Tell teen he's got enough holes in his head, or better still, let his mother rock his world

July 04, 1996|By KEVIN COWHERD

WE WERE AT THE MALL, moving through a typical knot of disaffected, green-haired youths making snappy conversation ("Vinnie, man, you got a cigarette?") when my 13-year-old asked if he could have an earring.

My first reaction, as it is ANY time a controversial family decision needs to be made, was to blurt: "Go ask your mother."

This response accomplishes two things, of course.

No. 1, it frees me from the incredible burden of having to actually think and arrive at a responsible decision, which I'm probably not capable of anyway.

And No. 2, in the event that my wife's decision proves to be unpopular, I can immediately distance myself from it and look like the good guy.

For example, let's say the subject is a sleep-over and she weighs in against it.

"Look," I can say to the aggrieved kid, "I don't have a problem with you and 10 of your friends camping in flimsy tents in the back yard in 40-degree weather and burning old newspapers in a trash barrel to keep warm.

"But your mom just won't go for it. So let's drop it, OK?"

The more I thought about it, though, a boy with an earring is no big deal anymore.

Are you kidding? These days, you're lucky if your kid doesn't come to you and say: "Dad, I'm thinking of getting twin eyebrow rings and a full-body tattoo of a snarling panther terrorizing a cobra, with one of those chesty babes from 'Baywatch' looking on. Unless you think that's too BUSY."

Or your kid could come to you and say: "There's something missing in my life -- every day I walk around with a vague feeling of unease, a sense that the only thing the system rewards is conformity. I think what I need is an 8-inch gold spike implanted in my cheek, to be worn at a tasteful, 45-degree angle.

"Screecher -- that's his skateboard name, you would know him as the former Robbie Wilson, our neighbor and my friend since second grade -- has one and it really looks cool.

"What do you say? Can I get one?"

Or the kid could give you no warning at all and just show up at the dinner table bare-chested, raking his new nipple rings through the mashed potatoes as he reaches for the gravy.

Anyway, when you think of all THOSE scenarios, a simple earring sounds pretty good.

In fact, I was almost tempted to tell the boy: "Look, you want an earring? No problem. In fact, knock yourself out and get a COUPLE of earrings, OK? You can even get TWO for each ear. Just stay away from those nose rings, OK?"

Of course, that's not what I said to him at all.

No, what I said to him was: "I'll think about it."

Next to "Go ask your mother," "I'll think about it" is the best all-purpose response a father can make.

The beauty of "I'll think about it" is that, even though you're really saying no, it creates the illusion that you'll mull the matter over in the manner of a Supreme Court justice.

It's a stalling tactic, pure and simple. You know it and I know it.

But a kid usually goes for it, since it provides a flicker of hope that he might actually get his way.

Later, of course, you can crush that flicker of hope like a boot heel crushing a campfire ember, which is half the fun of being a parent anyway.

But when he's asked for something and is staring at you with those basset hound eyes, "I'll think about it" is the perfect response.

Anyway, as we walked through the mall, my son would peel off by himself and check out the various stands and boutiques that sold earrings.

By the way, I didn't ask what kind of earring the boy wanted, and he didn't volunteer the information.

Those simple studs don't look too bad, or even the small loop earrings. I'm not crazy about those big loop earrings, though, unless you want to look like Blackbeard wading ashore on the island of Tortuga.

Those big, dangling earrings don't do much for me, either. They look like something Diana Ross wears opening night at the Sands.

As we left the mall, we ran into the same knot of disaffected youths with green hair. It was good to see that the topic of conversation had shifted dramatically. ("Justin, man, you got a cigarette?" )

I noticed a lot of THOSE guys wore earrings, which was certainly encouraging, too.

Pub Date: 7/04/96

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