I’ve been noticing a lot of Daddy Daughter Dance pictures on Facebook — the little girls’ faces sparkling like champagne electric fizz. The dads are all cheeks — blushing from flattery. I never attended such a dance with my dad; no host. And for the same reason, I’ve never attended a Mommy Son Dance. Making a mother-son connection was up to me. Luckily, I had a good example.
I went on a date with my dad when I was six, and from the way my mom fussed over my appearance, you would have thought I was going to Homecoming. She coaxed my yellow locks into ringlets and put me in one of those incredibly short brown dresses popular in the 70s. My look was no doubt a nod to Shirley Temple–an irresistible Boomer icon. But instead of singing “On the Good Ship Lollipop” I snuck into my brothers’ room and grabbed Monopoly. I stuffed a couple blue fifties in my leather and burlap purse, and made my dramatic descent down the staircase to my dad. After an effervescent, rosy pose for the Polaroid, my dad and I headed for Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips. Note that I was living in Illinois then. For you Colorado folk, Arthur Treacher’s is Long John Silver’s doppelgänger. And for those who’d like a little factoid I stumbled upon while writing this: Mr. Treacher, before he went into the restaurant biz, was a character actor who appeared as Jeeves, “the perfect butler,” in several…wait for it…Shirley Temple movies. Freaky.
At any rate, my dad opened doors for me and pulled out my chair — all the things I’d seen him do to woo my mother. I felt special. I was one of four children after all, so getting a date with dad was like getting a meeting with a movie producer. Well, maybe not that tough, but you get the point. He ordered the Seafood Platter and I ordered the Shrimp Boat — a gluten gala at the chip shop. Then I slipped him a blue fifty and told him I was paying. (Such a feminist!) He, being a man of mathematics, was calculating how to tell me that my currency would buy us a ticket to washing dishes (or to a mental hospital), but he put aside his reasoning and patted my back instead — told me it was his treat. I was relieved, actually. I wanted to buy some cool tee-shirts at K-mart.
Flash forward a bit (okay, a lot): I was inspired by the Facebook pictures and my dad, but in reverse; the mother-son connection. It was time to take my nine-year-old son out on a date. We needed it. I had been starring in the role of The Nag and he in the role of The Defense Attorney. We needed to get back to the roles of Loving Mother and Son.
The first time we went on a date was when he was six. Lunch and a matinee. Back then, he wondered why we were doing it. I told him that it was just nice to get some quality time (without the bonus of his two-year-old brother wrapping his body around my face), and I added that it was “dating practice.” His six-year-old mind was mildly curious about this ritual. I gave him a few pointers: look nice, be polite, open doors, compliment. Nothing too mind-blowing. I was really just making polite conversation. I wasn’t entirely sure if he was absorbing it.
Back to present: The Zombie Date. After a lazy Sunday morning, I announced it was time to part with our pajamas if we were going to get lunch and hit a zombie movie. I disappeared into my bedroom and emerged dapper. To my delight, so did he. He was dressed as if were picture day: nice pinstriped shirt and khakis without knee holes. He even styled his hair. Before I could tell him that he looked handsome, he told me that I looked “pretty cool.” Smooth.
We were a little pressed for time, so we went to Whole Foods to grab some deli food (and a bunch of other provisions as it turned out — you gotta multitask when you live in the mountains). He insisted on carrying my basket, which weighed half his weight. He gave me no choice but to let him stagger around with it; it was his gift to me. He got sushi, and I got a gluten free sandwich. (Oh, how things have changed since I was a kid…) He picked out a table, and just as I was about to sit, he pulled out my chair for me. I stifled the urge to gush, and quietly thanked him. But a woman at a nearby table witnessed the whole thing and gushed for me, “That was so nice! You are such a wonderful boy! I wish someone would do that for me!” He gave her a shy “thanks” and popped a spicy tuna roll in his mouth.
I must have lit up the room with motherly pride. I asked where he learned that. He swallowed and matter-of-factly said, “TV. You want some of my sushi?”
The zombie movie was surprisingly good–little funny, little scary, smart. After it was over, we were supposed to go home. Chores, homework and minutiae awaited us. But we wanted to extend the date. We got coffee (decaf for him—so not to stunt his growth) and a chocolate torte (flourless for me—so not to offend my delicate constitution). He perused a magazine about the Civil War while I got the goods. He put it down when I arrived and gave his attention to me. We chatted about the film. He liked the gore and the zombie invasion. I liked the message: All you need is love. Something for everyone. It was a lovely date.
So thanks dad (and Facebookers) for reminding me to reconnect with my son. And to all you gals who are gonna date my amazing son: You’re welcome. Love is all you need.