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Nose Piercing & The Jewish Mother

The day my 17-year-old daughter 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.

The rabbis have been historically divided on the issue of body piercing. Some sages liken piercing, even 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.

My husband 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.” Okay, 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 my girl’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,” her father shot back.

I was no help to the home team when I said, “I’d pierce my nose 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.

My daughter did her homework. She found a reputable piercing/tattoo parlor to do the deed. Yes, piercings and tattoos seem to go hand in hand. But I don’t care how old my kids are, tattoos are not on the table at any age. Besides, tattooing one’s body is explicitly forbidden in Jewish law. The place that I’ll call I’m Piercing Your Daughter, Inc., looked reputable from its web site. They’d been in business for over a decade and took pains to emphasize that everything — needles, studs, gauze — was completely sterilized and disposable.

The waiting room at I’m Piercing Your Daughter, Inc. didn’t do much to put me at ease. It was decorated with scary wooden masks that sported creative ways to pierce the face. But at least I sat. My husband paced. My girl was too excited to notice anything. The song “Super Freak” was playing overhead. (I swear I’m not making any of this up.)

The technician, who was a walking advertisement for his profession, beckoned us into a private treatment room and carefully explained what he was going to do to our daughter’s nose. He was gentle and understanding as well as tattooed and pierced on every part of his body that was visible. In addition to having his own nose pierced in a couple of places, he also had a nose bullring. Yes, his septum was pierced. I caught my better half staring.

Nose piercing is a quick, simple and relatively painless procedure. It took longer for all of us to take our places in the small room. My girl held her Dad’s hand and her Dad held my hand. The technician pierced. My daughter smiled. My husband flinched. And I realized I didn’t have what it takes to get my nose pierced after all.

The piercing came with a sheet outlining care instructions that my daughter taped to her bathroom mirror. And the fallout? Not much to speak of.

I’m hailed as a cooler than cool mom and my lovely girl is now the ultimate hipster, especially when she wears her black-framed reading glasses. As for my husband, he’s secure in the knowledge that when a nose stud is removed, the hole will close up in less than a day.

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