Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Piercing and Karma
When I was ten, all I wanted was pierced ears. My parents told me that was a habit of people who were more from "the tropics" than we were, (still not sure what that means) but I begged them. Okay, maybe I was around nine when I decided to get my ears pierced, and it actually occurred when I turned eleven. Yup, I begged on and off for two years. Then one day, my mother relented.
It hurt. I got a terrible infection. When everything finally healed, I realized I had made a mistake. I didn't even like having pierced ears. But I couldn't tell them that. Ever. I told my friends, but not my parents.
So when my son came to me and asked if he could get his lip pierced two years ago, I shuddered. I explained how you shouldn't interrupt a mucous membrane like the lip, how it reminded me of Goths and scary, dark undercurrents like Satanic worship. So I guess that was my "tropics" - we, a nice family, don't have children with lip rings.
Then I remembered how my friends and I used straightened out paper clips to try and pierce our ears. We slept with "progressive rings" in our ears that were supposed to painlessly and progressively pierce our ears. I was so glad that my son was not like I had been, that he had taken my response so reasonably.
So when I went into his room the other day and found him with a match, a bottle of alcohol and the sewing box, I knew exactly what had happened. He had a new lip ring, made with a sterilized pin from the sewing box we keep right in the living room. He looked at me and said, "I know. I'm probably grounded. Just tell me for how long but don't ask me to take the lip ring out because it has to heal."
I was speechless. At least he had used heat to sterilize the pin, he had smeared Neosporin on the puncture and inserted a surgical steel ring. He explained how kids in his school were piercing a lot of body parts and he had been watching them for...well, two years. He knew I would never say yes.
I didn't ground him. I explained to him, sort of inanely at that moment, how most beauty is based on mutilation.
"I know, Mom, you told me that two years ago. Am I grounded?"
I looked at him. He makes the honor roll, he plays basketball, he's in band, he volunteers at the library. Things could be worse than a lip ring. I wondered what I should do.
"I've been asking you for like two years," he pointed out, "and you..."
Two years. Then he did it himself.
"You might decide you don't like having a lip ring," I suggested.
He shrugged. "Then I'll let it heal." He laughed. "I thought you were going to go crazy," he said, "I can't believe you're just standing there."
"It's sort of a done deal at this point."
"So I'm not grounded?"
"Just don't pierce anything else. Anywhere. No matter what your friends do. And tell me next time. So I can take you to a place...like the doctor's or something."
"Mom, people do this like on the bus. Or in the lunch room. No one goes to the doctor's for this."
I got him more Neosporin and some hydrogen peroxide. We talked about how to avoid an infection. The whole time I was wondering if I should be doing something more punitive.
"Thanks, Mom," he said, "I can't believe you're being so cool about this. This isn't like you. I thought you would like take me to the ER or something."
"Actually, I know what it feels like to want to do something like this."
"No," and he really laughed, "you couldn't possibly know."
And here he is, from his cell phone to mine: