Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow bemoans the death of the school dance today in a column about how his teenage daughter got invited to Homecoming by a guy who didn't even buy tickets, because all his friends were just, like, hanging out in a basement watching movies OR WHATEVER... And Jeffrey thought about making his daughter force her date — a "good kid", he maintains; oh sure! — to shrug off the peer pressure and take her to the dance like a gentleman, but she was like "OMG dad that would be so embarrassing," so he did the only more embarrassing thing and wrote a column in a national newspaper quoting Laura Sessions Stepp about it. Oh, Jeff! He means so well. You really have to read the whole thing to feel how painfully well he means: "As the father of three daughters, I wish that more parents of sons would talk to their boys about being respectful, and about the thrill that can come from holding hands."
Now, college boys seeking weekend hookups send girls "U busy?" text messages at 2 or 3 a.m., and girls routinely rouse themselves and go, according to Ms. Stepp's research. Many girls spend the next day clutching their cellphones, waiting in vain for the boy to call."
And the conclusion:
It is too bad that my daughter and her friends didn't demand that the boys take them to homecoming. Yes, they risked being dumped for easier girls. But maybe the boys would have gotten the message and, as promised, graciously escorted their dates to the dance.
Okay, I'm going to make this quick because I know you commenters will have advice of your own for Jeff and his beautiful and certainly not easy young girlspawn, but here are a few starters:
Kids in high school are not "good." Or "bad." Or "easy." Or "prudish." They're works-in-progress, especially if they're the oldest in the family, and from hereon their identities will be formed, like it or not, largely in conjunction with those of their peers. Your only choice now is to understand that, and hope your genes and parenting and moral codes and crap prepared them adequately for a lifetime of looking out at the legions of kids dumber and sluttier and cooler and prettier and richer and more sexually experienced than them, and being okay with who they are. But who am I kidding? It didn't. If your daughter really had wanted to attend a dance in a gym with a date and a corsage and pictures and all that shit, she would have gone with the guy from drama club who would have shown up in a vintage tux and purple hair and she wouldn't have gotten to make out in some random basement. But she can't tell you that, because she's at that stage of life where the gulf between what you want your parents to think of you and what you want your classmates to think of you seems unbridgeably wide. If she's normal, she'll deal with it by lying to you about drinking with them, which she does to feel better around them, and also because it's fun.
But she'll also probably be careful, and study hard, because she probably wants to make you happy, because you're a sweet and well-meaning dad who only wishes she could grow up with the blissful innocence he had as a kid, but trust me, you're better off worrying about how she's going to pay for all the degrees she'll need to find a job with decent health insurance when you're a freaking journalist. To that end, the only lesson she needs to learn from this one is to never waste money on another homecoming dress. They are sooooo ugly and are definitely made by child laborers.)
And finally, um, and I don't know why this is, but holding hands for the first time with someone can be a thrill even when you are a total slut.
Dear Jeff's daughter,
Do not ever drink and drive. Do not let anyone else drink and drive. In fact, just avoid teenagers driving altogether because they're all fucking crazy and stupid, and you should keep that in mind whenever you are wondering what they think of you. That is all.