OK, the first thing you should know is that my co-worker has the cutest little girl ever invented. Like scary cute. The kind of cute that compels grown-ups for no good reason to write down their checking account numbers for her and to take out second mortgages on their homes to ensure that this kid has an adequate supply of barbie dolls and ice cream (not to mention the iPad 2 that her mother bought her for Christmas). I tell you this not because I think that she is any more spoiled than your average nine-year-old or to illustrate my weakness for little people with big brown eyes and outrageous demands–I should be thankful that my fiance and I have not yet had children or we would probably be homeless and our kid would have a totally kickass home theatre system. I tell you this because something happened a while back that made me realize that not only has this kid acknowledged that her cuteness has made the world her proverbial oyster, but that she is already plotting on how to take it to the next level.
Things had just slowed down at the restaurant that I manage and my co-worker’s daughter was sitting in a booth, supposedly working on her homework, but in reality she had just conned me into bringing her a free piece of chocolate cake. My co-worker was sitting at the table with her daughter and, as I was turning to walk back into the kitchen, she happened to say to the girl, “Hey, tell Doug what you wanted me to buy you this weekend.”
The girl shifted uncomfortably in her seat, and I thought for a moment that she had perhaps made some ridiculously expensive request, you know, something extravagant like the Large Hadron Collider. Or Lithuania. The country, I mean.
The girl said nothing, so her mother, in the same voice that she might announce that her daughter wanted a new pair of flip-flops, said, “She wants me to buy her some thongs.”
At this point, I turned to walk outside, lest my blushing cause me to spontaneously combust and result in my restaurant burning to the ground. It probably would’ve looked something like this:
What you have to understand is that I, along with virtually every other man on Earth, have a short, but highly specific list of topics of which we will never, even under threat of death, discuss with our girl children or with any girl of an age that they could be our children. Should my fiance and I have a daughter of our own, I will gladly be there for the fevers and the vomiting and the skinned knees. Every bedtime, I will check the closets and under the bed for monsters and I will be there in the middle of the night to chase away the lingering dread of nightmares. I will be there for her basketball games and I will personally kill every little boy who ever breaks her heart. But when it comes to certain topics–love and dating, her first training bra and her underwear, the wonders of puberty, of menarche and sex and masturbation–I believe that it is my right, God help me, to remain blissfully ignorant. This is her mother’s domain.
Sadly, my co-worker was unaware of the no-touch topics of all men everywhere–either that, or she is truly a cruel and hateful woman. As I walked away, she said, “She also wants to be a pole dancer when she grows up.” I stopped. What? The little girl–the same girl who was embarrassed by her mother speaking publicly about her underwear–was smiling now. “Yeah, I wanna be a pole dancer,” she confirmed. “They make lots of money.”
If there is any topic that belongs on a man’s no-touch topics list, this surely had to be a big one. Yet, I still had this godawful paternal need–from where I had no frigging idea–to explain to her that girls her age shouldn’t want to be pole dancers. Girls her age should dream of being doctors and lawyers and the first female President of the United States of America.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with being a pole dancer. It’s honest work, and I’m sure that some pole dancers love what they do. But there was something intrinsically wrong here. This girl was no longer satisfied with the status quo, no longer satisfied with adequate nutrition and a roof over her head and a virtually unlimited supply of Wii games. At an age when she should still be sporting pig tails and reading her way through the Nancy Drew series, this girl had already been seduced by the prospect of easy money and fast living. If I had a daughter, I’d always imagined that she’d be older–at least seventeen–before she considered morally compromising herself for money. The kids are growing up too fast. I can only hope that at home that night, my co-worker took her daughter aside, hugged her tight, and said, “Baby, you’re much too young to strip for money, and you’ll always be too young to strip for money. When you’re my age and you have a daughter of your own and she’s driving you crazy and you love her more than anything in the world, you, I, all of us, we’ll all be too young…And yes, of course you can have a new iPhone.”