The other day a friend of mine informed me that her daughter was doing extra chores to earn more money for something she wanted to get. CDs, a new lens for her camera, a new cell phone, iTunes… I guessed them all and then my jaw hit the floor when she told me the nature of her daughter’s potential purchase: a tongue ring.
It wasn’t something I expected to hear. The girl barely wore earrings, let alone a tongue ring. I remember when I was 15 and working my first part-time job (full-time in the summer), there were two things that I wanted: blonde hair and blue eyes. I was determined to get them, so I picked up a bottle of Sun-In with one of my first pay cheques, saving a portion of subsequent pay cheques to get the contacts I didn’t need. But, they were coloured lenses and although my eyes were a great shade of green, it was the blue peepers I was after.
I wanted to fit in. I was told that blondes had more fun (I was so naïve then). Both my mum and my brother had blue eyes, and my brother had the eyelashes that were the envy of many neighbourhood girls. So, I sprayed the Sun-In and proceeded to let my scalp bake in the bright June sun. My hair? Not blonde. Far from blonde and more the colour of a Halloween Jack ‘O Lantern well past the October 31st deadline. I never managed to save enough for the contacts, given my constant need to dye, dye, dye that orange monstrosity out of my hair follicles.
These days, Sun-In is barely seen on any store shelves (and there is a reason for it. Trust me.). Contacts and double ear piercings have made way for lip, tongue, nose and belly button rings. And don’t forget the tattoos. But what remains is the need to change what we have.
I’m not against piercings. I’ve had a few, a nose ring among them. It’s gone now but I still mourn its loss. I got my first tattoo at 30 and am looking to add to my collection when I hit the big 4-0, but this time it’s not to fit in but to express my individuality.
Back to the girl. This teenager is what I never was back in my day. She’s confident, secure in herself and has this undying belief that she can do anything she sets her mind to; including put a hole through her tongue. And I’m insanely proud of her, as much as I would be if she were my flesh and blood.
She’s talented beyond belief. She’s wanted to be a vet for as long as I’ve known her (even though we say she would make an excellent lawyer). She loves all animals with equal ferocity, but she can also see composition in everyday items and picks up the camera to capture them beautifully. She plays the guitar and the trumpet. She gets good grades, not just because she’s whipper-snapper smart, but because she also applies herself and will often take on group projects solo because then she can rely on herself to put her best into it and not depend on anyone else to do the work.
She also wants a tongue ring. I can’t stop her. Her mother can’t stop her. It’s her body and her decision. She can also “un-make” the decision at a later time in her life because holes close, rings come out and it’s no harm, no foul.
I have no doubt she will make the right decision – right for her – and she won’t look for anyone else’s approval when it comes time to step into the chair and putting that ring through her tongue. And if it's time to take it out, she'll do that too because it's something she wants. Some say this may be an act of rebellion, but what really is she rebelling against? She’s a good kid (okay, more woman than kid now) who has so much promise that it delights and scares me at the same time. She will and already has harnessed that promise to take her to new heights and new environments that she will greet with ease. She may need a little direction from time to time, but she’s the type of person to let nothing and no one stand in her way. Naysayers beware. Tongue Ring Queen has arrived and taken over the building.
I’m proud of her, tongue ring and all.