Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
My husband is a reactionary, emotional; the glass is half empty kind of guy. I love him immensely because he is funny, articulate and unafraid to tackle anything that comes along. I on the other hand am a glass half full kind of gal. I’m always trying to see the blessing or bright side in all that happens. Bringing me back around to why I write this story.
From the time my daughter Emily was seven, she’d been around friends that had brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers that were tattooed or pierced in one way or another. Kids being kids, they only saw the coolness or wow factor, not the underlying meaning we tainted old folk know it to be.
So when my daughter’s longtime friend had her tongue pierced at 13, Emily and I were there with her for moral support. Although I kept a running commentary on why she shouldn’t do it, addressing all the health and social implications and stigmas attached to having a tongue piercing, blah, blah, blah, she did it anyway.
Her mother saw no real problem and actually encouraged her to do it! This really gave me new insight into her mother and her mother’s psyche. That and other issues are stories unto themselves. I leave that for maybe another time.
I’ll never forget how my daughter’s mouth flew open and she grabbed her stomach when the needle was pushed through Victoria’s tongue. Tears were streaming down Victoria’s face as her tongue proceeded to swell up like a balloon. Poor Emily was rocking back and forth chanting, “Oh, my God. Oh, my God.” I wasn’t quite sure which girl I needed to comfort first.
Victoria's mother, who had paid for the piercing and had encouraged her, did not go with her to have the dastardly deed done. She was conspicuously absent. Thirteen, she’s still a baby. All I kept thinking was that I never even had my ears pierced until I was twenty-one. I’ve been around people who have had multiple piercings and/or tattoos my whole life, yet I have never had the desire to have a tattoo or get my face punctured, or any other part of my body for that matter. My thinking is this….if it hurts when I bump it, why would I want to put a hole through it?
My daughter asked if she could get a second piercing in her ear. We kept telling her no, no, no on extra piercings in her ear, or extra piercings period, anywhere on her body. Finally my husband caved and she had a second ear piercing. Of course it was accompanied by the old standby, regarding all other piercings or tattoos. “Not while you’re under my roof. Not as long as I’m your dad. Blah, blah, blah.”
Last year Emily went away to college and soon after turned 18. I remember like it was yesterday.
“I’m 18. I’m an adult now. You don’t need to baby me.”
Followed soon after by a phone call at 1:00 in the morning.
“Mommy, I don’t feel well. I’ve been throwing up. Help me Mommy.”
Well, so much for the, I’m an adult argument. I digress, back to my glass half full mentality. One day while I was working, I get a phone call and out of my daughter’s mouth come the words every parent dreads.
“You’re not going to be happy with me when I tell you this.”
My chest becomes tight and my heart starts pounding. I tell her I will call her back when I go to lunch so we can talk privately. When I call her back, she suddenly becomes sheepish and child-like.
Of course I get even more nervous as I wonder just how bad can this news possibly be. Our dialog went something like this……
“Are you pregnant?”
“No, I haven’t had sex. Are you crazy?”
“YES!!” I think to myself—“Thank you Jesus.”
“Have you been arrested?”
“Are you taking drugs or have you started drinking?”
“No Mom. Good grief. What are you thinking?”
“Have you been kicked off the track team?”
“Ok, let me get this straight. You haven’t had sex. You’re not pregnant. You aren’t taking drugs or drinking and you haven’t been arrested. You’re still on the team and you haven’t flunked out, so what am I going to be upset about hearing? Are you a lesbian?"
“God no Mom! I had my tongue pierced.”
“WHAT?!?! “ I exclaim and ask at the same time. Secretly I was relieved. Not happy, by a long shot now mind you, but of all the possibilities, it was the lesser of all the evils.
I gave her the traditional “MOM” lecture. Why didn’t she wait and think it through more? What was she thinking? Why the rush? Does she understand the social stigma with having her tongue pierced and what people will assume? She responds that she had thought of everything but the social stigma, when she decided to do it. She only thought of how cool it looked. Not what people would think or how it could be misinterpreted.
She asked if I was going to tell her dad. I’m thinking to myself, “Oh, hell no.” I wasn’t about to put myself out there for the backlash I knew would ensue.
“You keep saying you’re an adult, so be one. You tell your dad and take the heat and the fallout.”
“I’ll do it when I come home for Christmas break. That way I can do it in person.”
“Ok, but the longer you wait, the harder it will be.”
My husband and I drove to Arizona in December, picked Emily up at my sister’s house and brought her home for her six week break. She was wearing a clear tongue ring and he didn’t notice. All of her cousins noticed at once, because she had a green one in just before we got there and were all sworn to secrecy. They complied and kept watching my husband, secretly hoping for early fireworks. When we left they were disappointed.
Shortly after we arrived home the clear tongue ring broke. My daughter was resigned to wearing a green one. My friend at work said it looked like she had a green M & M stuck on her tongue. Ok, so now I’m really waiting for the inevitable fireworks. They never came, because she kept her head pointed down when talking to her dad and so she decided not to tell him. She went back to school and he didn’t know.
School got out really early, and so back to Arizona I go in May to pick her up. It was just before Mother’s day. I was giving myself the best gift ever. I would have my daughter home again. At least until school starts again after the summer break. Of course I brought back a van full of all her belongings, as well as all of her dirty laundry.
Now her anxiety is starting to skyrocket. She is leaving all her new friends, and she only has a green, a pink and dice tongue rings. She couldn’t face her dad without a clear one and besides, she needs a clear one for her job interview the next morning.
I caved. What can I say? I’m a mom. We went to “Hot Topic” and got a clear ring. Reason one-yes, of course, because of her dad and reason two-because of the job interview. For the last few weeks all has been peaceful in my world. That is until yesterday.
It finally happened……..My husband noticed the ring. The clear one had broken (again), so she was resigned to wearing a pale pink one. Being ever so vigilant about possible discovery, she was taken aback when he said, “Stick out your tongue.”
She stood there with the deer in the headlights look on her face. Frozen. Unable to speak or move.
“I said, Stick out your tongue!”
This time Emily complied, and he turned, red faced, unable to speak and went into the house. By the time I came home from work, I wanted to turn around and leave again. He was inside the house and she was sitting on the porch swing. Neither of them attempting to speak to each other for over two hours.
“Have your daughter come inside. We need to talk. I’m not happy at all.”
He was upset and vocal. She was upset and introverted. I on the other hand just sat there quietly not speaking a word. (Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s true. I was quiet.) So for now the air has been cleared. I am not looking forward to the next time I hear……..
“Mom you’re really not going to be happy when I tell you this.”