This morning I was in line getting my Pennsylvania driver’s license, and noticed a teenager in front of me getting his learner’s permit. He had a small ring in each earlobe — not pierced in the conventional way, but rather with small rings embedded into each earlobe. The idea is to stretch out the earlobe. The kid’s father was with him, and I thought, way to go, Dad, letting your kid turn himself into a freak.
I’m serious about this. Mind you, I had a conventional earring when I was that kid’s age — how daring that was for males in the 1980s — but when I graduated college and got a job in which an earring on a man wasn’t kosher, it was easy to take the thing out when I went to work, then put it back in when I went out to the clubs. It wasn’t long before I lost interest in having an earring, and took it out permanently. The hole closed, I guess; you can still see evidence that my ear was pierced, if you look hard.
I wonder, though, if young people into the more extreme forms of body modification have any idea how unemployable that sort of thing makes them in many decent-paying jobs. That kid’s freaky ears may make him cool among his crowd, but try putting on a coat and tie and showing up for a job interview looking like a primitive. You can grinch and moan all you want about how unfa-a-a-ir it is to judge people negatively based on their body modifications, but there is such a thing as professional standards of appearance. You don’t like it? Fine. But resign yourself to being able to work only in a certain kind of job. I blogged earlier today off that Atlantic Monthly story saying that young adults entering today’s job market have totally unrealistic expectations of what it’s going to be like for them — and that one reason they are so ill-informed is because their parents have indulged them, and encouraged them in their flight from reality. Along those lines, re: economic mobility and freedom, that teenager’s father has done his son a great disservice by allowing him to permanently stretch out his earlobes like that. It’s like giving your kid a food-stamp name.
Jobs aside, don’t these kids ever stop to think about how stupid they’re going to look when they hit middle age?
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About Rod Dreher
Rod Dreher is director of publications at the John Templeton Foundation, a philanthropy that focuses on science, religion, economics and morality. A journalist with over 20 years of experience, Dreher has written for The Dallas Morning News, the New York Post, and other newspapers and journals. He is author of the book "Crunchy Cons." Archives of his previous Beliefnet blog, "Crunchy Con," can be found here. He and his family live in Philadelphia.