(Revision Note: On advice from counsel (wife), some names have been changed to keep me from getting hurt.)
I feel good today, partly because I took a vacation day and partly because last night I watched as my beloved Carolina Panthers put a minor hurt on the Pittsburgh Steelers. After the debacles of the past two seasons under Ron Rivera, this Panther preseason, ending 3-1, has been a pleasant surprise.
Linda and I have been avid Panther fans since the first season. We even had season tickets for the family that year. Since the Panther’s stadium wasn’t completed yet in 1995, they played that first season at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium, also appropriately known as Death Valley. My original thought was that going to the games would be an enjoyable family activity and, for the most part, it was. But it also provided me with one of my most enigmatic lessons in female psychology. I’m going to get into a massive amount of trouble for telling this story but, since getting into trouble is something I’ve grown accustomed to over the years, I’m going to tell it anyway.
As I said, it was 1995 and my daughter, Lisa, was a senior in high school. For about two years she’d been dating a boy who was a year older than her. They had broken up just before he graduated the spring before and eventually another boyfriend had taken his place. Fall came and Lisa and that young man also decided to part ways. So, for a short time, she was without a boyfriend. As a father, I was perfectly happy with that situation. I equated her having a boyfriend with a heightened level of stress for me, which makes what I said during dinner one evening even more curious.
Lisa had been touchy and moping a bit ever since the break up. Any father who has ever had a teenage daughter can tell you that, even when things are going along smoothly, teenage mood swings can be daunting. If you add in touchy and moping, that quickly morphs into harrowing. The conversation went something like this:
“So Lisa, do you have any special plans for the weekend?” I asked.
“No,” she answered. One word replies were typical.
“No movies or get-togethers with friends on Saturday?”
“Nothing on Sunday either?”
“Does the meaning of the word ‘No’ change as people get older?” Lisa asked with that faint edge that causes a father’s neck hairs to stand up.
“Not that I’m aware of,” I replied guardedly. “I was just wondering if you were free on Sunday.”
Linda’s ears perked up with that and she gave me one of those subtle warning looks that I usually ignored. Lisa’s brow scrunched up a bit and her head moved slightly to the right while her eyes stayed locked on my face. I could tell by her tightly pursed lips that I was moving into uncharted territory and somewhere in the back of my mind I heard Kenny Loggins start to sing “Danger Zone.”
“I was wondering because Mom and I are going to the Panther’s game on Sunday, but Brian can’t go. That means we have a free ticket and I was thinking that, if you wanted to go, you might find a boy who wanted to go to the game with you,” I said smiling.
Things start to get a little fuzzy then. I remember Linda looking at me in astonishment and shaking her head left and right in a desperate attempt to make me be quiet. When it became apparent that I was incapable of understanding the size of the sinkhole I’d just fallen into, she quietly pushed her chair away from the table and closed her eyes. I don’t think that she wanted to watch the carnage.
“So, are you saying that you think I need to bribe a boy with a professional football game to get a date?” Lisa asked as her voice rapidly rose in volume.
“Absolutely not!” I answered, finally beginning to understand how close I was to the edge of the cliff. “I just wanted to…”
“Because I don’t have to bribe boys for a date. You need to understand that.”
“Of course you don’t. What I meant wa…”
“I don’t want a date right now.”
“I can certainly understand that.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Let me tell you something. I’m a woman of the nineties. When I’m ready for a date—or a boyfriend—I’ll go get one. I won’t have to bribe anybody and it’ll take me about two minutes to get it done.”
With that, Lisa stood up, dropped her napkin on the table and stormed off to her room. Linda’s chair was still pushed away from the table and, as Lisa cleared the doorway, Linda opened her eyes just a little to assess the damage.
I sat still, waiting to make sure that the firestorm had passed. Finally I said, “Thanks for the help. You moved out of the blast zone to a safe distance and left me there alone in harm’s way.”
As she stood and began clearing off the table Linda replied, “It’s not my fault you can’t take direction and have no sense of impending doom. I didn’t see any sense in us both going down in flames.”
Daisy, one of our dogs, had been sitting near the table waiting for scraps and witnessed the entire scene. When Linda finished talking, Daisy looked at me, shook her head, stood up, scooted her back feet at me a couple of times and left for Lisa’s room. Did I mention that Daisy was a girl?
In the end, Lisa stayed home and Linda and I invited another couple to go to the game with us. So, what did I learn from this episode? Not much really. Other than missing Linda’s warning, I still don’t know what I did wrong. If any of you want to try to explain it to me, feel free.
Hopefully, since Lisa is married and has children of her own now, I won’t make a similar mistake again. Oh wait, I forgot. I have two granddaughters. Crap! “Linda, would you go over those warning signals again with me?”