"Dunno. What do you have in mind?"
"Can you take me to Forever 21? I need some new clothes."
I know what this means. It means, "Can we go to the mall and spend a few hours looking at clothes, and when I can't decide which outfit I like the best, I'll give you the 'You're such a nice father and, admit it, I'm a pretty wonderful daughter too' look, and you'll sigh and make a brief and ultimately futile attempt to make me decide, but in the end we both know you're going to buy me two or possibly three outfits and probably a pair of shoes."
"Well, Linds, uh . . . "
"I have a gift card."
"Oh, okay, great! The mall it is."
We arrived at Forever 21, and the browsing began. As is the case with every female I've known in my entire life, Lindsay entered the store with only the vaguest idea of what exactly she wanted. "A long skirt and top" is how she put it, and if we're going to be honest, this is actually more of a "plan" than most women have when they embark upon a shopping expedition. Normally, it's "wander around aimlessly for a few hours and maybe we'll find something to spend money on. Or maybe we won't. But shopping is fun!"
Men do not see it this way. Men do not "shop." We know what we need to buy before we leave the house, we decide which store will carry this item, we drive there, we go into the store, we remove the item from its display rack/shelf, we take it to the cashier, and with the least amount of conversation possible we make the purchase and return home. In fact, just this morning I went back to the same mall -- don't worry, we'll return to the Lindsay story in a minute -- because I needed a new pair of sneakers. Drove to the mall, went directly to Famous Footwear, quickly decided between the Nikes and the New Balance (Nike won), took them to the counter and bada-bing, bada-boom, I was outta there. The entire event took maybe forty minutes including drive time, and that's only because I stopped by Wetzel's Pretzels on my way out because one does not visit the mall without having a hot Wetzel's Pretzel.
So we browsed the racks at Forever 21. Lindsay rummaged through blouse-and-sweater rack while I checked out the rack on the twenty-something cashier.
Ha! I'm kidding, of course. That would be inappropriate.
"Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand . . . "
"You're embarrassing me."
"Oh, I embarrass you? You want to talk about being embarrassed? Remember that time when you were three, and we went out for breakfast?"
"Uh, no Dad, I don't. I was three."
"Well, trust me, when you threw a handful of scrambled eggs at the waitress, it was plenty embarrassing for everyone involved."
"I did that?"
"Why do you think we don't go to IHOP anymore?"
"I'm very sorry. I'll never do it again. If you want, I'll call IHOP tomorrow and apologize, just stop singing."
"You think my singing is embarrassing, how about this? Have you ever seen me do The Knock?"
Heavy sigh. "What's that?"
I demonstrated my classic dance move, where you pretend you're knocking on a door with one hand, then switch to the other, and so on.
As Lindsay looked on helplessly, another teenage girl walked by with her mom. Mom checked out my style and said, "Very nice. I remember when this album came out. I loved Duran Duran."
"I was more of a Police guy myself, but you gotta love the eighties." I looked at Lindsay. She was rubbing her temples with a pained expression on her face. "See, Linds, I'm not the only one who likes this stuff."
"Yeah, that's great."
Lindsay and the other girl then engaged in a complete conversation using the version of American Sign Language that requires only the use of facial expressions.
"Wow, you have one of those parents too?" asked the girl, by way of one raised eyebrow.
"You have no idea," eye-rolled Lindsay.
"You should probably get him out of here as soon as possible," head tilt.
"Sadly, we're not done shopping yet," smirk at the right corner of Lindsay's mouth accompanied by a slight shake of the head.
"Come on, Dad," said Lindsay, taking me by the arm and leading me to another area of the store. Quickly.
I noticed no discernible difference between the section of the store we were now in and the one we'd just left. More racks, more clothes, more shopping.
"Hey Dad, what do you think of this one?"
"Jenny, I got your number, I need to make you mine. Jenny, I got your number, 867-5309 . . ."
Lindsay held up a knitted pink top that required less yarn than a pot-holder I made in seventh grade Home Economics.
"Not a chance in hell are you wearing that."
"I know, I'm just messing with you."
"Speaking of which, anything new in the boyfriend area?" How's that for a subtle segue?
"Not really. There's this guy in band that I've kinda been hanging out with, though. He plays the tuba."
As every father knows or will someday discover, having a teenage daughter is a terrifying experience. This is because we've all been teenage boys. Between the ages of thirteen and twenty, I was basically a giant hormone in Vans checkerboard slip-ons, so I knew only too well the perilous waters Lindsay would soon be navigating, if she wasn't already. Still, I was happy to hear her say, "he plays the tuba." Boys are boys, of course, but I've never once seen a headline that read:
POLICE DISCOVER YAMAHA TUBA IN RAID OF RAPIST-MURDERER'S APARTMENT
"Are you guys a thing, or just friends?" I asked.
"I don't know. Just friends right now, I guess."
"You guess? What does that mean?"
"It means we're just friends, okay? Hey, look at that mannequin, there's the outfit I want!"
It was pretty nice. A multi-colored skirt that looked like Jackson Pollock designed it (that's not a bad thing, I love his work), and a beige-and-green striped sweater. Ankle-length skirt, high neckline on the sweater, two key selling points as far as fathers are concerned.
She emerged from the dressing room.
"What do you think, Dad?"
" . . . and if I stared to long, I'd prob'ly break down and cry. Oh, oh, sweet child o' mine."
"DAD! WOULD YOU PLEASE STOP SINGING!"