes with larger and larger disc earrings over the course of nearly a year, and the holes eventually reached an inch and a half in diameter.

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Three years after first getting his ears pierced, he got sick of his lobes touching his shoulders if the discs were out and he tilted his head to the side. He finally bit the bullet, paying $1,800 to fix the giant holes in his earlobes, figuring that they would limit his job opportunities:

“You either love ’em and continue to love ’em and take pride in them,” Tidwell said, “or you wake up one day and you just have to assess where to go from here.”

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.