Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Heavy metal

My 16-year-old daughter, who has many talents and skills, is nonetheless not academically inclined, and by midyear it was clear that her promotion to the next grade wasn’t a sure thing. She’s no fan of school, so the notion that her 12-year sentence might be lengthened to 13 was enough of a spur for her to really hit the books for her end-of-year exams.

And hats off to her: she did it. We went to the school to fetch her report yesterday, and not only has she passed, she’s managed to do so in some style.

I made no secret of how I felt about this – I slumped over my steering wheel and murmured, ‘Oh thank god, oh thank god, oh thank god’. And my daughter, who counts rampant opportunism among her many talents and skills, struck while the iron was hot.

‘So, Ma,’ she said in that special tone reserved by teenagers for wheedling things out of unwilling parents, ‘what kind of reward do I get?’

Temporarily brain-damaged by sheer relief, I said the unthinkable: ‘Anything you want.’

Which is how she ended up with a piece of metal through her eyebrow.

It wasn’t easy watching the tattoo artist – a 40something with the super-skinniness of a chain smoker and a highly decorated hide – squeeze a fair bit of my daughter’s flawless facial skin between the points of what looked like a pair of miniature ice tongs, then use a gun of sorts to shoot a thin piece of plastic tubing through.

And when my daughter’s pupils dilated suddenly, she turned pale and she whispered, ‘I feel dizzy, Ma,’ it was all I could do not to slap the tattoo artist to the ground. I clenched my teeth and reminded myself that my daughter actually wanted to be mutilated in this fashion.

The last act in the process was to feed the slender metal post through the plastic tubing and secure each end with a tiny screw. If I’d been watching open-heart surgery I couldn’t have felt more sickened.

But then I remembered being in a cheap Paris hotel on a school tour when I was 16, and piercing my boyfriend’s ear with criminal inexpertness – using a piece of ice from the hotel’s ice machine to numb the lobe and a needle from the complimentary sewing pack to do the deed. There was a fair amount of blood and, a couple of weeks later, an infection that required antibiotics to clear up.

At least, in my daughter’s case, the tattoo artist wore surgical gloves, used sterilised equipment and gave my daughter stern and detailed instructions on the care and cleaning of the piercing.

And, when we were on our way home and my daughter – who couldn’t stop looking at her newly decorated face in the passenger vanity mirror and grinning – said, ‘Thanks, Ma, you’re so cool!’ I sort of felt it was worth it.

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meggie said...

o god, I feel your pain!!
I dont know how I could have handled that, & confess to crying for 3 days when I found out my daughter had got tattoos whilst living back in good old NZ for a year!

She nearly died, when she asked me "What is the worst thing I could have done in NZ" and I replied "Robbed your grandparents, or got a tattoo!" --Never dreaming she would have done either.... well, she hadn't robbed her grandparents.

tonypark said...

I take it as a sign of age that I can say, hand on heart that; "I don't understand piercings". At least not on eyebrows.

I'd really like to get me a tattoo, but my wife won't let me.

At least piercings close up. It's going to be funny (in a stomach turning sort of way) in 10-20 years' time, I think, living in a world of inked senior citizens.

tonypark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tonypark said...

Meggie, that's a funny story.

Very conservative zimbabwean friends of mine (a couple) went travelling around Australia (at the time the Gay Mardi Gras was on in Sydney).

They pitched at the woman's Uncle and Aunty's place and Uncle said to the guy; "so, what do you think of Australia?"

"Well," my friend said, "so far I think it's full of drug addicts and homo sexuals."

Apparently you could have heard the proverbial pin drop. His wife's male cousin had just come out of the closet and the female was in rehab.

angel said...

very cool! and my darling damien came home after a week at a buddy's house with no less than TWO holes in his left ear!!!