Generation gap: Umbilical discord

Val is a single mum living in Hove, East Sussex. Her daughter Catherine, 15, begged to be allowed to have her navel pierced. Val considers herself easy-going but feared that Catherine would live to regret it. Now her daughter has gone ahead - and battle is about to commence on the subject of tattoos
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The Independent Online

`She said well it's your body, don't blame me if it goes septic. I got it done and showed her and she went, "Ooh, how could you?" '

Last summer I saw this lady on the beach with a sarong on and she'd had her navel pierced and I thought it looked really nice. I was in my science class with a group of friends, and one of them said to me that she was going to have her belly button pierced and she was really nervous about it. I'm one of these people who likes to prove that they're not nervous, and I'm quite outgoing, so I said I'll come along with you. My friend had it done, and I went home and asked my mum if I could get mine done. First she said definitely not. Every time my friends came round she said: "Tell not to get her belly button pierced, because she'll regret it when she's older." Then I persuaded her. She said well it's your own body, don't blame me if it goes all septic. I went and got it done and showed my mum, and she went, "Ooh, how could you?" She didn't ground me, she just said, "Take care of it, but I don't agree with it and don't show it to me."

It took about five minutes. It didn't hurt because he numbed it up first with ice. I said can I watch how you do it, but he wouldn't let me in case I fell off the stool. The bloke who did it had his tongue pierced, an eyebrow pierced, and he had a big feather going through his ear.

My friend's bled a lot, but mine didn't. I had to clean it night and day and every time I had a bath I put antiseptic cream on it. My friend's went septic because she didn't clean it, and she had to have it removed - the skin grew through it.

I asked my mum, a while back, if I could have a tattoo, and she didn't like the idea at all. The woman who plays Rachel on Friends had it done and it looked really nice, but I wouldn't want it on my hip, I'd want it round the back: if you're wearing a bikini, it'd look quite nice. Only a little one. Then I said to my mum, "I am going to get my tattoo today," and I went to the shop and I let all these people jump the queue because I was too afraid. I eventually plucked up the courage after choosing which one I wanted (the black silhouette of a dragon with a long tail, superimposed over a reddy-orangey sun) and I said, "How much would it cost to have this done on my bum?" and he said "Have you got any ID? You have to be 18 or over." I said, "No," and he said, "Sorry, you're too young."

I was really annoyed. Then I got home and she said, "Well, where is it then?" you know, prepared for the worst. I said, "I couldn't get it done," and she said, "It's just as well."

But I would like to get one of those temporary ones: you can get them done on the pier, with a laser pen, it costs about pounds 10 and it just looks like a normal tattoo but after about a year it starts to fade as the skin drops off layer by layer. I had a fake tattoo on my ankle once; that was only meant to last a day but it lasted a week and was horrible, all chipping off.

I might got a moon and a star, or a simple, small heart. I think my mum will agree with the compromise.


`I like to think I'm modern and with-it, so I never say "Never" and it's her body. I quite like the idea that she's trendy'

When I first saw it I thought "Yeuch!" I squirmed. I hate the idea of anything in the navel. To me, it's that bit where you poke about for bits of fluff when you're in the bath, and I think the idea of having something stuck in it is repulsive. It wasn't too bloody but it did look sore. I empathised, I was glad it wasn't me. When I had my ears pierced I screamed and all she was doing was putting the spirit on the cotton wool.

Then I started worrying about her at school, because she likes trampolining - she's very athletic - and I had visions of the ring getting caught in something and her hanging there suspended by the navel. Also, body piercing did have very punky associations and I didn't want her to have that kind of image.

I like to think I'm modern and with-it, so I never say "Never" and it's her body - so I advised her strongly against it, tried all the angles with her. I was very careful not to set up an "Oh yes you do, Oh no you don't," because I wanted her to actually think about it.

She's got an aquamarine-coloured synthetic stone in it. I quite like it now because it's pretty. Funnily enough, I do belly dancing and it's quite appropriate for that, but if I thought of having one done there'd be too much belly, you'd never get to see the sunken stone!

I quite like the idea that she's trendy, I think it's very important for kids to be approved of by their peers and she's got a nice figure. I was worried at first that her navel would get infected, but she does seem to be really sensible about it. She's kept it clean, bathed it properly.

Then she started asking me about tattoos. I'm really against that. I think the butterfly on Bo Derek's bum is quite sexy and pretty, but generally I don't like tattoos. I don't like the idea of not being able to get rid of them. And fashions change. I said to her it might be really trendy to have one now but in 10 years' time you might be wanting to get rid of it. I've seen people pick at them and they get all infected and horrible. Some of them aren't very artistic anyway.

We almost had a row, a few Saturdays ago, because she said, "Well I'm going to have it done," and I said, "Well, I really don't think you should," and I actually considered phoning up the tattooist and saying, "Do you realise this person is under 18 and it would be mutilation, and I'm going to inform the police." But the tattooist said she was too young.

I think at 16 you haven't quite made up your mind about things and she could regret it. And so I'm trying to persuade her to think ahead, think of all the possibilities. She might fall in love with somebody who really hates tattoos. I just think it could be a bit limiting for her.

But she now tells me there's a tattoo they can do that just colours the skin, and when the skin layers shed, it goes. And I thought that's not so bad. I just hate the idea of needles and permanency.