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Dad is still cool - for now
I may have made it just under the wire.
I wanted desperately to perform alongside my daughter before the “dad is still cool” window of opportunity closed. She’s 12, you see, and in her eyes I’m getting a little dumber and dorkier every day. OK, perhaps in EVERYONE’s eyes I’m getting a little dumber and dorkier every day.
Claire starts seventh grade next month, and just last week entered that most daunting realm of pre-teen life, orthodonture. It’s around this time in a child’s development when a parent suddenly is seen as an embarrassing doofus useful only when one needs a ride or cash. They say children are best seen and not heard. But to adolescents who ask to be dropped off a block away from school before putting in their earbuds, parents are best neither seen nor heard.
So when auditions rolled around for the local talent show, I hoped Claire was just young enough - and that I was perhaps still cool enough - that she’d agree to perform with me. Whether she was throwing her old man a bone or merely looking to upgrade her next birthday present we’ll never know, but Claire agreed to dance with me.
I’m thinking if I ask again next year, I might get a response like, “Yeah Dad, sure. That sounds, like, totally awesome. That wouldn’t embarrass me in front of my friends at all. By the way, your fly is open.”
Fortunately, she does not yet view me as a leper. So I mixed a mashup of Justin Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie” and Frank Sinatra’s “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” for which we choreographed a blend of classic slow dance and modern hip-hop moves.
Our act was chosen for the talent show, and just the other night we performed before hundreds of people. This means Claire was seen dancing with her father. In public. In front of hundreds of people, including the high school’s star performers, who in Claire’s view are the coolest people this side of Taylor Swift and One Direction.
If the reviews on Facebook are to be believed, we pulled it off. Most observers came away impressed that a 12-year-old girl would dance alongside her father. A couple grudgingly acknowledged that I move pretty well for a 40-year-old white guy.
Getting love from the crowd wasn’t the point. My goal was to bond with my little girl before she finds me about as hip as jean shorts. We spent time together choreographing the routine, and shopping for neckties and fedoras. Only in the offbeat world of performing families do father and daughter bond over sales in the men’s section.
It wasn’t all butterfly kisses. My requests for rehearsal time were met with eye rolls and a forced “Oooohhhhkayyyy.” This indicated to me that her patience - and my good standing as a person not to be avoided like an ebola virus host - is running out.
Claire says she isn’t embarrassed by my shenanigans because her friends - a key voting bloc among girls ages 10-16 - think I’m funny. This is why she lets it slide when I appear in a fashion show looking like Darth Maul or sport a Speedo at an all-male beauty pageant or belly dance for charity. She even lets me write about her in this space.
I know that window of opportunity is closing. Sure, I keep up with modern music and dress like a non-dweeb. I plug in to what kids like to watch on TV, sometimes enduring episodes of “Good Luck Charlie” for up to three full minutes. Despite these efforts, I know I’m about to be seen as a total dorkwad.
But I’ll always have the pictures to prove that for one summer, I was still cool in my preteen daughter’s eyes. They can’t take that away from me.
Ben Bromley can be reached at BBromley@capitalnewspapers.com. A former editor at Lillie Suburban Newspapers, he now writes for the Baraboo News Republic.