It was bound to happen: my 11 year old daughter told me the other night that she had been asked out on a date. It was going to be her first. I have been preparing for this moment for the last…well the last 11 years at least. But when the reality of the moment came, it struck me right between the eyes. Despite my best intentions to be prepared, I just wasn’t expecting it.
A young girl’s first date is an anxious moment to be sure. At least it was for me. I don’t know if I was 11 years old when I went on whatever it was I considered my first date, but I know I was pretty young. And pretty nervous. No, make that very nervous. Any time you take an extremely shy little boy and put him in the same room with an equally shy little girl you’re going to have some serious anxiety.
Now maybe it’s true that girls are made of stronger stuff. But I didn’t see any of this anxiety in my daughter. She was excited in the way kids are supposed to be when they meet with friends and go out. Which made me think this was more of a friendly get together kind of date, than an actual first time walk-hand-in-hand whisper-sweet nothings-in-your-ear type of date.
Naturally, I wanted to know what my daughter’s date was going to consist of. Where they were going, what they were going to do, and above all who she was going to be doing it with. Maybe that didn’t come out right. But I wanted to know the young man’s name. I wanted to meet Billy Bob and look him straight in the eye with my best Clint Eastwood stare and sternly reply, “…I want her home by 9pm”. I wanted to ensure that my daughter’s first date wasn’t going to be her last date. It’s at time’s like these that a parent realizes that sending their daughter to a monastery is not an option. Not that I hadn’t been considering that for a long time.
As it turned out, I was happy enough when my daughter’s date showed up at the door. He wasn’t the grunge guitar player from the bad side of town. His name was Eric and he wanted to be Emergency Medical Technician “…like the ones on TV”. He scored big points right there for being civic-minded. Just don’t get my kid pregnant.
Fortunately for me it was as innocent as I had hoped. It was more like a triple date. My daughter and this generic looking EMT-wanna-be would be going out with 2 other “couples”. They were going to meet and have pizza. I couldn’t have been happier: her first date and it would take place in a crowded public establishment.
I think my first date was anti-climatic at best. The girl – I believe her name was Angie – agreed to go with me to the carnival. We went on a few rides and both of us proceeded to get sick on something called the “Loop the Loop”. Shouldn’t have eaten those hotdogs before hand. So out first date ended with whimper rather than a bang, as we decided to end things shortly after she vomited on my shoe. I think deep inside neither of us actually wanted to be there. We would have had more fun with a group.
First dates are part of the melodrama of adolescence. If educators knew any better, they’d offer a class on 1st dates. Something like Dating 101. And then the faculty would immediately follow that class with one on teenage pregnancy. For all I know maybe that type of thing is offered in school, but my daughter just hasn’t clued me in to it yet.
I’m happy to report that my daughter’s first date was a much more positive experience than mine was. My wife tended to support the whole thing with a minimum of in-put. At least in front of me. She came from one of those old-school families where she couldn’t even think about dating until she was 16 and even then her brother had to act as the chaperone. I think she was thrilled that my daughter got a jump on things by about 5 years.
Needless to say, for my daughter there will be other dates. But they won’t be first dates. They will be “subsequent dates” and I imagine I’ll be even more nervous when I find out about them.