My daughter likes older men. I know this because at the ripe old age of two, she’s already flirting with her 5-year-old brother’s friends. She has a particular liking for her brother’s friend Nathan or his younger brother Hal, I can’t quite tell.
For the longest time, I thought she really liked the eldest, Nathan, until we were at his family’s house. As she laid eyes on Nathan’s younger brother Hal, my daughter screamed “Other Nathan! Other Nathan” and began to giggle while flipping her hair. Hal, the Other Nathan, got a little red in the cheek, smiled, said, “Girls, yucky!” then ran outside to play with the big boys who were alternating between running away from an imaginary sea monster and talking about their penises.
Before going to bed, my little girl says, “More Nathan. Me like Nathan.” Now unsure which Nathan she had a thing for I ask, “Nathan, or the Other Nathan?”
“Yes,” she replies before going to sleep blushing.
Immediately, I feel the wind taken out of my sails. Up until now, having a daughter meant sparkly sneakers and french braids. I hadn’t taken into account that someday she’s going to want to date an actor. Or worse yet, a Republican. She’s got her whole life ahead of her. That means ample time for all the Nathan’s of the world to break her heart.
I go to bed thinking about my own dating past. I’ve been with my husband so long now it’s a bit blurry, but the highlights (or lowlights) still remain clear. There was the questionably straight movie producer who was uncomfortably proud of his french-cut underpants. There was the front desk guy from the gym whom I made out with because it was quicker than explaining why I didn’t want to. There was the Trainer who wanted to go Dutch on Valentine’s Day, the angry Accountant who really wanted to be a stand up comic and the brooding Piano Player who dated no less than 13 of my closest friends. While the men are different they all have one thing in common, they made me think we were in love. And we were. Me, with him. And him, with him.
Looking back on my dating past, the cast of characters reads like a casting call for a reality show called, “Bad Taste” starring me and a brooding piano player. It makes me think I could have avoided the humiliation of bad taste if I’d simply had a bit more guidance.
The only advice I ever got about dating was, “Don’t”, so I’m hoping I can be a bit more helpful to my little girl. There are the technical rules like: never call a guy, wait for him to call you. That stuff actually works. Guys do like a girl who appears unavailable.
Girls shouldn’t pay or have sex on the first date, that’s probably good to know. Don’t “talk” on email or text a guy too much before you’ve met. The chemistry may be great online, but when he walks in the door with three shoulders and a girl-voice, you’re going to wish you hadn’t text’d a total stranger with a girl-voice that picture of your boobs. Don’t have sex too quickly, but if you do the world will not end. Closed minded guys get boring fast and jealous guys are secretly insecure. Mean guys are off limits and soft guys can put you to sleep faster than a documentary on the making of clouds.
And then I wonder what happens if my daughter tells me she followed all the rules and still got her heart broken. Should she be embarrassed because she fell for the rugby player who was allergic to bathing or the drummer who could never stop drumming? I’d never want my girl to be embarrassed for putting herself out there and getting in the game.
For the first time when I think back to the producer or the piano player, to the actor and the accountant, I don’t feel so embarrassed. I give myself the advice I’d give my little girl. Getting dumped isn’t the end of the world. Not everyone you love will love you back. You’ll survive.
So I want my daughter to know that I hope she gets her heart broken 100 times because that means she’s in the game. She’s not sitting on the sidelines of life trying to avoid getting her heart broken, she’s out there and trying. And I want her to know that nothing’s permanent. Everyone makes mistakes. Even her Mom, who dated a piano player and didn’t notice for years to come that he was actually playing Chopsticks.