When I was a little girl, I wanted my ears pierced in the worst way. My father said no. While all my middle school friends wore fun earrings, I would make my own fake earrings with little plastic circles from toys or metal fittings I’d find in my dad’s tool box because they looked more believable than the clip on earrings of the ‘80s.
When I was finally allowed to get them pierced, I wasn’t allowed to wear dangly earrings or hoops. I could only wear tiny studs.
In 8th grade, I wanted to cut my hair short. I showed my parents a picture of the haircut I was dying for — it was asymmetrical and went from earlobe length on one side and gradually got longer on the other side.
They both said no, I could get it cut to my shoulders and that was all they would allow.
I wanted to wear faded, ripped jeans to school; I couldn’t.
I wanted to wear shorts; that was a no.
I wanted to wear makeup and that was an absolute no.
I ended up sneaking the makeup in my backpack and putting it on during the bus ride to school. I’d change my clothes too. Then, the bus driver told my parents what I was up to.
After that, I’d just do it in the girls’ bathroom and spend the bus ride home taking off the makeup.
It wasn’t until the middle of my high school years after my parents divorced that my mother became more relaxed and let me do what I wanted with my looks.
I was filled with so much anxiety up until that point — it was my body, my life, and it literally didn’t affect them at all. It wasn’t as if I was doing anything wrong. They were trying to control my appearance because of the way it would make them look.
How twisted is that?
So, when my daughter came to me and said she wanted her nose pierced, I drove her there.
When she wanted a slit shaved in her eyebrow a few years ago, I took her to the salon. As the woman was prepping her in the chair to be waxed and shaved, she started going off about how much she hated the look and didn’t understand why anyone would do that to themselves.
She had no regard for the teenager who was sitting right in front of her and had just asked her to shave the slit. Her opinion was more important in her mind.
My inner kid came out — the one who always felt so suppressed and controlled about how she was supposed to look. Let me tell you, mixed with Mama Bear, it wasn’t pretty. I told her (not very kindly, I have to admit) it didn’t have any effect on her and everyone has their own unique style and if she could just do her job, that’d be great.
Then, my daughter wanted piercings up one ear, so she did that too.
Her hair has been black, blue, and red. Last summer, my sister bleached it for her and gave her pink highlights.
Then she chopped it all off.
She likes to wear glitter under her eyes, and last year went through a phase where she had henna freckles all the time.
These days, she wears wing eyeliner everyday and likes fake eyelashes and that bright colored matte eyeshadow.
A few weeks ago, she asked if she could get her belly button pierced. She’d worked to earn the money and said she’d call and make the appointment.
I took her there a few days later. Then, we went out for a Diet Coke and she was blissfully happy.
My daughter is independent. And while I need her to ask permission to do some things — like spend the night at her friend’s house or use my credit card to order a shirt — she doesn’t have to ask me if it’s okay if she does something to her body.
Obviously, I can say that because you have to be a certain age or have your parents’ permission to do something permanent like get a tattoo or have plastic surgery, which I agree with. These things are going to last your whole life and the tat you want at 15 (which is how old my daughter is) might not read well when you’re 65, but there are plenty of great, fake alternatives that I’m all for. (She and her brother have done a ton of those by the way).
My point is, a piercing, a makeup trend, a haircut or color, an outfit — all of these things are a form of self expression, and I want my kids to be free to choose what they wear and how they decorate their body. It’s theirs, not mine.
I fully believe in letting them decide what they want to do with themselves and their looks as soon as they are able to express it, which is why my sons walked around with painted toenails and fingernails for years when they were younger. And why I didn’t pierce my daughter’s ears until she came to me and asked me if she could have them done.
I literally couldn’t care less what anyone walking by them thinks. They reserve the right to do what they want when it comes to piercing and the like — which is why my oldest son came home the other day with both his ears pierced. He knew he didn’t have to ask me if it was okay, he just went out and did it on the spur of the moment because he wanted to, and he knows that’s how we do it in this family.
With three teenagers in my house, I never know what look they are going to want to represent or what style they are going to be into next. The good news is, I don’t have to do anything except sit back and let them be themselves.
The last thing I’m going to do is tell my kids they can’t wear earrings, shave their head, or color their hair if that’s what makes them happy. I have a feeling they find a way to make it happen because they can be stubborn like that.
Just ask my tattling-ass bus driver.