Anna had some friends over, to help with the decorations for her upcoming (September the Third) wedding. Also visiting were other friends of Anna’s, invited to hang out, and take advantage of our pool on a sweltering summer afternoon.
Well, you know, I start telling stories. I can’t help myself. I’m like a thoroughbred when the bell goes off. I see an audience, and off I go! And I don’t stop, until they like me or go home, whichever comes first.
So I’m telling this story about Anna to this guy who’s the member of a band that was Anna’s favorite when she was thirteen. Anna displayed serious “band savvy” at an early age, her specialty, not the hottest bands, but the coolest ones. Anna had a knack for determining which ones those were.
So I’m telling this band guy this story, which I’ve selected because it’s about the thirteen year-old Anna and bands, and I believe he’ll appreciate it. That’s how it works in terms of story selection. I am sensitively attuned to “the appropriate fit.” I canvas “the archives”, I access the “the right story”, my gums starts flapping, and we’re off to the races. As you know, I have a lot of stories. I am rarely consigned to silence. I seem to have a story for everyone.
Here’s the one I chose for this band guy.
One Saturday afternoon, I was assigned the duty of driving Anna to Universal’s City Walk – a studio-designed outdoor mall which includes a performance area – so that Anna could attend a free concert of a band, of which she was at that moment seriously enamored. In retrospect, the assignment seems strange. Traditionally in our family, this type of parental obligation usually fell to Dr. M, because she was by far the better driver, and Universal’s City Walk was fifteen to twenty miles away.
I readily acknowledge that my driving skills are not the greatest. I’m the kind of driver other drivers talk about when they get home.
“How did he ever get a license!”
I consider myself a careful driver. But to others, I’m a menace. An accusation hard to dispute when you have a bumper sticker, reading, “I Brake For Shadows.”
I don’t. Have that bumper sticker. I do, however, brake for shadows.
When Anna was younger, she expressed no concern about driving with me. Making her an exception to the family rule. The last time Dr. M allowed me to drive her, she had undergone outpatient shoulder surgery and was recovering from anesthesia. Half conscious, however, she still managed to criticize my driving.
“Why are you braking? There is nobody there!”
Anyway, we’re driving to City Walk. Since Anna was thirteen, I had been instructed to stay with her during the concert. And do what? I have no idea. Keep her out of the “mosh pit”? I do not know what that is. But I was directed to do so, and I agreed that I would.
I park the car, and we head up to the performance area. Just as we’re about to head inside, Anna stops me and says,
“Dad. I’m going in alone. You go to a movie, and we’ll meet here when the concert is over.”
It took fifteen years before I told Dr. M this story. Any earlier, and there might have been serious repercussions. Jettisoning parental responsibility, I acceded to my thirteen year-old daughter’s wishes. I allowed her to attend the concert alone, while I went to a movie, I believe, a selection from the “Naked Gun” oeuvre.
For this change in itinerary, I was relieved and grateful. I had no interest in seeing what the music did to my daughter. I feel equally uncomfortable imagining it. “Squealing, flushed, and jumping around.” Yikes! Excuse me while I pull the plug on that particular line of imagining.
I try not to think of Anna concerning that particular area. Still. And she’s twenty-eight.
If I am required – and so far I am not – to make a speech at Anna’s wedding, my opening line would be, “I can’t believe that my daughter Anna is…dating. (AFTER A BEAT, FOLLOWING THE CONFUSION) I know she’s married. I still can’t believe she’s dating!”
That’s how I feel about it. Though I am not above exploiting such situations for a story. As I yammer away, I can hear Anna’s flat and defeated voice in the distance, droning,
“Are you embarrassing me, Dad?”
And of course I was. But I was also entertaining this band guy. So I kept going.
“Anna,” I inquired, oblivious to her intense desire for me to stop, “what was the name of band you wouldn’t let me see you watch?”
It turns out this was the main source of Anna’s discomfort, not the story about attending a concert where she’d be transformed into a state she was adamantly against having her Dad see her being transformed into, but about the embarrassment-inducing reminder of the band that elicited that transformation.
Whose name I will exclude, in case one of you is familiar with this band and decides to comment on how irresponsible I was to allow a thirteen year-old girl attend their concert, including, for my edification, a description of which buttons that band might have pushed in Anna’s still-forming, adolescent psyche, that a Dad – at least this Dad – would prefer to reach his grave knowing nothing about.
I’m sorry I embarrassed you, Anna. I promise you, I will never tell this story again. Though I cannot promise I will never embarrass you again.
I’m a Dad. And that’s just the way that works.