A sun-drenched Saturday and I ask my 11-year-old daughter if she wants to go out and get donuts.
“Yes!” She disappears into her room for 10 minutes, emerging in an outfit that would make Paris Hilton stammer. Her short-shorts are so tiny that at a glance she looks like a semi-nude dwarf in a cummerbund. She’s wearing dark brown pointy boots that reach halfway up her bare legs. I’d hoped to grab a glazed donut with my adorable 5th grader, not Barbarella.
“What…why are you dressed like that?”
I want to say “Like the Diminutive Saucy Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum’s forgotten classic ‘Self-Actualized Girl Gangs of Oz'”.
“I don’t know if you should dress like that to go out with me to get donuts.”
“Why not? This is how I dress.”
She’s right, of course. Any weekend you can see it at the city parks, a Bruegel riot of swarming go-go dancers and their bedazzled/stupefied preteen male counterparts, struggling to grasp a feminine mystique that will yet elude them even as their teeth sneak away and they are felled by old age.
“Dad, let’s just go-ah!”
We go. Walking into the donut place I feel the accusing eyes of all affronted patrons are on Stella, this strutting half-pint Bardot who has just learned how to add fractions. In reality no one blinks. A couple of the patrons glance up from their newspapers and smile warmly.
Was that ‘morning’ or ‘mourning’? I fear the presence of a Child Protective Services mole at one of the tables, pretending to read the morning paper while secretly talking into his lapel. ’Ethically bankrupt dad has just entered restaurant with underage member of the Tom Jones Dancers. Send backup.’ If I had a moral compass it would be spinning like a mad propeller. I feel I can telepathically register the thinking of the rest of the angry fritter-wielding mob.
>We’re so sorry for your loss.<
>The loss of the responsible partner in your charade of a marriage, who while alive would have known better than to let her daughter walk around like that in public.<
She’s not dead, she’s at the gym this morning.
>Oh. That explains it. Also, good parental modeling. While your wife is at the gym trying to improve her body and spirit, you are here with mini-Racquel, buying her a raised glazed.<
…to which I have no cogent telepathic response.
Tonight again I’ll read Laura Ingalls Wilder to my daughter while she sleeps, and one of these glorious mornings she’ll awaken and put on the neck-high frontier dress I bought from SwinginGingham.com. I just know it. There is hope.