THE STATE VS. PIERCING BODY PARTS : TRENDY FORM OF `SELF-EXPRESSION' WHIPS UP CONTROVERSY.
Between age 12 and 13, Margaret Greene says, she pierced her body in about a dozen places.
She pierced her ears, her belly button, the webbed part of her hand, her bottom lip. Now 16, she says piercing her body is a form of expression.
``I think we should be able to do what we want to with our bodies. It's just a way of self-expression,'' said Greene, a junior at Palmdale High School.
But if Assemblyman George Runner, R-Lancaster, gets his way, piercing the ears, nose, lips, eyebrows, belly button, or any other part of a person under age 18 would be illegal without parental consent.
Runner has introduced a bill that would make it a misdemeanor to do body piercing without the written consent of a minor's parent or guardian. Tattooing a person under age 18 without parental permission is already illegal under state law.
``Operators need to get permission before sticking something into somebody's body,'' Runner said.
According to Runner, his Assembly Bill 99 was prompted by a call from a constituent, whose 14-year-old daughter had her belly button pierced without permission.
``We researched this and found out that a juvenile can do that,'' Runner said. ``They can go into one of those sleazy places, and mom and dad don't have to be notified.''
Greene, for one, doesn't think the state should interfere with her body piercing. And such a law likely wouldn't have stopped her. She didn't get pierced at a shop.
``I did it myself with a safety pin,'' she said.
In the Antelope Valley, most professional ear-piercing shops already have policies that prohibit body piercing on minors without consent of a parent or guardian.
Piercing Pagoda at Antelope Valley Mall goes beyond requiring written permission and demands that a parent be present.
``We're pretty strict,'' said Debbie Williams, a sales representative. ``We won't even allow grandparents, aunts or older sisters.''
Psycho City, a tattooing and body-piercing shop in Lancaster, generally won't pierce anyone under the age of 18, although it does make exceptions for minors with notarized written parental permission.
JoJo Ackerman, a manager, finds the new proposal a sign of the times.
``The politicians need to worry about the real issues and not worry about if someone wants to get their ears pierced,'' Ackerman said. ``Body piercing has been going on for 40 years, but now they're trying to say something. It's silly. They're only paying attention because it's trendy.''
Photo: (1-2--color in AV edition only) Margaret Greene, 16, a junior at Palmdale High School, top left, shows off her lip ring. She says she pierced her body in about a dozen places as a form of self-expression. Top right, Louis Rossi, 17, has pierced his eyebrow, chin and ear.
(3--color in AV edition only) Carrie Odell displays nose and earrings. The state is proposing a crackdown on body piercing.
Jeff Goldwater/Daily News