He's Got That Old Feeling

TO WIT

February 14, 1993|By DAVE BARRY

My son got his ear pierced. He's 12. For 12 years I worked hard to prevent him from developing unnatural bodily holes, then he went out and got one on purpose. At a shopping mall. It turns out that minors can have their earlobes assaulted with sharp implements by shopping-mall-booth personnel who, for all we know, have received no more formal medical training than is given to burrito folders at Taco Bell. And the failed Clinton administration is doing nothing.

You're probably saying: "Don't blame the government! As a parent, you must take responsibility! You and your wife, Beth, should sit your son down and give him a stern reprimand."

Listen, that's a great idea, except for one teeny little problem, which is that Beth is the person who drove him to the piercing place.

This is the same woman who, when Rob was 6, allowed him to get a "punk" style haircut that transformed him in just a few minutes from Christopher Robin into Bart Simpson; the same woman who indulges his taste for clothes that appear to have been dyed in radioactive Kool-Aid. No, Beth is not on my side in the battle I have waged with my son to keep him normal, defined as "like me, but with less nose hair."

Now you're probably saying: "Who are you to be complaining? When you were young, didn't you feel you had the right to do things that your parents disapproved of?" Perhaps you are referring to the time in ninth grade when Phil Grant, Tom Parker and I decided that pipe-smoking was cool, so we got hold of some pipes and stood around spewing smoke, thinking we looked like urbane sophisticates, when in fact we looked like the Junior Fred MacMurray Dork Patrol. I will admit that when my parents found out about this (following a minor desk fire in my room) and told me to stop, I went into a weeklong door-slamming snit, as though the right of ninth-graders to smoke pipes was explicitly stated in the U.S. Constitution.

But we cannot compare these two situations. In the case of my pipe-smoking, my parents were clearly overreacting, because the worst that could have happened was that I would have burned the house down and got cancer. Whereas I have a very good reason to object to Rob's earlobe hole: It makes me feel old. Rob wears a little jeweled ear stud, and it's constantly winking at me and saying: "Hey there, Old Timer! You'd never wear an ear stud! And neither would Grandpa Walton!"

I am also being rapidly aged by Rob's choice of radio stations. The one he now prefers is operated by one of the most dangerous and irresponsible forces on earth, college students. I was concerned about what they might be playing, so I tuned it in on my car radio. The first song I heard didn't sound so bad, and I said to myself: "Hey! Perhaps I am still fairly 'hip' after all!" And then the disc jockey came on and said, apologetically: "I realize that song was mainstream."

Yes, college students are in on the plot with my son to make me feel old. Not long ago I was sitting on a beach near a group of male college students who were talking about a bungee-jumping excursion they had taken. They were bragging about the fact that they had leaped off the tower in the only cool way, which is headfirst and backward. They spoke with great contempt about a group of fathers -- that's the term they used, "fathers," making it sound as though it means "people even older than Phoenicians" -- who had jumped off feet-first, which the college students considered to be pathetic.

This made me feel extremely old, because I personally would not bungee-jump off the Oxford English Dictionary. My son, on the other hand, would unhesitatingly bungee-jump off the Concorde. And he's only 12. Who knows how old he'll make me feel by the time he's 14? What if he wants a nose ring? I won't allow it! I'm going to put my foot down! I'm going to take charge!

I'm going to steal Beth's car keys.

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