After not seeing my eighteen-year-old niece for a couple of years, I was startled to find that she had pierced her nose. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief that she only had a relatively unobtrusive stud protruding from it, until her little sister informed me that she indeed had a ring she wears as well. Her fashion statement these days is retro, more 60s Woodstock than 80s young Republican, and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of her hippie tendencies.
“Whatever you do, don’t get a tattoo. You’ll be stuck with that the rest of your life like a bad case of herpes or athlete’s foot.” Did I just say that or think it? By the expression on my sister’s face, I could tell the words had come out of my mouth. Tattoos conjure up images of hepatitis and spring break vacations gone terribly wrong.
I tried to back-peddle but the best I could do was, “If you decide to get one just make sure it is tasteful and somewhere no one will see it during a job interview.”
My niece smiled and tried to be pleasant. So much for my top ranking as the hip aunt. When did I become so judgmental? Maybe it happened somewhere between the time I went from being referred to as a miss to a ma’m. I’m not exactly sure, when that took place. It seemed to have been a rather murky transition from the days when I still unexpectedly got carded to the time bartenders no longer gave me a second glance.
“I’m not going to get a tattoo,” my niece later assured me with a calming tone as if she were speaking to a recently released mental patient.
“That’s good, you’ve got to think about your future.” Again, the words came out without me having turned the filter on.
I maneuvered the conversation to the topic of colleges hoping this would keep me out of trouble. She had already been accepted to a small liberal arts school in Colorado but was waiting on the U.C. schools and Brown. I immediately rammed the idea of an Ivy League education down her throat even though she was leaning in the direction of Colorado. How could she possibly consider a lesser school if she got in to Brown? As a graduate of one of the Ivies, I felt it my duty to convey the importance of taking advantage of this opportunity. This was rich considering that at forty I had not made a name for myself in any given field nor had I found any discernable career path. At this point, saying I went to an Ivy League school held no more weight than if I went to the local community college.
After pondering my relative position of influence, I dropped the subject. My unfortunate attempts at bonding left me beleaguered. I had become my parents and it was not a pretty sight. Luckily for me, my nieces cut me some slack. They are good kids and their resilience in dealing with overbearing adults is a testament to their mother. She has taught them to be kind souls. Someday, they, too, may understand how easy-sounding like one’s parents can be.