10 possible answers to a nosy question

by Kristin on January 15, 2014

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

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“Why on earth did you let your eighth grade daughter get her nose pierced?!?”

To be fair, no one has actually asked me that nosy question (pun intended), but I can hear it resonating in their minds, bouncing around until it leaks out in polite ways—an unintentional double-take, a purse of the lips, the rise of an eyebrow.

Maybe you’re lucky enough to be someone who doesn’t imagine what others are thinking but not saying. And maybe, even if you do imagine it, you don’t waste time preparing a defense.

I, however, am not so lucky. I regularly have these imaginary dialogues in my head. Usually I keep them to myself, but I’ve decided this particular dialogue has broader merit in the realms of parenting, judging, and self-expression. So I’m going to present the hypothetical question, followed by a variety of answers I’ve silently composed since my daughter got her nose pierced a couple weeks ago. (That is not a photo of her, in case you’re wondering.)

* * * * *

“Why on earth did you let your eighth grade daughter get her nose pierced?!?”

1. Because I want her to be able to express who she is in a way that’s safe and above-ground, and I want her to know that her parents love her for who she is, not for some unspoken ideal we’re holding her to.

2. Because one of the most important things a 13-year-old girl needs to know is that her body is hers—that she has some level of agency and autonomy. Almost every other part of her life right now feels monitored and controlled; this symbolizes something she was able to decide and go through with.

3. Because when it gets down to it, our most important job as parents of adolescents is to keep them alive through the pain and crap of those middle school years—to make sure they have the chance to come out on the other side, where they can eventually blossom into their best selves. Our second most important job is to support identity development—that frantic running around they do, in search of their best selves. Any time I can be supportive of identity development in a way that doesn’t put my daughter’s life and safety at risk, I’m in.

4. Because I spent too many formative teen years trying to be the person I thought everyone wanted me to be, rather than figuring out who I really was.

5. Because my primary argument against the nose piercing was my fear about what others would think, which is a really lame argument (and one I’m sick of heeding). The piercing allows me to practice not caring, while admiring my daughter for being more bold about who she is than I ever was before the age of 30.

6. Because it’s none of your damn business. (Yes, there is that response. It wouldn’t be right to leave it out.)

7. Because it has given my daughter and I a great opportunity to talk about very real issues, like image and stereotypes—to discuss the sorts of things many people assume about people with piercings and tattoos and unconventional hair, and to explore one of the most satisfying ways to be subversive: by being a paradox and turning all those stereotypes on their head.

8. Because my ex-husband and I, and both of our spouses—the four adults who know and love my daughter best—are all on the same page about this decision.

9. Because I don’t adhere to the popular Evangelical Christian approach to sin and “slippery slopes.” Nose piercings are not a precursor to risky behaviors, like drugs. (I do, on the other hand, believe that feeling like you’re not known, understood, accepted or heard can feed a desperation that leads to desperate acts).

10. Because the piercing represents change, while also allowing room for change. My daughter doesn’t know exactly who she is, or who she’s going to be in three years, or five, and that’s OK. The piercing can be taken out. No big deal.

Speaking of “no big deal,” I think we as a culture—especially as a Christian subculture—spend far too much time worrying about all the minor details on the surface, rather than focusing on matters of the heart. As a parent, a Christian, and a person who too often jumps to conclusions about people myself, I’m going to do my best to focus on hearts. I, for one, can attest to the fact that my daughter’s heart is beautiful, no matter what her nose looks like.

* * * * *

(Photo above by sittered.)

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  • http://www.allthingsbeautifulblog.com/ Alyssa Bacon-Liu

    *standing ovation*

    your daughter is a lucky gal.

    • kt_writes

      Thank you! I’m slowly learning that so much of parenting is trial and error—being willing to go out on a limb and try something that may or may not make all the difference in your child’s life. We’re on daughter number three and it’s a whole new adventure!

      • Nicola

        I’m going to remember these reasons when A starts requesting these things. At almost 10, I think we have a ways to go, but thanks for helping me in advance!

        I think you’re doing a wonderful thing by allowing her these small (in the scheme of things) victories. And, in a way, the best thing we can do as parents is not allow our kids’ appearances to affect us. My Dad always used to say – I don’t care if you dye your hair green, you’ll look like the A#@hole, not me. Of course, my Baba was fairly scandalized when I pierced one ear 4 times (way up high) and had the other one only pierced twice when I was 16. Now, I’m lucky to get one set of earrings in on any given day.

        From my 1990′s feminist perspective, I think it is truly important to give our daughters control over their bodies. Complete control. So, #2 really resonates with me. Girls are so subjected to control and judgement in our society – almost all of it based on their appearance. And, they are still so socialized to please…everyone. As a 44 year old woman, all of this BS pleasing makes me weary. Good for S for doing something she wants to do. And good for you for supporting her.

        Happy New Year to all of you!

      • http://www.allthingsbeautifulblog.com/ Alyssa Bacon-Liu

        I think that’s a good way to go! Each kid is going to be so different, so what may work for one might not work for the other ones! But I think encouraging autonomy and individuality is great for ALL kids. And it may look different ways for different kids, but I’m glad your daughter is getting this underlying message so young!

  • Katie Noah Gibson

    I applaud all these responses. Way to go.

    • kt_writes

      I know I’m trying to care a lot less about what others think, yet hearing this from you means SO much.

  • Kirstin

    All excellent responses–love it.

    • kt_writes

      Thank you for reading and commenting (and supporting)!

  • Modernpastor

    I allowed my daughter to pierce her nose, cartilage and get a Monroe all for reason number one. I never thought of the nine other excellent reasons.

    • kt_writes

      I admire that you’re the kind of person who doesn’t need so many reasons behind why she does something. :) There’s something to be said for trusting your gut and moving forward with one solid reason.

  • themoderngal

    I’ve long loved nose piercings and have wanted one for myself but have been too chicken about the pain to get it done — so I think your daughter is wonderful and brave for going through with it, and I think your reaction is wonderful and brave as well! It’s absolutely inspiring.

    • kt_writes

      Yeah, there’s something about being young that helps a person not think so much about things like pain (or any consequences at all)! So do you think you’ll ever go ahead and get it done, or does it seem less important as you find other ways to express yourself?

      • themoderngal

        I think it’s less important to me now. I’m not sure I ever looked at it as a form of self expression. (though maybe at some level it was). I can understand where it is a much more significant expression as a 13-year-old, when you have fewer opportunities to carve your space out in the world. As a 31-year-old, I have much more freedom and room.

  • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

    “Because one of the most important things a 13-year-old girl needs to know is that her body is hers—that she has some level of agency and autonomy.”

    that is a damn fine reason right there! you’re a good mom.

    • kt_writes

      I think parenting is one of those things that we do mostly from the gut (or we probably *should* do mostly from the gut). If that’s true, why don’t we feel more inner confidence about what we’re doing? Instead, we seem to need more encouragement and validation than ever. (So thank you—I’ll take it!)

  • http://www.gatebeautiful.ca bekka

    Love this! As a teen, my mum would routinely dye my hair all kinds of colours ever other month or so (as colour faded, we would try something different). I often got comments like, “What does your mother think?” and loved telling those people that she did it for me.

    I remember when a the daughter of family friends got her nose pierced (older than 13, though) and my mum was full of distaste until she saw it was a petite stud and said it looked delicate.

    So, on one hand, I had freedom to express myself in some ways, but not in others. I’m really hoping to be a little more understanding with my own kids.

    • kt_writes

      Thanks for sharing your own experience with personal expression as a teen! Isn’t it interesting how we all seem to have a line, no matter how open we think we are? And most often we can’t begin to pinpoint what it is that dictates those lines.

  • Laura

    I so appreciate your thoughts on this topic. When my son was at a Catholic middle school and had to keep his cut his hair above his ears, I spent countless hours trying to help him through his anxiety and anger. Hair cut days were a nightmare. Now that he is in high school, his hair is long and he has a full beard (along with a distrust of the Catholic religion but that is probably another post). At first I bristled at the long, scraggly beard and my mind ticked through many of the points you mention here. Then a few of my closest friends made comments like “why do you let him have that awful beard” and “we need to figure out how to get him shave.” My reaction was visceral. In that moment I remembered what it feels like when someone is critical of your DNA. And that’s how I look at it. It’s the core of who you are and it’s not hurting anyone else. As parents and humans we need to be kind and supportive of that.

    • kt_writes

      What a great reaction/point: “In that moment I remembered what it feels like when someone is critical of your DNA. And that’s how I look at it. It’s the core of who you are and it’s not hurting anyone else.” Now I’m curious—did you ever try to explain your philosophy about this to your friends?

  • pastordt

    Well done, Kristin. And also? Very well said. Thank you.

  • krista

    YES. YES. and YES. Love this~ am high-fiving you mama.

  • http://logicandimagination.wordpress.com/ Melody Harrison Hanson

    My sixteen year old has purple hair.

    Thanks for this.

  • Pingback: What I'm into (January 2014 edition)

  • Marty Larson

    Excellent post. My daughter had blue hair in 8th grade and now a few years later, has the most gorgeous teal to purple ombré. She told me just the other day how it helps her with confidence.

    • kt_writes

      Yes! That’s how my daughter feels. What each child needs to feel more confident might be different, but I think as parents we should always try to do what we can to support those needs.

  • Becky Deaver

    Wow. Never thought about all these things, but this is a great post! Thanks for challenging my preconceived ideas!

    • kt_writes

      You’re welcome! I have to admit, my ideas about this were quite preconceived not long ago, as well!

  • Tracy S.

    I love #2 and it is so important! My youngest daughter did NOT want her ears pierced for years. I always told her, “Nobody is going to force you get your ears pierced–it is totally up to you”. She finally got them pierced last week at age 16.

    • kt_writes

      What a great example of this principle in reverse! Being different doesn’t always mean *doing* something—sometimes it means NOT doing something.

  • Tracy Wallace

    I really appreciated this…..my daughter is asking for a tattoo. At 16 we took her to some tattoo parlours, had lots of discussion and a wonderful owner of one of the shops spoke all the same words we did and said if she waited until she was 17 (legal here), he would do it for 1/2 price. Frankly, I need the thinking time as much as she does and I’m coming around…..i did the blue hair at 13, etc, hair never bothered me, it always grows back, piercings you may end up with a small hole, a tattoo, that was new territory. would your response be similar for a tattoo? what age do you think it would be okay given the above reasons. curious to hear from you. Thanks!