In honor of today being Son’s 26th birthday, I am reprinting a newspaper column I wrote about him 14 years ago. The subject is dated now, but back in the mid-90s it was something many parents struggled with.
March was the month of our son’s 12th birthday, a genuine milestone marking the passage from innocent childhood to imminent teenhood. To honor such an auspicious occasion, Son had only one request. He wanted to get his ear pierced. Since we are progressive and loving parents, we did the only thing possible. We bought him a frog tank.
Two weeks after his birthday, as the frogs munched happily on their crickets, the ear piercing issue had managed to escalate from passing opinion to feverish debate. There seemed to be three sides in evidence: the right, the left, and the middle. Anchored squarely on the right was my [ex] husband, Doc, who felt that teachers, bosses, and most anyone in a position of authority look on male pierced body parts unfavorably. He did not want to see his son at a disadvantage out in the world because of a choice in style.
Swinging over to the left was our 14-year-old daughter, who assured us in the most assertive fashion that three-quarters of her high school’s population had something pierced; male, female, or whatever. Part of me believed her statistics, and part of me kept in mind that this is the same person who has sworn that she couldn’t get her books from her locker because there were a million people in the hall.
The spot straddling the fence belonged to me. My hunch was that Doc was right, but I wanted to be won over by my children’s logic and enthusiasm, especially since we were talking about two of my favorite things in the world: my son and earrings. The problem was that I had never considered them together. I was also having an attack of déjà vu observing Daughter’s reaction to her father’s dissertation about diminished opportunity as a result of succumbing to a trend. “Oh, my God!” she wailed. “That is so not true!”
It was this exclamation of teen outrage that sent me spinning back in time to a kitchen in Westchester where a different, but similar looking 14-year-old girl was asking parental permission to go on a high school science trip. My favorite teacher was organizing an expedition to view the total solar eclipse in Norfolk, Virginia, the likes of which would not be seen with such spectacular clarity from the east coast until the year 2000-and-something. My parents had a long and dependable history of never saying no, especially where education was concerned, and I was already mentally packing my clothes.
“Absolutely not,” my mother gasped in horror. “You’ll go blind.”
No amount of information about safe viewing techniques could change her mind. The answer was no.
The bus to Norfolk left without me and also left me wondering how parents can make offhand, seemingly random decisions and adhere to them in the face of all logic or entreaty. I vowed that should I ever become someone’s mother, I would not be a slave to the timeworn beliefs I had grown accustomed to and would always keep an open heart and mind.
Fast forward back to the future and the local mall, where a just-turned 12-year-old young man sits in a jewelry store, mirror in hand, admiring his new cubic zirconia stud. No barriers of social injustice or diminished opportunity will stand in his way because he is the child of people who have overcome their past and brushed aside their hard-earned preconceived notions. The world and all it offers stretches endlessly before him for he is young, he is strong, and he is pierced.
Third in our series of Fotos by Daughter that demonstrate Two Words Say It All
P.S. Son is now a businessman, basketball coach, and homeowner who no longer wears an earring. But having worn one for over half his life had no negative effect, as noted by Daughter, a head teacher with a nose ring.