by Jamie Lewis
A short piece about my father-daughter time.
| Bonding time with my father has always been a little difficult. We both have a tendency to get set off pretty easily, and so spending time together is little like mixing together a few of the bottles from the Junior Chemistry Set my uncle sent me for Christmas – you might get something awesome, or you might just blow something up. I can remember back to my little league days, when my dad would take me out into the backyard to practice. Throwing and catching was never really an issue – I had my back-handed catch and everything – but hitting was a different story. We would start with hitting off the tee, which was actually a large traffic cone my dad had borrowed from a nearby construction zone. That was an image I always loved: my dad pulling to a stop at the edge of construction, looking around suspiciously, and then snatching the nearest traffic cone and shoving it into the trunk of his car. I imagined angry construction workers yelling “Stop! Thief!” as my dad screeched away in the family SUV for a clean getaway. Apparently they weren’t actually all that angry, since they didn’t even notice when he drove over again to return it, but it made the tee infinitely more interesting.
Unfortunately, it didn’t do much to improve my swing. More often than not, I was rewarded by the dull thud of metal on rubber and would watch the ball topple off and roll away in a way that did not bode well for my season. Hitting actual tosses was even more of a disaster. After taking whiff after whiff my temper would be pretty short, and of course my father would choose then to critique my form. Our father-daughter time would almost invariably end with my screaming something about hating both baseball and him and storming inside in a rush of angry tears. Fast forward ten years and the screaming has broadened to include such topics as boys, diet, schedules and rights to the family room, typically concluding with some variation of “Oh my god I can’t even deal with you!” And yet, we still make time for bonding.
Over April vacation, I was almost stunned when my dad offered to take me dress shopping. We were sharing the family room at this point – I was doing something time wasting on the computer and he was watching a Sox game – and he just looked over and said “Hey, you still need to get a dress for Kati’s wedding, right?” Kati was one of my dad’s coworkers, and I had mentioned before about how I needed to buy a dress. I just hadn’t expected it to be my father who would help me to find it. We headed off together to a nearby Marshall’s, where we began to peruse the racks of marked down dresses together. We found a couple of likely candidates, but nothing that was truly exciting. That is, until I found a beautiful black cocktail dress that was exactly what I had been looking for. It was perfectly cut, with a pleated skirt and a wide band around the waist that accented the slightly gathered top. I held it up to show my dad.
Now, there were a number of wonderful things he could have said about that dress. He could have even simply nodded approvingly. But instead he looked at me and said “But, it’s a four. It won’t fit you.” I stared at him, momentarily speechless. On a list of things you should never say to your sixteen-year-old daughter, “That won’t fit you” is very high up. Let her try it on and figure out for herself that it’s too small, and perhaps enjoy silent vindication when she hands it over to the dressing room attendant saying “It just didn’t fit right.” But, for god’s sakes, don’t tell her it won’t fit.
“I am a four in some things,” I replied tersely, giving him one last chance to take it back. He didn’t seem to get it.
“I thought you were a six or an eight. A four’s pretty small.” At this point I imagined other shoppers watching our exchange. They were thinking things like “Why is that girl trying to get clothes that are too small for her? That is so sad.” I wanted to reassure them, to yell “No! Really! I can wear a four – he doesn’t know what he’s talking about!” Instead I just snatched away the other dress that he was holding for me. “I’m just going to try them on,” I mumbled and headed for the dressing room.
The moment of truth came only a minute later as I stood before the dressing room mirror, dress in hand. I stepped into it. It slid effortlessly on over my hips and I breathed a sigh of relief. Then I tried to zip it. Maybe it was the awkward angle or maybe it was that the dress was a little snug. It could have been a combination of the two. In any case, I couldn’t get the dress to zip. “Godammit,” I thought, “I am not going to let my father be right.” I spent a painful couple of minutes twisting my arms around in a partially successful attempt to get zipped in. I finally had to walk out and ask my dad to do it for me. Luckily, though, I had gotten it about half-zipped myself, and he finished the rest without a problem. I turned around to face him. “So,” I said smugly, “What was that about it not fitting?”
He laughed and said “I’m sorry, I was wrong. You look beautiful.” I’m not sure what I was expecting his reaction to be, but this seemed somehow anticlimactic. Suddenly I felt dumb for having made such a big deal out of the whole thing. I shrugged awkwardly. “I mean, I’m not always a four,” I said. Thus ended that battle. I’m not going to say either of us won, but both of us survived. And honestly, I think our relationship was all the better for it.