“What’s the difference between venerating women for being fuckable and putting them on a purity pedestal? In both cases, women’s worth is contingent upon their ability to please men and to shape their sexual identities around what men want.”
Franny called me early on Saturday and left a message. She’d been at her dad’s house less than 24 hours, which is always a…sign. Could be okay, could be not so good. I listened to it.
“Mom, something annoying and lame happened. Can you call me back?”
I finally got ahold of her on Saturday night. She went outside her grandfather’s house, where she was having an overnight visit, to talk on the phone without being listened to.
“Guess what happened when I got into my dad’s car yesterday? He immediately asked me about my boyfriend!”
“Uh oh,” I said. Her boyfriend was something she was super not ready to share with her father or his family, and so she had decided not to.
“Yes, and he said he found out because of YOUR BLOG.”
“Oh, shitballs,” I said. I understand all too well that what I write is public, but I didn’t think he had any interest. It got worse.
“THEN he decided to have a sex talk with me, and it was so awkward I wanted to die! He said, ‘When I was your age I started having sex and all high school boys are trying to do is get into your pants.’ I was like ‘UGH TMI DAD’ but I was just like, ‘Ok.”
“…That’s pretty terrible. You know he said that because that was his perspective, right? We know not all boys are like that.”
She and I talked about it more later, after I’d related the cringe-inducing story to P. He and I talked about how crappers it was to take this tack–the idea that Franny doesn’t really have any agency herself, doesn’t have any sexuality herself, and sex is something that will be winkled from her because blah blah girls have to protect their own virtuecakes whatever. Also this issue of promulgating the notion that all boys are predatory. UGH. He’s probably just freaked out because his high school girlfriend had an abortion (an acceptable solution, but one that he felt was Morally Wrong).
I had a hinky feeling about this whole thing and I left my ringer on for the rest of the weekend. There she was again, Sunday night around eight.
“Mom, I don’t know what to do. Dad’s been barfing all day and he’s just disappeared into bed and I don’t know how I’m going to get to school tomorrow and I HAVE TO BE THERE.”
“Okay, take a breath, let’s figure this out,” I said. We arranged it so we could go down to the ferry docks and pick her up (normally her dad would take her to school on Monday and she would come home from there).
Her stepmother took her down to the docks on their side and dropped her off. Franny said on the way down her stepmother heaped praise on SeaFed for having a sex talk with her, and wasn’t he a cool dad? And not every dad could talk to their daughters about sex.
“The message is possibly more important than the act of talking itself,” I ventured.
“Oh, Mom, there’s more, he also told me that you should get me on birth control.”
“Okay, I’ll get right on that.”
She told me what happened with her dad over the past couple of days, about how there was a birthday pizza party for one of the children and how he was drinking throughout the day. I get it, he had a couple of days off and was kicking it with his dad. It’s often kind of fun party times with SeaFed’s dad, but not in a creepy “WOO LET’S DO SHOTS” way. Just fun.
“So your dad had beer and pizza all weekend?”
“Yes, he was drinking a lot. When we were on our way back from Grandpa’s and waiting for the ferry he threw up off the dock.” She told me this nightmarish tale of how the usual island hop takes about an hour and a half, but it took four hours yesterday, because her stepmother kept stopping at stores and everyone had to pee and there was a child screaming because they ran out of movies to show in the minivan and then a child screamed for french fries and so THEY PULLED OVER AND GOT THEM.
“Hold up,” I said. “A child screamed for french fries and then was taken through the drive through and given french fries?” I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been hearing these stories for years now.
“Further delaying the trip home even?”
“I would walk into the ocean with my mouth open until I drowned,” I said.
“…OOOOOOR you can just say, ‘No’ to that sort of thing as a parent,” said P., sensibly, as always.
A person could look up the word “hyperbole” in the dictionary and there would be a picture of P. with a strike through it and the caption would say “NOT P.” SIGH.
On top of all this drama, here’s SeaFed thinking he has food poisoning. He’s had problems since he was a small child, or so he told me several times when we were married. Daily stomachaches and frequent headaches. Franny said in recent years he’s been complaining of vertigo. We were discussing his condition in the midst of all of this.
“He has these body and joint aches and feels terrible and I say ‘DAD, you should get off the wheat!’ He says he’s in good health!”
“Yeah, his mother had a ‘bad stomach” too,” I said.
It just made me think…there is a weird style of “AHA!” parenting I have observed (and was practiced on me at times) involving “busting” and humiliating your teenager. It really, really seems to make them not want to talk to you and more likely to keep secrets next time.
I guess this is how SeaFed was treated in some cases, though. I think of his stories about his phase of breaking into cars and stealing stereos, hood ornaments, etc. His sister found his stolen goods and instead of speaking to him about it, pulled all of the items out from under the bed and displayed them on his bed, hoping their parents would find them and draw the obvious conclusion. (Not saying that Franny is doing anything bad here–her boyfriend is delightful, really.)
So it came out that his mother-in-law has been reading my blog [HELLO THERE] and was the one who blabbed all this to Franny’s stepmother and father. After how the weekend went, I can’t imagine why Franny was so reticent to share this news.
On the way to the ferry Sunday night, she said that her stepmother was kind of nice. Points deducted from Hufflepuff for praising SeaFed for that “sex talk” but then she was kind of apologetic about her embarrassment and conceded: “Well, Gabba’s nosy sometimes.”
I told Franny I could stop blogging about her, and assured her I am keeping it positive and/or neutral now that her peers are online. (There’s really nothing “bad” to write, though. She is really not a troubled kid.) I apologized profusely for the embarrassment I had caused her at the hands of her father.
She said it is okay if I keep writing about her, but I realized there’s lots of other things I could write about. I could write about how many times Franny has stumbled upon her stepmother’s “secret” cigarette stash. I could write about how Franny has stumbled upon her father’s and stepmother’s weed stash several times in the course of looking for ordinary household items. I could write about what Franny found in her father’s drawer this weekend when he asked her to fetch a handkerchief (“…And I knew IMMEDIATELY it was his dick piercing.” “Yes, honey, this is why your father sits to pee.”). I could write about the strife and tension caused in the household by having a mother-in-law who barges in, hoovers down all the milk, and then splits. I could write about how much SeaFed hates his mother-in-law’s dogs and how Franny has to hear all about that.
And no, I don’t have the good sense god gave a goose and I am a terrible person. Have a nice day.