Four teenage girls piled into my car, clad in their Mario Brothers matching outfits – one set of green, one set red. The ritual of Halloween parties and trick-or-treating (more of a coming together of suburban teenage texters and tweeters) now officially over, the girls with their straightened hair and braces-less shiny white teeth Snapchatted and Instagrammed about where the fun would continue. Diners and peoples’ dens were all up for discussion.
“Dad, we’re hungry. Can we order Chinese?”
“No candy? Your bags look empty. I figured you’d be sugared out.”
“Dad, nobody trick or treats anymore. It’s not like we’re in middle school.”
My daughter put me in my place… which was chauffeur to the future coeds of America.
“What does everyone want? I have the restaurant on speed dial?”
(My daughter has the Chinese take-out on speed dial? She doesn’t even have me on speed dial.)
The orders flew through the car. Sesame Chicken. Lo Mein. Egg Rolls. More Sesame Chicken. It was a smorgasbord and I was footing (or should I say, careening toward) the bill).
Off we flew to the restaurant, as the girls megaphoned every song, volume be damned, they heard on the radio. I surrendered my debit card, picked up the bags (yes, bags of food) and off we went, full throttle toward home.
“Dad, do you mind if some boys come by for Chinese? They don’t want to go to the diner.”
“Okay, did you text mom?”
“All done, she said it is up to you.” (Game, set, match to my wife.)
“Will there be enough food?”
(There was enough food for most of the neighborhood and then some, but the Jewish father in me asked – God forbid, we didn’t have enough food.)
“Not a problem, dad. We are set. And thanks for doing this. You’re the best!”
Thanks… Best… I was in heaven. All it took were those long eyelashes, dimples and a few kind words and I would have flown my daughter and her friends to China first class clad in the latest from Abercrombie. I was a sucker when I was being sucked up to.
Suddenly emboldened and feeling like one of the Luigi and Mario party of freshman fillies, I made my way into the conversation.
“So, is Lisa still going out with Brent?”
Screech… You could hear a pin drop. The glare coming from the seat next to me abruptly took me from World’s Best Dad to the daddy dungeon. I had crossed the line from being cool to being iced out. The silence was more deafening than the suburban woods at night.
As we pulled into the driveway, and the girls made their way of the car, my daughter lingered, her big brown eyes locked on the side of my head.
“What were you thinking?”
“I just asked a question. I’ve known all those girls since they were five.”
“You cannot talk about anyone, dating, boys, girls, clothes, parties, anything now that I am in high school. No questions in front of my friends. It is so… icky.”
As she walked through the garage into the house, I sat there for a minute. When had I become icky? We always talk about everything and anything. Always a daddy’s girl… when did my being her favorite pop go flat? Had I walked into an adolescent twilight zone known as high school?
I stumbled into the house, playing bits of the car ride over and over in my head. My wife, who had created a virtual Chinese buffet of coordinated cutlery and plates in the kitchen, was waiting for me in the living room.
“What did you say? She just got me in the bathroom.”
“I just asked about two of her friends. I think I put my foot in it. I think she hates me.”
“She doesn’t hate you. I got the head nod, which meant leave the kitchen at once. No talking, no opening of cartons, no napkin folding.”
“What should we do now? Should we leave? Where’s the closest exit?”
My wife and I made our way up to our bedroom. The days of tea parties and tinker toys were over. Dress-up now involved heels and mascara from the mall, not crinkly polyester costumes from the Disney Store. Hand holding was meant for teenaged boys who suddenly had grown taller than the girls. It was time to let go, not time for “Let It Go.”
About an hour later, as we heard the last opening and closing of the garage doors, my daughter slipped into our room lit only by the TV screen. She had come upstairs for her toothbrush, the other girls already ensconced in the guest room downstairs for a night of no sleep and hopefully no drama.
“Just wanted to let you know we cleaned up. About to go downstairs.”
“Okay. Don’t stay up too late. Try and get some sleep.”
“Will do… and by the way, thanks for everything. We all really appreciate it. My friends think you’re the best!”
And that was worth more than its weight in egg rolls.