Thursday, February 02, 2012


That's the best way I know to describe my daughter.  She astounds me every day.  She's very confident and sure-footed about where she wants to be in life, and keeps a steady eye on that path.  She's quite realistic about what is good for her and what's a distraction.

That said, she's also aware of her own tendency to procrastinate and be...scattered.  She inherited her father's ability to leave a trail of stuff in her wake.  You can read her daily activities by the trail she leaves.  For me, it's still a good trade-off: messy for unusually level-headed.

She makes an impression on people, that's for sure.  Towards the end of last school year, she decided to join the school Art Club.  Just one of those "might be a good idea" thing, as she is an impressive artist.  She'd been accepted as a graphic artist for the school paper, so being in Art Club seemed logical.  And might be fun.

So, she went to a couple of meetings.  Enough to cast her vote in the club elections.  A couple of weeks go by and...guess what?

She's the president.

Good golly.

Her dad just can't seem to wrap his head around her, though.  His wife (#3) once said that I shouldn't expect him to relate to her because he doesn't "get" art and music.  Really?  That sounds reasonable to you?  So, their conversations tend to be superficial and, consequently, he hasn't seen her in about three years.

Her last birthday was a big deal, though.  It was her 16th.  Sweet 16.  That's a milestone.  So, I talked him into coming here for her birthday, as a surprise.  That would be huge for her.  But what about the party itself?  What the heck was I gonna do to celebrate her 16th?

I racked my brain.  I wanted to do something themed with the things she's into.  There's that obsession of hers with Korean boy bands, but...uhm, no.  Then, there's art, literature, and writing.  I needed some advice on that.  I called my friend, the head of the Art department where I work.

I explained about my daughter's birthday.  My friend has met my daughter and was impressed at the time.  "So do you know of any art-related spaces locally that I can rent for a party?"

"Sure," she said.  "We actually don't use the campus art gallery all summer.  You can have that, if you'd like."

I was stunned.  That's a brand-new, gorgeous space.  Glass front and plenty of space.  It's part of the new college center on campus.  "Seriously?" I asked.  "How much?"

"No charge," she said.  "I'll even help you set up, if you give me a snack."  See, she has this theory about how much better the world would be if people just had more snacks.

I spent the next several weeks secretly going through all of the artwork I'd kept over the years and all of the sketchbooks Daughter has stashed...everywhere.  I collected enough to cover the walls of the gallery.  I made plans to swipe her latest sculpture for the food table.  I met with the campus catering services people to get plenty of food for a group of teenagers.  Our favorite bakery designed a bass drum shaped cake in her school colors, to represent her love of marching band.

All she knew was we were renting a room on campus for her party.  That way, she could give her friends some directions.  She had no idea that it wasn't just any room, but that she was about to have her first "show."

Her dad made his travel plans.  It was cheaper to fly into a neighboring town, and he wanted her to be at the airport when he got there.  But keep in mind that this was supposed to be a surprise.  So, I told her I had to go pick up a visiting professor and take him to the campus there.  Would she like to go and have a shopping day with me?

Why, yes, she would!  That's my girl!  Don't pass up shopping.

The day arrives, and she dresses to the nines for shopping.  Heels, skirt...the works.  When we get there, I tell her to have a seat while I check on the flight's arrival.  Apparently, it had already gotten there because from behind me I hear:  "What are you DOING here?"

He's leaning over the back of her chair.  She's staring up at him, backwards.  Repeating two phrases:  "You're my daddy!" and "What are you DOING here?"

She was blown away to see him.

"Isn't it someone's birthday?" he said, laughing at her.  "So give your old dad a hug."

As she stood, I saw his gaze go from her feet to the top of her head, which was well above his.  Especially in  heels.  His jaw dropped.  His eyes went back to the shoes.

"When did you start wearing those?" he said.  "I don't like that idea!"

Now, it was his turn to be blown away.  She spent the rest of the weekend making him feel that way.

One day, I was driving him back to where he was staying.  As we sat in the car, he said two things to me that about blew me away.  First, he said I'd done a great job with her.  Second, he apologized for all the crap he put me through when we were married.

That was a big wow moment for me.

He's still an asshole.  He proved that at the party.  More on that later.

Jacob, his Eldest, my folks, and I spent hours setting up before the party.  It was great fun.  Daughter's dad arrived.  Have I mentioned that he's a Rush Limbaugh devotee?  Yeah.  He sent conservative political books to the kids for Christmas.  Ugh.  And he was apparently quite disapproving of my young, tattooed, pierced boyfriend.

He said something to my mother later.  And spent all evening texting his wife and not talking to anyone.  Judgemental asshat.  My mother apparently told him to remember that this man treats me and my daughter well, and makes us happy.  So stuff it.

But on with the party.  Finally, the big moment arrived.  Daughter had met her friends outside and was walking in with them.  The rounded the corner, where she could see into the big glass front of the gallery.

"Hey," she said, pointing.  "What's my stuff doing in there?"


"That's my stuff!"


"What's my stuff doing in there?!"

Her best friend Alan was beside her.  He pointed, too.  "Maybe it has something to do with the sign in the window."  It was a mock-show announcement, with her name on it.

She about flipped.  Her friends walked with her from one picture to the next.  They started from when she was a very little girl, until now.  They listened to her explain each one.  Then, they sucked down wings, cake, and lemonade while playing board games.

One little problem happened.  The lemonade had some kind of grossness floating in it.  Jacob slung the dispenser over his shoulder, and we headed to the kitchen.  They gave us a new dispenser.

Which still had grossness.

Jacob slung it over his shoulder again and headed out.  He came back momentarily with a crate of sodas.  "They won't be charging you for this," he said.

My hero :o)  Saved the day.  While dumbass sat in the corner, texting his wife.  I still smile about that.

I gave Daughter a lovely key pendant, with her birthstone.  In the card, I talked about how it represented the keys I hope I'd given her to go through life, and the keys she held to determining her own future.  A couple of months ago, her writing class had to do a poem.  Guess what she wrote about?  What that key means to her.  Still makes me misty to read that.

About a month after her birthday, her best friend Alan asked her out.  She'd decided to not date until she turned 16, so he'd waited for that to pass.  Everyone around them said, "About dang time!"

A couple of months later, though, things took a very different turn.  Kind of strange, really.  Alan told her about a recent relationship he'd had -- with one of their mutual friends.  A male mutual friend.  He told her he wasn't sure if he was gay or just bisexual, but he was working on figuring it out.

She felt awkward telling me about this, but needed to talk to someone about how to handle this development.  I explained to her that she didn't need to be uncomfortable with me, and that Jacob is actually "pansexual" - being attracted to individual traits rather than gender.  And that he'd also had relationships with men. That gave her some perspective, and a tool to use in talking with Alan.

Then, she got wind of something he'd said to another friend.  He's said he'd really enjoyed waking up with that male friend, but was disappointed that Daughter wouldn't do that.  Too true; she will not.

Then, he confessed that he wanted to date her to "know what being with a girl was like."  This hit her hard.  He wasn't so much interested in HER as he was in her gender.  Wow, that makes a girl feel special, doesn't it?

One evening, she breaks down crying and tells me she thinks she needs to break up with him.  "He's a great friend," she said.  "But a rotten boyfriend."

They'd had a conversation a day before, in which he'd had the brilliance to utter these phrases:

"I wish we'd be more intimate.  I'd hate to cheat on you out of boredom."
"So what do you consider cheating?  I want to know how short of a leash I'm on."

Again, charming.  Right?  We had a long talk about it.  She was pretty clear: "He shouldn't be with me if he's thinking about cheating."  I was glad to see that she has a clear idea of what a relationship should be for her, and she's not willing to settle.

So, that's that for the first boyfriend.  They're back to being best friends, and everyone is happy that way.

Today, she filled out her schedule for her senior year in high school.

When did that happen?


e jerry said...

I'd rather Daughter had kicked her dear ol' Dad directly in the nads, but that's just me, and you know how I feel about him.


Walker said...

BF is a GF
Dad is what he always was.
Really a Rush fan Oh I mean Limbaugh, not the band.
Maybe he and the unisex bf can talk politics