Saturday, February 03, 2007

A Preachy Rant

I apologize in advance if this rant offends any of my readers. A few of you have daughters I have not met and so I run the risk of putting my foot in my mouth. However…this is my blog and I feel the need to vent.

I enjoy making my Little Lutine look cute. We stick barrettes in her still-thin hair and we dress her in pink camo pants that just look adorable. So, I’m all for dolling a kid up to get cutsie compliments at the mall. However, I draw the line at piercing my infant daughter’s ears.

This practice has long bothered me, but now that I have a daughter of my own, it has quickly climbed the ranks of my pet peeves to such an extent that I’m getting less and less able to hide my disgust when I meet fellow parents in the grocery store and they proudly display their bejeweled child.

My concern over this issue is two-fold.

Primarily, the idea of inflicting pain on an infant for a purely aesthetic enhancement upsets me greatly. Now truthfully, I don’t think Norah would be any cuter with earrings. I find it disturbing in the same way I find 10-year-olds in too much make-up or child beauty pageants disturbing. However, even if I thought it was visually adorable…there’s no way I would shove needles through Jolly Green’s ears just so she could have a little ruby stud in her lobe. I have a hard enough time watching her get vaccines…and that’s for her health.

Secondly, I truly feel that the choice of whether of not to have her ears pierced should be my daughters when she’s old enough to make it. I’m all for body art. Tattoos and body-piercings get much respect from this blogger. However, I think it should be a choice by the person whose body is being modified. I’ve had five body piercings and each one marks an event in my life. The first one isn’t a big life event, but it was significant enough, I suppose. My parents told me I could get my ear pierced when I turned 16. My Mom took me to get my first earring after the last day of school my sophomore year of high school (about a month early…but close enough they figured). I was proud of that earring. The last day of school my junior year found another ring in my left ear and the day after I graduated high school was marked by a hoop through my right. Even my wife has fond memories of finally being old enough to pierce her ears, an achievement these pre-pierced infants will never share.

It wasn’t until college that I discovered that what I was doing with my annual piercings and what Moonshot was describing with pride was actually well-rooted in human culture. I could wax poetic about the virtues of the pain ritual and its significance in human society. However, the only thing that really needs to be said for this rant is that in my opinion, any body modification that doesn’t have medical value should be a decision made by the person whose body is being modified. To do otherwise not only inflicts unnecessarily pain upon a defenseless child, but also degrades the significance of the personal decision and personal milestone body modification should be.

So don’t be disappointed if you don’t see faux-ruby studs adorning Norah’s already cute ear lobes.


In an attempt to mitigate the impact of the preachy rant above…here’s a wonderful picture my brother Jet and me. It was taken last week after he won the preliminary round of the comics challenge.

Jet and Moksha Gren after Jet's on-stage triumph


Mark said...

Couldn't agree more, Moksha. This rant is Mark test and Mark approved.

Great pic of you and Jet. It makes me a bit sad, though, because there is not picture like this of my brother and me. Not because of a lack of cameras, but because shaking hands is about the only physical contact between us.

I have lots of pics like this with my guy friends.

Glad you and your brother are close enough to get close. (what?) You know what I mean.

Simon said...

Hear, hear!! for the ranting!

I ascribe the same sorts of milestones and sentiments to my tattoos as you do your piercings. Walk up to any of those same parents and ask them if they'd get their daughter's shoulder tattooed and you'd most likely get a horrified response. (One is more extreme than the other, granted, but it'd be for effect, man!)

I feel militantly defensive about my own boys and circumcision. With all due respect to religious observances, it's nothing more than unnecessary mutilation that's become culturally absorbed. (My small rant.)

Still topically, as cute as Norah is, I'm thanking my lucky stars we had two boys. Amy went to a baby shower for a friend's daughter Saturday afternoon. Before she left, she showed me the presents she'd picked up and the gleam in her eye as she unloaded all the 'girlie things' into my field of view was a scary thing to behold. If it was pink, it caught her eye. I guess girls are just way more fun to accessorize. Still, I was left shuddering.

Nice picture of you and Jet, too. You guys look like brothers the same way me and mine look like brothers.

JET said...

Nice rant, I do agree with you about the ears, what about nose piercings?
I have never seen an infant and thought,
"If only that baby had earings she would be cute, too bad the parents don't pierce her ears."
Earings really accomplish nothing for the baby. Case and Point: Look how damn cute Norah is, who needs earings when your baby is that damn cute?
And, man, not going to lie.we are good looking brothers.

Moksha Gren said...

Mark - That's sad about your brothers. At least you have some friends who are willing to go on record as loving ya. I guess there's always Photoshop for the family shots.

Si - Are you saying you're "more extreme" than me? Huh?

With the risk of this becoming a forum on circumcision....feel free to rant. The concept of circumcision was floating behind the subtext of some of my disclaimers in this post. In theory, I totally agree with you. Moonshot and I had big discussions about this topic since we didn't know until Norah made her appearence whether circumcision would be a relevant decision. I argued your point, but Moonshot pointed out that the American Midwest has a circumcision rate of like 85%. I'll admit that it was the psycological damage imagined by the locker-room effect or the trauma of that first sexual experience being met with "gross!" that made me decide to make my uneasy peace with what is really a fairly barbaric custom. Were we Canadian, we would have made a different decision. By some stats, Canada currently has a cicumcision rate as low as 9.2%. It's not even covered under insurance from what I can see. Outside of religious reasons, I can't imagine who WOULD cicumcise up there. Plus...that extra skin probably serves as a nice peter heater against those Canadian winters.

So, there are alot of similarities between these two issues. But there are some psychological and social aspects of the latter that makes it a bit and dry to me than the ear piercing.

As for the girlie pink...we had to finally ask folks politely to lay off the pink. One of the prime reasons we didn't find out if our child had a Y chromo or not was to avoid the pre-birth gender bias. I loved having greens and yellows to dress her in for the first round of clothing. Then she outgrew those and we realized every single outfit she had (other than the ones gifted by 75% Funny who has a daughter of his own and knew well of the pink invasion) was pink and frilly. She has a well-balanced wardrobe now with jeans, a variety of colors and even the above mentioned pink cammo.

Jet - I saw a baby girl at the mall yesterday. She'd have been cute if only she'd had a face tat.

Elsa said...

I have the same reaction as you. Now I have some experience as to what people are thinking when getting infant ears pierced. I still don't like it personally, but I have a better understanding of the thought process.
Some infant ear-piercing is cultural. I don't know the exact reason, but I think it is to combat having to dress their child in pink all the time:) OK-well maybe not that. But, some cultures really feel it is important to display feminine characteristics because gender roles are held in high regard. Remember when Moonshot would talk about getting a little upset when people would mistake Norah for a boy, well multiply that by generations of cultural beliefs about gender roles.

One Wink at a Time said...

I agree totally, I think it is barbaric and vain on the part of the parents. Why is it any different than if you would hold your child's hand on the table and smack a needle through it? And then turn around and do the other hand? *chills* People are strange.
Great picture. I feel the love :-)

Susan Melvin said...

I don't make comments that often on this lovely site of yours but I thought that this blog needed my opinion... :)

First of all, I agree with the ear piercing. Friends of ours got their girl's ears pierced when she was 3 months old. Frankly, my daughter is adorable enough as is Norha without inflicting unnecessary pain.

Finding out that little Sarah was a girl was a blessing and yet we were over run with pink! It made me appreciate every purple, green & yellow outfit all the more!

One final comment... I just have to say I wasn't really expecting to see the words, "peter heater" today. It made me laugh though...

Moksha Gren said...

Elsa - I'll admit that I wasn't thinking about culturally significant situations, rather the folks who just think it's soooo adorable to dress their little girls up with flower studs. However, while I'm more willing to understand the impulse to pierce in a cultural situation, I can't say I'm any more inclined to give my blessing (you know...just in case they needed my blessing). Pain is still being inflicted to make an infant girl look more "feminine". In fact, as a father who is trying his best to downplay cultural gender bias...I have additional issues with the belief that it's so critical to mark your infant as female that it justifies inflicting pain on the child. I'm not atacking your position...just thinking aloud that I'm not sure the explaination that "gender roles are very important in our culture" actually makes me feel any better about it.

Linda - I'm not sure it's quite as barbaric as the crucifixion you descibe ;) But I take your meaning.

Susan - Oh good. Having never met Sarah in person, and having never had this discussion with you, you guys were some of the folks I was worried about offending. And yes...she's plenty cute with her ears just the way they are.

Glad my peter heater could brighten up you day. ;) I must give credit to Simon for putting that particular phrase in the forefront of my mind on a post over at Mark's site. See, I'm not really that clever...I just plagerize well ;)

Simon said...

Moksha, in the same way as you talked about piercings to Elsa just above, I'm willing to understand the impulse to circumcise based on cultural or societal pressure and existing standards; though certainly not with my blessing. And I'll again leave that there. Don't want to hijack an already intriguing conversation. (I never did any research on the stats, knowing what we'd do in the case of a boy. That discrepancy in percentages you listed is quite startling!)

And now I must bring my strength in skills mathematic to bear. Get ready. This could get confusing.

There were five (5) piercings given as a total. There were then three (3) discussed, each of which is clearly visible in the pictures accompanying the end of the post. I had to whip out my... calculator to come to some sort of conclusion on this, but I am now confident that leaves two (2) unaccounted for.

I'm smiling right now because this could lead to an enlightening exposition, or a really awkward silence. Either of which speaks volumes.

Moksha Gren said...

Si - Damn you and your whole "throwin' my own words back at me" thing. You're right, I'm both claiming cultural relativism as my own justification and denying others who would claim the same. This is a tough distincting to defend, especially since I'm not really comfortable with circumcision to begin with. However, if I were to try, I'd claim that having a penis that would be considered culturally abnormal seems much more psychologically traumatic to me. Now, perhaps I don't properly understand the embarasment a six-month-old feels at not having her ears peirced. But, I can imagine the the stigma of having a "weird" penis. It comes down to which do I think will hurt my son worse. It's a fine line...but I'm clinging to it ;)

Now, lemme see, 5 minus 3....carry the 1...huh, you're right. There seem to be two mystery piercings hiding about on my person.

Well, actually, only one. The fifth hole has since closed up due to my entering the workforce. For about a year, I wore a nice hoop through my nose. I wish the hole hadn't closed so quickly cuz I still kinda miss it. However, when I get to wishing for it, Moonshot politely reminds me that we very well might not be married had I had a nose-ring when first we met.

The other is still there, but much less likely to show up in pictures. For the full story, I turn you to the bio I wrote for my in-laws in my Cast of Characters. It's a bit out-of-date now since Norah is six-months old...but the story toward the bottom will answer your question.

PS - I note that you aren't addressing the "more extreme than you" comment until you know where this missing piercing is. :)

Simon said...

I have read through (sometimes skimming) pretty much all of the bios there, but obviously missed that salient point. My own brother's similarly placed piercing provides endless fun and opportunity for my wife's sadistic aggravation. (Which could sound outrageously inappropriate, I know! And that spot was my first guess. I didn't figure you for a Prince Charlie.)

I'll let you cling to your fine line of distinction. Cultural norms here (an intentionally ambiguous word intended to represent a random place in Space-Time) aren't necessarily the same as there (see previous parenthetical), and I can see the tack you're taking with this lesser of two weevils approach. Suffice to say I've never been the butt of locker room ribbing nor supplied evidence of dissatisfaction or revulsion from my paramours. And sometimes? Yeah, it's good for the cold.

Ah, is there a quicker rise than that of a man in defense of his manhood? Even if only to poorly perceived assault?

As for who is more extreme, now that all piercings have been exposed, so to speak... I'd be the first to offer up aberrent piercings as being MUCH more harshly judged than tattoos. By those I mean anything other than the ear -- and in many cases, even those not strictly in the lobe. So from that point of view, going back again to cultural norms, walking around with a nose ring is, indeed, far more extreme than my shoulders, breast and back sporting discrete symbols.

Interestingly, piercings were an unrelated topic of conversation over dinner recently and it was agreed that strangely pierced folk are some of the most well-adjusted and 'with-it' individuals in terms of self awareness. The piercing is a form of expression for one quite comfortable stalking around in a liquid-filled bag of skin.

One Wink at a Time said...

Learnin' quite a bit about a couple of friends here today. I think I'll move on before I fall victim to all this 'fessin'...

Elsa said...

I’m glad you aren’t “attacking my position”, but I would have to say that it isn’t even a position, just an insight into what some people are thinking or not even thinking, but culturally programmed to do.
I think it is similar to the issue of circumcision here in the US. For many years, most people never considered not getting their sons circumcised (although I think there was some faulty medical information out and about that some were relying on). Now people consider not getting their sons circumcised. Some still decide to circumcise because of societal expectations and not wanting their child to experience the repercussions of not fitting in the norm. I think some people from Latino, African, and some Asian cultures (for example), have the same cultural programming. To be considered male-like as a female is very abnormal in some traditional cultures. And then there are the people that just think it is cute, so do it. I think they might be the same people who buy their girls what I would call “child lingerie”. That is disturbing too!

Mark said...

Ben's been cut, and for me it was mostly the locker room effect (although I never was into activities that put my genitals out on display for other fellas to see, one never knows).

You guys have really done more than just scrape the surface here. Some of you are really needling each other.

Here's one for you. My uncle apparently was scarred for life because his parents did not have him circumcized (no, Firefox spellchecker, not circumscribed, either). One night at dinner, not too terribly long after he had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic as an adult, he heatedly addressed his parents and ended up throwing his foreskin at them. It was in a jar, but still, that's gotta rate pretty high on the weird meter.

Especially when I one day found it in my dad's top dresser drawer.

Moksha Gren said...

Si - A Prince Charlie, huh? I'm assuming that the same thing I know as a Prince Albert. And no...if my wife is unwilling to deal with a nose ring...I assure you she would run screaming from that ;)

I'm pretty sure you were defending yourself in good fun...but since I never want to run the risk of attacking another man's manhhood, I'd like to make it clear that I was using the term "weird" only in a geographically and culturally specific way. And with that...I'm done discussing your manhhood.

Also, although piercings and such can sometimes be a cry for attention, I'd actually agree with you for th emost part. Some of the most punked out people I have known in my life were also some of the most "together".

Elsa - I take you point. And as is becoming painfully clear to me, my tightrope balancing act of cultural relativism has become shaky at best. However...I'm still going to be disturbed by kids with earrings and "child lingerie." I may be a bit of a hypocrit...but I'm ok with that ;)

Mark - That may well be one of the most disturbing scenes I've heard in some time. It's one of those things you see in a movie and say, "That's completely unbelievable!" And yet truth once again proves itself to be stranger than fiction.

All- Had I known when I hit that "Post" button on Saturday that this was going to turn into the sort of conversation in which I post links to discussions about my nipple, Simon defends his manhhod against cruel attacks from an imagined Midwestern locker room and Mark tells a tale of flying foreskin...I might have considered writing a nice blog about the weather or something. Nah...who am I kiddin'? This was much more fun.

Simon said...

I'm pretty sure I had a Prince Albert in mind, Moksha. I tried to throw out a term there with a nonchalance that implied an innate knowledge of things not readily inferred at first glance of my nice guy facade. I failed horribly and have now exposed myself for the poseur I am. And I'm OK with that.

This was a much more enjoyable conversation than any weather-related post. Although that bit about the trees in your yard attacking your house was pretty interesting. C'mon, it wasn't really the wind and ice, was it?

Anonymous said...

Little Norah

I am so glad to see that your parents have finally realized that toes need covering in the cold winter months. I feared frostbite and worse when I saw earlier pictures of your naked digits. Piercings are nothing compared to frozen tootsies.

They are first-time parents, Norah. You must be patient.

Love to all of you and see you soon.

Panache (Gran to Norah)

Moksha Gren said...

Huzzah!! Grandma Panache visits the comment section! Welcome, welcome!

As for the toes..I assure you her toes are still at risk of frostbite (if by risk we mean going sockless in a 70 degree home.) Sadly, they don't seem to sell elastic strong enough to keep her from pushing and pulling the socks off but loose enough to allow blood to reach her little toes. So we keep putting them back on, and she keeps taking them off. Such it will remain, I fear since duct tape just makes her cry when we pull it off.

See you in a few days.

Alvis Elledge said...

I think I agree with everything you wrote. I have never understood why babies need to have their ears pierced.

My son is not circumsized and neither am I. Before my son was born, my wife let me make that decision. The reason I didn't have him cut had nothing to do with wanting him to look like me. I did some research and read a few articles on circumcision and could find no compelling evidence that indicated that cutting off my son's foreskin would be of a measurable benefit to him. So why put him through the trauma when I can't even be sure that there is a good reason for it?

I'll hug you Mark. ;)

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Moksha,

I'm on-side with the piercing rant, though I do realize certain cultures take infant piercings for granted.

Mine doesn't, however. I also find it creepy when kids are jewelled.

Cheeseburger Brown