In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.
Last night I took The Girl to the local Father-Daughter dance, which is a big event for girls here in the K-5 set.
TG was soooo excited to go. Her dress looked like the chocolate-strawberry-vanilla ice cream cartons, with bands of white, pink, and brown. We took a bunch of pictures at home before heading out, so the Grandmas will have pictures of TG in her finest.
TW took The Boy to see the new Percy Jackson movie. Fair is fair. He gave the movie the thumbs-up.
The dance was packed, and it looked like a cheesy wedding reception. It was Dads in suits and girls in dresses. Girls dragged Dads onto the dance floor, and the Dads were mostly game. It was oddly reassuring to be surrounded by so many men my own age; I realized that for all the signs of aging I see in myself, it could be a lot worse. Also, some guys need to lay off the self-tanner. I'm just sayin'.
The musical choices were a little scattered. A few wedding reception standards: the chicken dance, the macarena, twist and shout. A Michael Jackson medley, with mixed results. (The girls were far too young to know the Thriller dance, and didn't seem to know quite what to do when the dj did the dancing-zombie thing.) A Taylor Swift song, to which every 8 year old girl in the place knew every word, and sang along loudly. ("MARRY ME JULIET YOU'LL NEVER HAVE TO BE ALONE...") Ke$ha's "Tick Tock," which starts with an image of using Jack Daniels as mouthwash; probably not a choice I would have made for the grade school set. YMCA, of course. A few songs with instructions, which reminded me of those awful square dancing units in junior high gym class. Some hip-hop with lyrics I didn't think entirely appropriate to the setting. And a few father/daughter heartbreaker songs.
Okay, a word about father/daughter heartbreaker songs. Yes, they're manipulative, and sappy, and predictable, and problematic in reinscribing blah blah blah. But when you're imagining your own daughter growing up...
When I got there, the Dads were mostly uncomfortable, and doing that sulky, reserved-menacing thing. During the faster songs, they either mostly didn't dance, or made a goofy-good-sport effort.
But during the father/daughter heartbreaker songs, they -- okay, we -- got a little weepy. And I took comfort in seeing that it wasn't just me.
TG didn't get the lyrics, which somehow made them that much more effective. She has no idea what's next. Her world is clear and safe and loving, and it mostly makes sense. When we got home, she got her usual bedtime story and contentedly fell asleep. She's trusting, because she has no reason not to be.
That will change over time, though she doesn't know it yet. She'll get her heart broken, and she'll learn that people don't always make sense. She'll develop self-doubt, and experience betrayals and disappointments and everything that goes with them. Right now, I know that and she doesn't.
I know the clock is ticking. But she doesn't, and that's okay. Let her wonder why the Dads got a little weepy. A little wonder can be my Valentine's gift to her, just as her cloudless optimism is her gift to me. For now, there are bedtime stories to read, and stuffed animals to keep company.
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Anthropology Open Rank (Assistant, Associate, or Professor) of Anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts