Tongue Pains

I abandoned political correctness the day my daughter came home with her tongue pierced. She was fifteen.

Political Correctness is the tyranny of opinion-less whimps over the rest of society. Whereas a person who judges people by their race or religion or gender deserves to be ostracized by society, a person who judges people by their behavior is acting as an thinking human. To deny someone the right to a personal opinion is unconstitutional. To force one point of view on everyone is tyranny. Therefore, political correctness is tyranny. Having established my position on political correctness, I will render my opinion on tongue piercing. I offer it as my opinion, based on observation and life experience. I do not expect or demand that other parents share my opinion. There now. I feel better.

About tongue piercing. When my fifteen-year-old child snuck out to a tattoo parlor with a forged my name on a permission form, we didn’t notice it at first. One evening she didn’t eat dinner and when asked why, she slurred her words. She finally stuck her tongue out to show why she wasn’t eating. Her tongue was swollen and pierced. I unloaded my motherly opinion on her. It went something like this:

“Nothing shouts ‘I am trailer trash’ like a tongue piercing. You can chip the inside enamel of your teeth. Forgetting the potential of infection, or the chance that you’ll choke on the metal ball when it comes loose, or the fact that you had to break a commandment to get this disgusting thing—what possessed you to do this?”

tongue piercing

Tongue piercing photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

“Ni wannned id.”

“I am sorry. I cannot understand you. Did you say you wanted to look like trailer trash?” Or imitate a fool she met at school?


“All I can say is you better sleep with your eyes open, because I know how to use a needle-nose pliers.”

“Gooo wooden.”

“Oh, I would. You need to stop disobeying us. You think you can do whatever you want and trade it for being grounded for a while. That’s just the start of problems. You break our rules and you break our trust. You lie and then we have to question everything you say.”

“I am old enough to make dethithions for mythef.”

“Exactly. That’s why we expect you to make better decisions.”

Hubby arrived home. Jessica slurred through her side of the story. I gave him my opinion of it. He calmly nodded along until he’d heard enough.

“When did you get this done?” he asked in his clinical doctor-to-patient tone. As an orthopedic surgeon he had seen the results of many dangerously stupid behaviors before. He once treated a two hunters who played Russian Roulette to shoot off their own big toes. Both shots missed.

“Do dathz ago.”

“Congratulations. You probably have an infection.”

Jessica’s eyes welled as she squared her jaw, bracing for her father’s decision.

“Here’s your choice, Jessica. For every day that you keep that thing in your mouth we will delay buying you a car for a month. If that piece of metal is so important to you, then keep it as long as you want. I’m disappointed that you did this without speaking to us. You must have known that we would say ‘no’ but you don’t want to hear our reasons why. We are not your enemy. We are the best friends you’ll ever have. We would give you a kidney. We would walk through fire for you. I believe we deserve a little more respect than you’ve been giving us.”

The next morning we found the metal ball and clamp on the breakfast table. We were so naïve to be upset about a piercing. The hole in her tongue and the infection healed. And just for the record, I hold the same opinion of my daughter getting a tongue piercing as I do about tattoos. The problem today is that my daughter is grown and living independently. I am biting my tongue to keep my opinion to myself according to this wisdom “Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity. Proverbs 21:23 (NIV)” But, baby girl, if you read this–it’s my opinion that when you do the same thing as everyone else, that is not a sign of individuality. Just sayin’.

Cotton and Lace and String, Oh, My!

My daughter says I have issues with underwear. Call me old-fashioned, but my generation wears theirs under their clothing, hence the term. Her generation wears theirs showing. A glance around the crowd at the movie theater reveals colored bras under sheer tops, bra straps riding along with spaghetti straps on tops, jockey shorts peering over waistlines and other such nonsense. And don’t get me started on the whale tail trend. Egad. Why is this generation so proud of underwear?

Are these teen boys so status conscious that they feel compelled to display the brand name of their jockeys? Are they short-circuiting the debate on whether they prefer boxers or briefs? Perhaps they are trying to prove by demonstration that they wear underwear rather than go bare, or go ‘commando’ as they say. The lack of underwear was used to taunt the enemies of Scotland in battle. To go ‘regimental’ meant to be able to lift one’s kilt to reveal bare butts at the enemy. Alas, in many ways males throughout history have matured later than females.

Are the girls trying to provoke the adults who burned their bras in the sixties? Is this the anti-women’s liberation movement? Are they too stressed to finish getting dressed? What is this fashion statement saying? Like Don Quixote searching for meaning where none exists, my quest for answers continues.

The history of underwear from loincloth to bloomers, to corsets starts with nobles who wore undergarments centuries ago. Underwear use gradually filtered down to the peasants. Through the ages undergarments have been made of metal (chastity belts), cotton, linen, silk, nylon and other synthetics, leather, edible materials, and paper. Alas, underwear has undergone more fundamental changes than color and size in the last few decades, changes I readily admit being unprepared to bear.

When my daughter joined the high school junior varsity cheerleading squad the coach told the girls to wear thong underwear under their uniform bloomers. While fending off thoughts of Monica Lewinski, I listened to the coach explain her suggestion. Her spoken reason was that cotton panties showed a panty line. The unspoken reason, of course, was that after the girls get used to the thongs they will never again have the need to tug down their underwear during a cheer.

Granted, underwear tugging is quite unbecoming behavior for young ladies to engage in while standing in full view of a crowded stadium, but isn’t putting 14-year-olds in thong underwear also unbecoming? The other moms laughed at my prudishness and assured me that when they were cheerleading decades ago they also wore the skimpiest of string underwear. Aghast, I took my daughter to the store and bought the ridiculously-priced things.

I guess I am a prude. My daughter labeled my underwear ‘granny panties’ and suggested a switch to something akin to colored dental floss. While offering the lame argument that my panties weren’t true granny panties because they weren’t all white, I was suddenly amazed at how large my underwear appeared when held up for mocking. The fear of becoming my mother sent me off to buy a pair. One doesn’t try them on first, you know.

So I went home and discovered why no one tries them on at the store. AAAAGH! It had to have been mislabeled four sizes too small. The sides cut into the skin on my hips creating a far more serious panty line than ever seen before by womankind. And let’s address the discomfort factor associated with thongs. Eons ago when I was my daughter’s age, the sensation created by thong underwear was known as a wedgie, and it was inflicted on freshmen regardless of gender. Let’s just say the experience of wearing a thong brought back memories that begged for therapy. No, really, can’t we bring back something else uncomfortable? Like corsets?

Growing up in Wisconsin led me to think of underwear in terms of thermal layering as survival wear to ward off frostbite. If it had been available, underwear made of Berber® or Polartec® would have appealed to my generation. We wore long johns for a third of the year, so this concept of referring to elastic string as underwear seemed quite bizarre, hazardous to one’s health, and sheer lunacy.

Nonetheless, having moved to Florida helped me replace long johns with less substantial coverage. My husband pointed to the lacy, stringy under things in the Victoria’s Secret catalog and stated that I would look great in them, which would be flattering except for the fact that this is the first year he’s had to wear glasses. Should I wait until his eyesight deteriorates further to compensate for the differences between me and the twenty-something models before indulging his fantasy? I have shoes older than those girls! I have progressed somewhat by no longer calling the Victoria’s Secret catalogs ‘sleaze wear.’

It is a defensive mechanism to denigrate the lithe, toned, mysteriously bosomy skinny young girls in these catalogs. Of course I’d love to look sexy and appealing like the stunning uninhibited models, but it would take a significant investment in plastic surgery, dieting and exercise to make such alterations. It would defy a few laws as well—gravity and inertia. The limits of my imagination do not allow me to consider my forty-something body in clothes barely worn by models half my age and well below my weight class.

As my marriage enters its twenty-fifth year, I must consider ways to keep our private life fresh and new and interesting. Compared to radical changes in diet and exercise, the idea of a change of underwear becomes more and more reasonable.

It is time for me to embrace my sexuality by changing my underwear from white cotton cover-ups to clingy thingies. After all, it is just for me and my sweetie to see. Perhaps, like pantyhose and high heels, this is just another gender-based sacrifice women make for the benefit of men. Three behaviors I’ll have to master in order to disguise the change: one, refrain from tugging them out of where they are designed to be; two, relax the startled expression on my face; and three, walk normally. Using that old fake-it-until-you-make-it strategy, I will behave as if I’m not being halved by piano wire. I will walk and sit and move as if wearing good old comfy cotton coveralls.

Wish me luck.


This essay previously appeared in Tampa Bay Sounding, a publication of the high IQ organization Mensa. For a while I had a column in it.

cheerleaders in pyramid

Not the Mall

Giant shopping malls, like dinosaurs, will die out in the next wave of human development. Humankind has moved from hunter-gatherers to agrarian, to industrial, to technological. I eagerly await the next step from our current homogenous society of shopping malls to variety and individuality. Let me shop on the Internet or through small boutiques, but spare me the mall. It’s just a phase of civilization, a rite of passage, like acne, that one hopes will pass quickly.

Woman with Shopping BagsI despise the shopping malls, where otherwise intelligent humans can circle for hours searching for an exit from a single department store. Perhaps it is my hate-going-to-the-mall attitude, but shopping has become more challenging than ever before. What’s with the English garden maze theme that has overtaken common sense?

I propose a new law of shopping—as immutable as any law of physics—that whatever item you search for will be at the farthest, most difficult to reach point in the store from whichever point of the store you enter. Enter from the main mall entrance in search of men’s socks and you must traverse the entire department store on a convoluted path to find them. You will not be able to retrace your steps to return because while you shopped, clerks moved a few walls and shelves. Re-arranging weekly is also part of this diabolical plan to drive us to catalog shopping.

With books to read and writing to do, I itch to get back home when I’m at the mall. My teen daughter finds shopping at the mall fun. She can spend an entire Saturday shopping for a pair of underwear and call it a great day. If I enter the mall for underwear and cannot buy what I need and be back in my car within an hour, then I’ll abandon that plan and head home for a catalog. I even buy bras by catalog once I know which brand and style actually fits. Of course, if Natori stops making my favorite bras then I may be forced to search E-Bay for replacements.

Don’t give me that shopping-is-on-the-double-X-chromosome argument. I am living proof of the exception. Perhaps in a traditional hunter-gatherer society I would have been carrying a spear instead of berries. My husband says I shop like a man, like a targeted missile. Single-minded. A hunter. Find it efficiently and drag it home quickly. I’ve been known to buy great shoes in three colors to save time. Match that with three purses and I’m outta there like Superman from a phone booth. Done.

One of my friends lives to shop. She’s on a first-name basis with the clerks at the various department stores. I asked if she considered becoming a professional shopper for people like me. She laughed like I was teasing her. She so loves to shop that she can’t imagine that others feel differently. She’ll spend two days searching for a ten-percent discount on a shirt for her daughter. I hand my daughter cash and tell her when to meet me back at the fountain. It works for us. I’d rather spend time at lunch with my daughter than follow her through aisle after aisle of racks while she tries on fifteen tops for the one that will go with her favorite shorts.

Ask me to take a cat to the vet for shots. Invite me to watch home movies of your Alaska vacation. Tell me I have to repeat my mammogram. But puh-leeze don’t take me to the mall. I don’t enjoy wandering like a lab rat. It would take a few strong men and ropes to get me near the mall from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. If I get to play in an English garden maze one day, then fine, I’ll play along. Department stores with their canned air and canned music should not attempt to imitate garden mazes. They miss the point of shopping by frustrating the shopper who knows what she wants and is ready to buy it. A frustrated shopper can go to catalogs, or online searches. Need it in a size 8 in azalea color? No problem, we have it in stock and can ship it in three to five business days. I’ll cheerfully pay extra for shipping just to save myself the hassle. I’ve found two clothing manufacturers who offer clothing from their inventory based on the body measurements, favorite colors and styles of the shopper.

I believe the future demands more made-to-order shopping. Furniture dealers often do this. A few car manufacturers do this. The technology exists to satisfy supply to meet demand. Of course, the technology also exists to build cars that last five times longer than they are now. Book publishers, clothing designers and more could save millions by creating supply to meet demand. I suppose this next development of human civilization will take place when our resources have dwindled to the point at which we cannot afford to waste metal, cloth, paper and other materials by trying to create demand from oversupply. Until then, if you see a teenager dragging a whimpering adult into the mall, think of me and remember that this, too, shall pass.

Out of My Element

They know me at Lowe’s. I can tell by the whispers. I’m the woman the gray-haired clerk pointed to when he yelled, “Lady here says she looking for a long screw. Can somebody help her?” Two male clerks appeared from other aisles to size me up. At that moment, I envied all tunneling animals.

One fellow chuckled and led me to a wall of tiny drawers labeled by type and precise size of screw. A wall of them. I stammered about the boards on the dock popping up as I handed over the rusted screw I was trying to replace. Perhaps my husband had too much faith in my determination. It must be like this for foreigners at a grocery, trying to locate canned goods by pictures on labels. Handing the sample screw to the clerk was the white flag waving on the enemy line, the sign of surrender. Shoot me or take me prisoner, but I’ve had enough. Let’s end this one way or the other. It took the fellow seconds to find the exact match of the flat-head 1 ¾ inch metal screw amid the wall of choices. That merciful, albeit smirking, man saved me hours of searching.

The next week I was running in heels after a clerk in the carpentry section. All I wanted was to hang a neat level row of framed photos in my daughter’s room. When I breathlessly asked for a stud finder the clerk hiked up his tool belt and asked what kind of stud I was searching for. Wink. Wink.

After those experiences I refused future errands for any hardware items. If hubby needs something that isn’t sold at the grocery or at the department store or at a Wal*Mart, then forget it. Call it a division of labor. I told him I would go to the hardware store the day after he goes to the grocery to buy me any feminine hygiene product. He hasn’t asked me since.