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Luskin: Becoming a Square

When I came home with my ears pierced more than fifty years ago, my father asked, “Why didn’t you get a bone through your nose?” To further prove he was square and I was cool, I had a second set of holes drilled through my ear lobes and rarely wore earrings that matched.

Then I had kids.

When our oldest was thirteen, she wanted nothing more than to have her bellybutton pierced. It was perhaps the first and only time her father and I responded with an unequivacal, “No.”

We had adopted a parenting policy of “When they ask, they’re ready to know,” so I said they could pierce whatever parts of their bodies they wanted when they were eighteen. Meanwhile, their father tore out an article from one of his medical journals about piercings gone wrong.

Whether it was the photos of pierced private parts or the resulting infections that deterred further interest in body piercing, I’ll never know.

But I do know that at about the same time I told the kids my opinion of tattoos, which had been formed when I was their age, when visiting relatives whose neighbors had numbers tattooed inside their forearms, indelible reminders of their imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps.

So I told my kids of my old school attitude toward piercings and tattoos, and they did what we had taught them, which is decide for themselves.

One returned from India with a small stud in her nose. Another pierced the high, hard part of her ear. I braced myself for the first tattoo. I expected it at each significant birthday; I became complacent when none appeared.

Then at the end of a recent and unrelated, late-night heart to heart with my eldest, I screwed up my courage and asked, “So do you have a tattoo?”

This daughter lifted her shirt and showed me the artwork inked on her left ribcage. It was quite lovely, but I was still hit by a tsunami of nostalgia for the baby this woman had once been.

A few weeks later, as my middle daughter and I changed into sports gear to work out together, I caught a glimpse of a matching tattoo on her ribs. She confessed she’d been hiding it from me for a year.

The discovery of these tattoos came on the heels of my youngest child’s graduation from college, making me the proud mother of three adults all capably living and working out in the world.

And while I can smile at the irony of my children practicing on me the same philosophy of “If she asks, she’s ready to know” that I used to explain sex, drugs and rock and roll to them - I’m also reeling from the blow.

It’s not the piercings or the tattoos that have stunned me so, it’s the realization that now I’m the square.