Where did my little girl go? She wanted for nothing. Now DIANA APPLEYARD'S daughter is a goth with ten ear piercings...

Diana Appleyard, 50, wonders what happened to her angelic little girl — while Charlotte has her say, too...

By Diana Appleyard

Rock chic: Teenage heavy metal fan Charlotte has chosen a look that alarms her mother

Today, when I look at the photographs of Charlotte as a child, with her fluffy, curling blonde hair and perfect skin, I could cry. Of course, I still think that my robust 18-year-old is as fabulous a person as she has always been — but why does she have to alter her looks in this way?

I hesitate to use the word ‘defile’, but I do hate the fact she dyes her hair, and every time I look at her multiple piercings I wince. I can’t help but think of them as skin mutilations.

Charlotte had such beautiful natural blonde hair — why does she dye it all the colours under the sun? Can’t she see that her natural colouring is so stunning, and by dyeing her hair she makes her skin tone look unnatural?

She first dyed her hair in her third year at boarding school — I went to pick her up for a day out and nearly fainted with shock. Her gorgeous blonde hair had been dyed a horrible matte black. Against it, her skin seemed pasty and washed out. She looked, in short, nothing like my daughter.

When I shrieked in horror at her black hair, Charlotte was unrepentant. ‘It’s only hair,’ she said. ‘I like it, it’s my hair and I can do anything I want with it.’

I can perfectly understand that this is a form of teenage rebellion, and a stage through which so many teenagers pass. So many girls today are dyeing their hair all kinds of startling colours, and multiple piercings are increasingly common.

Blonde tradition: Diana Appleyard with the more innocent four-year-old Charlotte and her other daughter Beth, nine

I had hesitantly said she could have her ears pierced at 14 — that was a mistake.
She had both ears pierced, then had another ear piercing — and another. Now her ears are covered with all manner of hoops, cuffs and studs. She has a stomach piercing, and has recently added a revolting nose stud. She’s the envy of her friends. Meanwhile, I wince and wonder if she’ll ever look normal again.

Charlie idolises various ‘metal’ rock bands, and dresses uniformly in black, with lots of leather and graffiti-strewn T-shirts. I try to buy her ‘normal’ clothing, but it stays firmly in the wardrobe. She loves the ‘biker-chick’ look, and seems to be deliberately cultivating a tough and streetwise image which, I believe, is completely at odds with her sweet, dreamy personality.

Goodness knows what she will do next. Charlotte’s favourite programme is ‘L.A. Ink’ which is set in an American tattoo studio, and many of the rock stars she idolises are absolutely covered in tattoos. I find it so hard to understand why she thinks tattoos are either cool or attractive — I think they look horrible.

There have been so many nights when I have kept myself awake worrying about her, asking myself whether this is my fault — is this image some kind of rebellion against her middle-class childhood, characterised by pony club membership and country walks? Is she figuratively putting two fingers up at our values and lifestyle?

In response, Charlie just laughs. She says how she looks is nothing to do with either me or her family — and that of course she loves us just as much, and she isn’t ‘rebelling’ against her childhood. But how can I see it as anything else?

Her father and I worked so hard to give her and her sister an idyllic childhood, with horses and private education — yet Charlotte looks the antithesis of her upbringing.

I know, in my heart, that it’s just a phase but I can’t help seeing her image as some kind of rejection.

Her sister, Beth, who’s 23, finds Charlie’s image hilarious. It has become a family joke, but I wonder if there is something I have done wrong — none of my friends’ daughters look like this.

Charlie is now at art college, and doing extremely well. I know, as a person, she hasn’t changed at all. She’s always been eccentric and charming, and I ought to count myself extremely lucky that she hasn’t gone off the rails and has excellent values in life.

Underneath the awful heavy make-up, piercings and hideous hair, she’s still exactly the same person and I adore her. I just wish she looked more on the outside as she is on the inside, and would allow her natural beauty to shine through. I worry so much that the way she looks will create damaging preconceptions which are at odds with the person she really is, and that her aggressive image might damage her in some way.

Charlotte says:
My mother completely misunderstands why I look as I do. She takes everything so personally. I’m just a teenager having fun before I get too old to do it any more.

People alter their image with plastic surgery every day, which to me is far more drastic — yet, oddly, surgery seems to be more socially acceptable than piercings.

I like the way I look, not because I’m trying to be something I’m not, but because I feel I should be able to decide what looks good on my body and what doesn’t.

To me, this is part of becoming a grown-up and having control over my life. I have my limits — I would never cluster my face with piercings — rather, I believe in enhancing, not altering, my looks.

I don’t want to cave in to Mum, but by the time I reach my mid-20s I’m sure I’ll have a natural hair colour and I might even take out some of my ‘scary’ piercings. But for now I like the effect the way I look has on people — they often comment on my hair in the street and shout: ‘Cool colour!’ Being young should mean making waves.

I am not doing this to upset my parents. They’ve done everything for me in life and I respect their opinions very much. My image is simply for me and no one else and I ought to be given the freedom to do what I like to it. I’m sorry, but Mum has to let go. I don’t tell her what to wear or how to do her make-up — why should she tell me?

My style has changed dramatically over the years, and maybe my current form of dress is a kind of ‘rebellion’, but surely that is up to me?

I wear what makes me feel comfortable. I’m not dressing in these clothes to deliberately ruffle Mum’s feathers — I wear them because the bands on my T-shirts really mean something to me and have helped me in moments of sadness.

I have had some of the greatest moments of my life at their concerts and the least I can do is wear a T-shirt that shows how proud I am to support them.

Obviously, Mum does not agree with this theory. She thinks I look and dress this way because I am rebelling against her — nothing could be further from the truth! Why do parents think everything is about them?

This is about me, and what I want. Why should she dictate to me, now I am 18? I’m not willing to change who I am just to make other people happy. I know I am the anomaly in my family — my sister and I weren’t exactly brought up to love tattoos, piercings and heavy rock music. This image is something I fell into completely by accident — my school didn’t like it either.

My love of this ‘goth’ style was influenced by nothing more than pure curiosity on my part and a love of music.

It was revolutionary for me to hear the tattooed rock stars that I loved explaining, intelligently, why no one should stop you from looking however you want to look and explaining why you should kick at the boundaries of society. I know that piercings, tattoos and metal music are always going to be something society shies away from.

But when I am a mother myself I will try to be more tolerant and understanding.

The bands I idolise don’t advocate taking drugs or self-harming — they are responsible, mature people who just happen to look a bit crazy.

For me, my image epitomises both fun and also a sense of passion — it’s an antidote to a drab world.

I know that Mum is worried it will affect my chances of getting a job — but I am not stupid. Piercings can be taken out, my hair can revert to its natural colour if needs be.

I have no plans to get a large rose tattooed across my neck — a small, subtle one, maybe!

I should be allowed to be young, and a little bit wild at this stage of my life. I am who I am, and love my image. I don’t think any person has the right to tell anyone how they should look. We only get one life and should be allowed to live it as we see fit.

In two words, Mum, butt out.