LAST NIGHT MY daughter graduated from elementary school. Today, as I write this, she’s at her first boy-girl party.
“Mo-om,” she’s been whinnying all week, each time with a different preteen inflection. “It is not my first boy-girl party!” Of course it isn’t, technically: Her preschool years were full of boy-girl parties, the sort where the interchangeably presexual little people played Duck, Duck, Goose and merrily unpeeled their swimsuits when the Slip ’N Slide got too hot.
Now we’re moving toward the years where the unpeeling of swimsuits bespeaks a different sort of hot. Now I get nervous when she does things like… pick up the phone.
“Who’re you calling?” I heard my voice asking with ridiculous casualness the other day.
“Just Pietro,” she replied. (Heaven help me if that were actually his name.)
Pietro?!? The class hottie all the moms suspect their daughters have crushes on?
“Ohhhh.” Was my ‘ohhhh’ too revealing? Too conclusive? “Okay. Mind if I ask why?” Oh geez…too curious?
“Mo-om,” she sighed, the verbal equivalent of an eye roll. “I call Riley and Leo and Eli all the time. You never ask why with them.”
Um, right. Lifelong friends. Raised like siblings. Calls them to ask how to grease skateboard wheels, or if sea monkeys are supposed to look dead. Maybe she’s calling Pietro…because she needs the humanities reading list for fall?
Or maybe she’s calling Pietro because she has a crush on him and has decided to do whatever it takes to plant herself in his sights. Oh my goodness…maybe my daughter is chasing a boy.
“Uh, honey…” I began, no clue where I would be taking this. “Here’s the thing about boys. Boys…they…don’t really…_want_ to be called. By girls. You know?” What on earth was I talking about?
“Mo-om…what are you talking about?”
I looked into her innocent eyes and saw genuine confusion there, and instantly I knew where I had taken us. The middle of a minefield.
Since the time she was old enough to make sense of words, I have crowed about her amazing fortune of being born at the first moment in recorded history where being female did not carry unique hardship. The very first moment! The first time a woman could earn her own financial independence, be fully the agent of her own body, freely pursue her own dreams. When, in her family, she could be more than a man’s chattel; more than his romantic ideal. When she could walk alongside a man as his partner.