Column: Father has date with anxiety and MasterCard

By SCOTT SAALMAN

My plan was to sleep late Saturday morning, but an 8:30 a.m. text message from Delaney proved to be the foil: “I need $100 for my makeup appointment by 9 — and I want French toast.”

Half asleep, I made it to the ATM machine, and she made it to her appointment on time, but French toast was out of the question. A dad must put his foot down. Je suis désolé.

Only when I was fully awake did I wonder, “Did I really just give her $100 without asking for an explanation?”

I should’ve known better than to expect to sleep late on the day of my freshman daughter’s first high-school Winter Ball.

How excited was she? She had picked her dress out two months earlier, that’s how excited. She did this even before having a date for the event, which she eventually landed.

Yes, Delaney has reached the age to date.

Each time I type that dreaded word — date — I do so with trembling, fatherly fingers.

What happened to the little girl who despised anything “girly-girl” in the not-too-distant past, who preferred blue jeans and T-shirts to hair ribbons and dresses, tackle football to tea parties? — who vowed to marry not a boy, let alone a human being, but a Siberian Husky when she grew up? What happened to my baby girl and her dog dreams? How I howl with heartache.

Of course, we’re not talking marriage here — that’s decades away until she finds the right Husky. We’re talking dating, something dads of daughters must learn to accept — except me.

I am a bit of a hypocrite on this matter, since I was 13 when I had my first date. I met Julie Groves at the Swiss Theater to see “The Spy Who Loved Me.” We sat together, alone, while my dudes made catcalls behind us, the jealous bastards. Roger Moore was Bond (I preferred Sean Connery), so the night already had one strike against it. Plus, I was still getting used to my braces, so each time the Richard Kiel villain, named Jaws, appeared — you remember him, the Lurch-like guy with the metal teeth (he was like the poster child for orthodontia gone awry) — I became hyper-self-aware of my own new metallic mouth and couldn’t even face Julie without blocking it with an arm (there would be no first kiss that night). That was strike two. Strike three was summed up in two words: Barbara Bach. She was the stunning brunette playing Bond’s latest gun-toting babe. I wanted Barbara Bach to be sitting beside me in all her KGB agent glory, not all-American grade-schooler Julie Groves.  

Only recently did I learn my daughter has an “official” boyfriend. “Do you want to see who I’m dating?” she asked her grandparents and me at Denny’s.

“Dating?” I asked, spitting coffee into my cup. Delaney was smart. She strategically announced this to me in a public setting with plenty of people around to protect her.

“It’s just a picture of his hair that he cut off,” she explained, as her camera phone was passed around the table. Sure enough, there was nothing in the frame but a healthy mop of freshly-cut hair on the floor, no face. It was as if she was dating Cousin Itt. How befitting, that photo. While other doting dads with dating daughters joke about the proverbial shotgun on the front porch, the cellphone photo planted an alternate plan of attack in my mind: a good scalping.

In all fairness to the boy, now that I’ve been around him a couple of times, I can’t come up with anything bad to write about him, which is a shame since there are times I am desperate for column topics (let that be a warning to you, dude). He’s a decent kid, other than he’s dating my daughter.

At noon, I took Delaney to the hairdresser. Luckily, she still had money left over from the $100 given to her without any questions being asked. Around 6 p.m., her BFF Britt came over so they could get ready for the dance together. In the process, they requested pizza with gluten-free crust. The gluten-free pizza was far from free; it actually cost more than a regular pizza containing gluten (pizza normal people eat). How does something cost more when it actually comes with less? Of course, there was not enough change from the $100 to pay for the pizza.

Factoring in the total cost for the Winter Ball, I couldn’t help but think of this momentous day in my daughter’s life as a MasterCard commercial in the making:

Her dress and shoes: $300

Her hair and makeup: $100

The pre-dance pizza: $15.

Memories of your daughter’s first high-school dance: Pricey!

They call it Winter Ball, but I call it starter prom. A bank loan will be needed for real prom, I fear.
I drove her to her date’s house. I took photos, he in a suit and tie, she in a lovely knee-length dress, her hair styled in an elegant updo. I had no choice then but to turn the night over to them. Driving home alone, I thought, “Here we go; here we go,” steering with trembling, fatherly fingers.

Will Read and Sing For Food’s next public show is at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, at KlubHaus 61 in Jasper. It is a benefit for Tri-Cap. Admission: $10.




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