I started out last week thinking I’d write an interesting piece about being the sole disciplinarian in my house; I even had the majority of the piece written. But like so many things the fates have in store for our lives, they completely blew my plans to hell. Over the weekend, after having to work half a day on Saturday and coming home to make dinner and scramble to get everyone ready for Easter, I thought I finally had a moment of calm in the eye of the storm.
My daughter came into the room, though, in that amazing, beautiful prom dress that I’d worked so hard to help Santa bring her and she was almost in tears.
“I don’t think this is going to work, Dad!’
She had the dress, the nearly-correct, non-altered dress, and was making me stare directly at her bust, something that, as a Dad, I still have to come to terms with understanding and doing. Her boobs, after all, caused me great consternation in just trying to find the correct fitting dress. Santa brought the wrong size because he didn’t take them into account, so while the legs and hips fit beautifully the bust . . . well we couldn’t get the zipper up all the way. Now Abbi stood there holding up the dress and saying, “No matter what I do, this is what happens!”
She had cleavage. Now, I’m no prude and I have come a very long way from being the Dad who wanted nothing more than to borrow my federal agent friend’s Glock so I could clean it when the boys showed up for dates. My daughter was beside herself not because of the cleavage but because it was bad cleavage. Happily, I agreed. But like her mother, she started to immediately move to panic and fear, certain no amount of alteration would fix it even though we hadn’t even seen a tailor yet.
“It will work, kiddo, I know it. Remember those pictures of your Mom? From her sorority formal? She had a strapless dress and it worked, and her dress didn’t fall down.”
Abbi disagreed. “She didn’t have boobs like I do!”
“Hers were bigger,” was my response.
“No they weren’t”
“Yeah, I hate to tell you, but they were.”
Abbi stared at me and I realized I’d walked into territory that I wasn’t sure I should have tread. Let’s just open the lid to Pandora’s box all the way for you guys. We weren’t married and Andrea and I had already had sex more than a few times when that aforementioned sorority formal occurred. I’m not going to give you all the details, but my wife was gorgeous. She wasn’t just pretty, she had curves, was provocative, and carried her figure with what I can only describe as confidence because all other adjectives fail me. I was now at a point with my daughter where I might have to explain why I knew her mom’s breast size when I was still in college and not even engaged to her. I mean, she’s very aware of what she needs to know about sex; that’s not the thing. It’s the discomfort of explaining the awkwardness and intense passion I had with her mother. I’m not ashamed, but I don’t want to encourage her, either.
“She wore a body suit,” was my stroke of brilliance.
“Mom . . . she wore a lace body suit. It was sleeveless, but kept everything in the right places and kept the dress sitting right. It was a bear to pee in, she said, but she wore it.”
Now, I was obviously thinking how amazing Andrea looked in it as well, but I wasn’t about to admit that, either.
That’s what I got. Then Abbi sat down and I realized that it wasn’t necessarily the dress or the cleavage that was the problem.
“I probably won’t even get a date. I have this amazing dress and I won’t be able to go because nobody will want to ask me to the prom.” That’s when the tears started.
It’s here I know I’m in territory that I’m woefully inadequate at navigating. My daughter is smart, funny, clever, and quirky in all the right ways. But let’s face it, no teenage guy is looking for smart, clever, or quirky. Abbi sat there and it all came out. She didn’t get a date for homecoming and when she talked a guy who wasn’t going into the dance as a good idea – in the hopes of getting a date – he asked another girl. She has guy friends, but she hasn’t been at her school even a full year. The flashback to her previous, private, all-girls school told me she wished she could control it and ask someone to the prom like she would have at her last school.
But I can’t afford private high school. Abbi’s like her mother as well in that she despises the fact she’s not in control of the situation. She doesn’t want to go alone to the prom but she’s unsure how to go about getting a guy to ask her. My daughter thinks she’s ugly but her Mom was beautiful and more personable and that’s why she had a date and Abbi doesn’t. Worse, everyone tells her the cliches: “When you’re in college you’ll find more guys who think like you; high school guys are after one thing; boys and girls mature more once they get older . . .” all things that make her angry because, she’s not in college. It makes her mad and frustrated. I totally agree with her.
It’s here she says the truth, “Mom would know what to do.” She would, too. Sure, I had a date to the prom, but I was shy, painfully so. I had zero confidence. I had a date, but getting it was only 1/5 of the process. You need to be a decent date and I just wasn’t. I doubt I was her first choice, either, so it was a recipe for disaster, it just was. (For the record, she and I are friends now, probably far better friends than we ever were in high school). All I could tell her was: “Prom is different. I even asked a girl to the prom.”
I told her that she had to work at it, too. Guys aren’t smart. We just aren’t. We need a 2×4 across the temple to see what’s in front of us and even then we get it wrong. Abbi just kept saying over and over again, “It’s so hard!” and she’s right. It’s painfully hard. Hard on her because she just wants to have that high school experience and she feels like she’s not going to get it. Hard because she has this amazing dress, something I thought would help push her to work at getting that date but I was wrong. It’s a reminder of the fact that she doesn’t have one. All I could say was that she had to work at it. Where in months past she helped friends get dates, she needed to remind those same friends it’s her turn. Where she’s around the guys she knows, she needs to ask if they have a date to the prom and then answer she doesn’t have a date if they ask if she’s going.
But like every 17-year-old, she doesn’t think it will work. To be honest, I’m not sure it will. I’m lost. When I met Andrea, I was so amazed and bolstered by her attention that I didn’t think. I didn’t realize how shy or lacking in confidence I was, I only knew she was perfect for me and I couldn’t let her get away. I asked her out and we fell in love. She gave me confidence and more.
As I tried to come up with ways Abbi could get a date I kept remembering Andrea in that lace body suit, her mischievous grin looking at me as she and her friends and all of us dates got ready. Her leaning over and whispering in my ear, “Don’t get any ideas, I wore this so we wouldn’t be tempted tonight.” Andrea had no idea that just turned me on even more. It also made me love her because we didn’t sleep and we stayed up talking all night, I realized I had met a girl I could have conversations with, not just be attracted to.
Abbi’s right, her Mom would have had the answer. She may not even have listened to her Mom, but her Mom would have ideas. I suffer from the limitations of my gender. Sure, I have women I can ask, but nobody helps you like your Mom. I listened, gave what advice I could, told her we’d fix the dress or sell it and get a different one if it didn’t work, but I can’t get her a date. As a friend once told me, I can’t fix all their problems, but I wish I could. I wish I knew a nice, cute, chaste boy who could ask her to the prom.
But before heading to bed, my daughter came out and said, “You know you talked about the body suit? Mom and I fixed an old set of stockings once that would push my boobs down and make a different dress fit.”
She pulled up the new prom dress and with a smile, said, “It works, Dad! I think it works!”
Now, if only I could find a body suit to protect her heart.
So what do you guys think? Do those Moms who are the sole parent face this with their sons? Do all teenagers face this? As always, I’m all ears!
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Dave Manoucheri is a writer and journalist based in Sacramento, California. A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins is a chronicle of their daily life after the loss of his wife Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.