Wednesday, 27 May 2009

tongue piercing

I haven't been spending much time with my daughter recently. I've been busy. One night, when I was going out, I'd been out several nights that week already, she said to me:
"I feel like I live alone".
Last night, I catered a gig. It was work. Badly paid. But work. I got home at midnight and, as usual, went into my daughter's bedroom. I saw her sleeping form, the soft pale skin, her little head of tumbled blonde hair, the slender hands ...I kissed her, breathing in her still child-like smell. I love her I thought. This is all that counts. I must spend more time with her. And more importantly, be present when I'm with her. Because even when I'm home, I'm not. My mind is elsewhere or I'm on the computer. Or I'm worrying. Or thinking. Or planning.
She asks me questions nowadays, interesting questions...
"Explain proportional representation."
We go through it. At first sight it looks like a good idea.
"Der" she announces, in her teenage way "of course it's better. Der. Why don't we just do it?"
And then I explain further. That with PR you also get the BNP...and the Greens and lots of little parties. They then have to form coalitions to be able to wield any power. So you end up with a big messy compromising party anyway.
Then, switching subjects rapidly she asks:
"Can I have my tongue pierced?"
I look at her. I feel stupidly anxious. I don't want her to have her tongue pierced. I want her to have brown long hair again, untouched by hair dye. I want to see her in her ballet outfit again. I want her to curl up in my arms at night. I want her to think I am the bestest most important fantastic loveable human being in the world again. Like she used to. I want to be called 'mummy' rather than 'muuuuum' or when she's annoyed, 'mother'. 
I say lightly, a little cruelly: "If you let your hair go back to it's natural colour, you can have your tongue pierced."
It was a joke. I then attempt a weak excuse like:
"Isn't it dangerous? Can't you get an infection?"
And even more weakly, grasping at straws...
"What if you get in a fight? They could, like, rip your tongue out".
She laughs:
"You said that about my pierced ears mum. And I've never been in a fight".
This morning she was leaving for school.
"Right Saturday afternoon my mate and I are dying my hair brown."
I'm still only half awake.
"Is it a good idea to keep dying it?" I ask gently "it will end up frizzy".
"Well I'm doing what you said."
I look non-plussed.
"I'm dying my hair brown so I can have my tongue pierced".
I gasp. "What? That was a joke".
Her expression changes. She mutters something. It sounds like 'bitch'. 
"What did you say?"
I'm thinking I've got to put a stop to this. The disrespectful way she talks to me. 
She explodes:
"You are TOTALLY evil. Oh my god you are a LIAR. You said I could have my tongue pierced. LIAR"
"It was a joke. You knew it was a joke!" 
She slams out of the front door, cursing, upset. She's got GSCE tests today. I'm worried. I don't want her to be upset. I'm also thinking, why do I want to control her appearance? You are only young once. Let her experiment. 


  1. What an excellent piece of writing which reads fluidly and compulsively, like a play. You've perfectly captured your daughter's transitory state between vulnerable child and intelligent, miscreant teenager...

  2. I know exactly how it is! I went through it too with my daughter when she got her face pierced and dyed her hair blue and .... I bit my tongue and thought if this is all she experiments with, all is well.

    She is now a stay at home mum with two kids living in London with a Lawyer partner. Thank god I bit my tongue.

  3. My own daughter's 14 and she's a real tearaway too. She calls me names, she shouts at me, she uses obscenities that makes me wonder where she learned them! She actually violently attacked me a few weeks ago and my housemate had to call the police.

    For the first 4 years of her life, virtually from the day she was born, she was utterly devoted to me. Whenever I walked into the house her face lit up and she ran into my arms yelling "Daddy!" She insisted on always sitting on my lap and wouldn't go to sleep unless I was cuddling her. I have some very precious memories of that time and I understand why you miss it, ML.

  4. I can really sympathize with Kevin's mum and dad here!:

  5. Speaking as a former teenager who dyed her hair and pierced her tongue, I have to say I don't understand why you want to stop it. These things are a natural type of self expression and rarely lead to any long-term damage (absolutely zero in my case - I'm now 31). I still have my tongue pierced and still dye my hair (though not so crazy colours). The only risk is from going to an unhygienic piercer... she really needs to go to someone who uses gloves, takes their time and sterilises their needles, etc.

  6. Oh yes Captain. I'm a former teenager too...who dyed my hair an extreme colour every week and did my own ear piercing with a needle, ice cube and cork!
    It's weird isn't it?
    I suppose I just want my baby back.
    But I am enjoying the teen stage too. It's very interesting.

  7. First post here, I hope you don't mind me adding my 2 penniesworth. I feel for you, my kids aren't teenogres yet, but my time will come.
    However, I used to work with teens and once was asked my opinion of piercing. So I was honest with them. Brutally so. I don't mind them, however, all you have to do is Google "piercings gone wrong" to see why they have to be considered really seriously.
    Perhaps a suggestion when you have both calmed down (your shock, her anger) point out that it probably isn't' a good idea when she is in the middle of exams. (How can she concentrate with all that pain in her mouth, as it WILL HURT!) Explain that you didn't really think she was that serious about it, which is why you gave your non-serious response?

    Obviously, she and you know that in a couple of years this will be a non issue, as she can do what she wants, but until then , even if she thinks you are a bitch, you have a say in it.

    I hope it sorts itself out.

  8. Welcome Mousedemon, that!
    Good suggestions.
    Les: gulp because you might go through that soon?
    Douglas: thank you my friend.
    vegeyum: I'm sure I'm making a fuss about nothing.
    Ben: yeah it's the name calling that's hardest.

  9. Do not worry so much about a tongue piercing.

    Worry, if you detest them as much as I do, about tatoos.

    I joked with my son that Yes, he could have a tatoo as long as I chose the tatoo. He duly went off and had a huge one on his back at 15, then many more. Now one arm is completely covered from shoulder to wrist. Unfortunately it's forever.

  10. I snuck off at 16 and got myself pierced - I figured it was my body, after all. I don't see why you should need to stop it, although I think legally you need to be 16. It's the after care you should worry about - tongue piercings can get infected.

    Of course, I also snuck off and got a tattoo... Pops hit the roof.

  11. Tattoos...god.
    Nothing worse than a faded blue tattoo on an over 40 body. Especially on women.
    I expect that'll be next.

  12. I'm with the people who say let her go her own way, she's gonna keep growing and you can't stop her doing this when she's bigger. It might be hard but because you really love her let her go, she'll come back....

  13. awww...I remember those days, I wanted to get my eyebrow pierced, but the woman in the shop said she refused to do facial piercings on girls with purdy faces unless they were over the age of 18 - I was 14 at the time!!!

    if it makes you feel any better, I believe that a reputable piercer will only pierce (with a needle, like for a tongue) when you are over the age of 16 (?), when I got my nose done at the grand old age of 21, I was asked for ID - i loved my piercings when I was younger, I even snuck off and got 2 tattoos - at the ages of 14 and 16, which I am now paying for, next week I will be in for a cover up of the tat I got when I was 16 :(

    ahh to be young again, when I was 16 forever and future didn't seem to be a concept that I was familiar with - LOL!

  14. Terrific post, I love it!!

    Have been reading your pages for a while, coming via Bellaphon's site and, as much as I enjoy reading about/cooking/eating food, this non-food post about your teen was poignant AND funny!

    My son is nearly 7 and my daughter has just turned 4 and I just KNOW that I too will be having the same conversations/arguments!

    But it did make me realise that I too need to be "home" when I'm "home".

    Thanks for that.

  15. Oops, forgot to mention, 'no relation' as not everyone likes seeing "Dad" leaving a comment!!


  16. Why no blog post about your appearance on Radio Two with Chris Evans last night?!

    I heard it and thought it would be instantly bloggable! Are all the people who come to dine with you strangers? A bit far away for me - but your menu was interesting!

  17. I just read this - don't know why I missed it when you posted it.

    I was a model teen but I do remember that all of the rules my parents had were in order to keep me safe. On the other hand I knew my mother (as a teacher in low-decile schools where body piercings = naughty kids) had very very strong feelings about piercings, so even if I had wanted one I wouldn't have done it. She called me absolutely hysterical when my little brother got his eyebrow pierced - all "what have I done to deserve this" - she's usually really, really together but she totally lost it that time. 8 years later and the idiot still hasn't taken it out - and now he's a grown up with his own house, a partner and a proper job! (he's far more grown up than me)

    So, you know what, he turned out ok. I guess the moral of the story is let your teen do what she wants as long as it's safe and non-permanent. But on the other hand I know that every time my mum sees that piercing it hurts her. Maybe she's wrong to feel that way, but I can't help being angry at my brother for it. (and omg, you should have been there the day she found out he voted Tory! He may be written out of the will yet!)

  18. You always hit out at the ones whose love is unconditional - no doubt you did the same once upon a childhood, (I'm making a lot of assumptions here - sorry!). A mother is something that Mother Nature and I chose together not to be - instead I chose to be Mum No. 2 to many - step-children (now in their 30's - gulp), foster kids, friends' kids etc, and a few others along the way. The only thing advice I feel able to give is to love unconditionally, to guide unrestrictively and always, always be consistent - the hardest of all in my opinion.

    My mother told me that the hardest thing of all is letting go, but that it is also the most rewarding aspect - watching what you created in so many ways making their way in the big bad world (hopefully better for having them in it).

    Good luck.
    Green Drawers


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