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Modern Parenthood

Teenage nose piercing, Jewish tradition create parenting dilemma

Adornment or mutilation: The teenage  wish for a nose piercing has one mother caught in a parenting dilemma as she and her husband try to balance the desires of their 16-year-old daughter with the guidelines of their Jewish traditions – and, maybe a little squeamishness.

By Judy Bolton-FasmanGuest blogger / May 2, 2012

The teenage wish for a nose piercing has one mother caught in a parenting dilemma as she and her husband try to balance the desires of their 16-year-old daughter with the guidelines of their Jewish tradition. In this picture, an Olympia, Wash. body piercer marks Ashley Fagernes, 18, prior to piercing her lip.

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The day Anna got her nose pierced, I spent the morning reading up on  body piercing with regard to Jewish law. My daughter was about to get a small hole on the left side of her sweet nose, and I wanted to understand if she was adorning her face or mutilating it.

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Guest blogger

Judy Bolton-Fasman is an award-winning writer who writes about parenting and family life for the NYT Motherlode Blog and the Jewish Advocate. Judy's work has appeared in The New York Times, the Boston Globe and O Magazine. She is writing a family memoir and blogs at The Judy Chronicles. She lives outside of Boston with her husband, daughter, and son.

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The rabbis historically have been divided on the issue of body piercing. Some sages liken piercing, even of the earlobes, to inflicting a wound on a body that belongs first and foremost to G-d. Others see it as an act of beauty because one can prettify the body with jewelry. Almost all of the sources I read were uncomfortable about piercings that drew blood.

Ken was unequivocal on the subject. He told me that, “if you had had a nose piercing when we met, we wouldn’t be having this conversation today.” OK, so obviously Dad had to be convinced that a small stud in the nose was in vogue rather than disgusting.

As for me, I bought Anna’s argument that piercing her nose has been the only notable rebellious thing she’s wanted to do as a teenager. And she’d been lobbying for two years.

“I have the perfect nose for it,” was one of her key points.

“This is your face,” Ken shot back.

I was no help to the home team when I said, “I’d pierce my nose with Anna if it didn’t look so ridiculous on a middle-aged mom.” Besides, I grew up with Latina cousins whose ears were pierced at birth. My Latina mother wanted my ears pierced when I was a baby, but was met with heavy (read: hysterical) opposition from her American mother-in-law.

For two years Anna begged, argued, and yes, threw mild tantrums all in the name of establishing her own identity. She tried to highlight the fact that she would be 18 sooner rather than later and wouldn’t need our permission to pierce any part of her body. To her credit, she also said that she wouldn’t go ahead with the piercing at any age if Ken ultimately objected. When he heard that he got choked up and gave in to his little girl.

As a related aside, let me state clearly that the 18-and-over argument doesn’t reliably hold water with her father and me. Yes, there’s a host of things you can do at 18 that don’t require parental permission, like get married, buy cigarettes and lottery tickets, and enlist in the military. And it’s a milestone to be allowed to vote. But the 18-year-olds I know aren’t about marriage and Lotto. You know why? Because their parents won’t allow them.

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