Leaving the movie theater after seeing the newest cinematic episode of the hugely popular Twilight series, “Breaking Dawn Part I,” with my wife and 13-year-old daughter, I realized that the number of men in the audience was about none. My rough calculation put it at 10 females for each man, a situation I dismissed, thinking, of course most of the guys are next door watching the battle and blood movie, “Immortals.”
But then it occurs to me, how can I, or other fathers, understand our daughters’ world if we’re not willing to enter it?
Like many dads, I did my stint coaching my girl’s AYSO soccer teams and shuttling her to tournaments. I’ve taken her to Mets and Yankees games, things I enjoy and like to share with her, like making ambitious and generally misshapen items out of wood or cooking vaguely edible pancakes. I know fathers who drive hours every weekend to get their daughters to squash tournaments and ice skating competitions. But many of these same dads wouldn’t consider stepping foot into the theater for a dose of vampire-werewolf-teenage-girl-love-triangle.
I’m all for sharing manly interests with my girls, teaching and exposing them to beer, construction equipment and pest-control devices. I offer them perspective on a male world they already come encounter. Trying to join them in Girl World can feel awkward and frustrating. I remember when one of mine was little and wanted me to speak for all the stuffed animals she had assembled at the table, correcting me if I didn’t voice the correct sentiment or changed one bear’s accent. I bought my older daughter blocks and tried to show her how to build castles only to have her turn the wood pieces into merchandise at her grocery store. I could have given up, but instead, I went shopping.
Things are different and yet the same. My now-teenager decided to take up ballet so we went shopping for shoes. I was fascinated to learn that ballet slippers come in two types of soles, the two-piece and the one-piece. This was a manageable bit of information whereas I have no clue why she can’t wear the same color tights as leotard, although I accept it as the 11th commandment. What was more important was to be there, in that ballet store, surrounded by every shade of pink imaginable, for a moment of insight into what is important to her, what she likes to wear, how she likes to look.
As a breed, dads today are really hands-on when the kids are little. I don’t know one who wouldn’t get in on a craft project or play dress up, setting aside any macho misgivings of having his face made up or getting glue stuck in his mustache. But when the girls are older, so many fathers throw up their hands and say, “Here’s some money, go shopping with your friends.” Is it really so hard to learn the Single Ladies dance?
I hope my daughters will let me share my passions and interests with them, politics or the next James Bond movie. But it’s got to go both ways even if some of the things they read, listen to or watch might not really interest to me. The question, “Edward or Jacob?” may seem trite to a bald guy pushing 50, but this debate becomes their language for discussing what they value in other people, what they hope for in their future lives, who they think they will love. I sure don’t want to miss that conversation, especially when entry might only be the cost of a movie ticket.