You don’t own his body

Lately I’ve been wondering why I write. Around ten people visit each day, most looking at ‘Rape-Proof Pants’ or ‘More Rich People Who Don’t Understand Poverty’. Maybe half-a-dozen will read my latest offering. When I’m already feeling like I’m on the edge of the abyss, I wonder why I put the effort in, when I could just be napping.

But then, every so often, someone says something really dumb, and this becomes a place where I can rail about their inadvisable positions. Like this woman.

This woman’s son went and got a tattoo. Fair enough, he’s 21, he can do what he likes, and he was bright enough to get it somewhere where it can be hidden from bigoted employers. It’s just some skin art. But not to dear Mum.

His father asks, “Does it hurt?”

“Yes,” I say, cutting across this male bonding. “It does. Very much.”

She’s ‘unhinged by shock’, and for three days, she does not speak to her son.

What kind of emotional blackmail is this? Perhaps that’s not the right term, but she’s punishing him emotionally for doing something to his body that’s rather insignificant in the scheme of things. It’s ink, not ritual amputation. He’s happy, healthy, and not in trouble with the law. What else does she want?

What else does she want? She wants to own him. She wants to able to control the decisions he makes to an unhealthy degree. And that’s not good. The truth is, from the moment your child is born, you do not own your child. You care for them, you make decisions for them when they are young, but as they get older and mature, you slowly hand over the reins to them. You’ve looked after their body, then you let go. But this woman isn’t letting go.

” You’re branded, like meat.” Comparing her son to a piece of meat is so low. It’s insulting him and trying to make him feel guilt because you don’t accept him as he is. What kind of parenting is that? Controlling, manipulative, nasty.

When she finally speaks to her son again, he says “I’m still the same person” Her reply?

But you’re not. You’re different. I will never look at you in the same way again. It’s a visceral feeling. Maybe because I’m your mother. All those years of looking after your body – taking you to the dentist and making you drink milk and worrying about green leafy vegetables and sunscreen and cancer from mobile phones. And then you let some stranger inject ink under your skin. To me, it seems like self-mutilation. If you’d lost your arm in a car accident, I would have understood. I would have done everything to make you feel better. But this – this is desecration. And I hate it.

She didn’t look after his body all those years. She imagined she had possession of it, and won’t let go now. Her reaction is so over-the-top that it’s hard not to laugh. She’s making everything all about her and her feelings, and who cares about her son? She doesn’t – she wants to shame him and make him feel guilty for taking control of his own body. Nowhere in this piece does she show even a shred of consideration for her son.

But by deciding to have a tattoo, my son took a meat cleaver to my apron strings. He may not have wanted to hurt me. I hope he didn’t. But my feelings, as he made his decision, were completely unimportant.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one; pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.

I am redundant. And that’s a legitimate cause for grief, I think.

He didn’t have to consider her feelings – it’s his body. It’s not about her or what she wants, and she needs to understand that she is not the centre of her son’s world, and nor should she be. He’s 21, he’s an adult, and he’s moving in his own world, one that connects with his parents’, but is decidedly different. Mother needs to recognise this, move on, and stop trying to own her son.

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