For Valentine’s Day, my wife Valorie and I exchanged cards and chocolates. I got her a medium-sized box of chocolates and a pricey card. She got me a tiny little heart-shaped box of chocolates containing only four chocolates (completely fair, because I don’t care for sweets) and a cheap card (because she’s cheap).
Then we decided to take our two sons and our aged but rambunctious dog for a hike. Our 16-year-old daughter had been promised a multi-phase excursion by her boyfriend, so we were looking for something for the rest of us to do together. Valorie suggested the Franklin Canyon reservoir hiking trail because it’s bucolic, we hadn’t been there in a while, and there weren’t too many hills to trouble the dog. I thought that an excellent idea, so off we went.
On the drive over, Valorie’s iPhone dinged, indicating an incoming text message. She was busy driving, because I was loaded up on Benadryl. (No, we don’t have snow or ice, but unlike the northeast, we do have plenty of pollen right now.) I helpfully took the phone in order to see who had texted. It was our daughter.
“I hate amc!” her text reported.
We all wanted to know why. (Except for her little brother, who doesn’t want to know anything about her, unless it’s something that will get her into trouble.) So I texted back, using my wife’s phone, “Why?” Then, still in helpful mode, I took the opportunity to add, “Your father is such a dreamboat.”
There was no immediate reply. So I texted again, this time stating, “He’s the best.”
Still nothing. Which surprised me, given the categorical nature of the statement. Maybe she wasn’t getting these. Or maybe — maybe — she was nodding in silent agreement. But I wanted to know for sure. So I added, “I’m lucky to have him.” Surely, this should elicit a reply, because it applied to her as well.
Finally, she texted back. “Amc mom the movie theater.”
Coupled with the heavy-duty antihistamines in my system, her poor use of capitalization and spelling made my head swim. Plus, she was overlooking the main point! I responded, “I know. Why do you hate it?” And then, trying to steer her back to the primary topic, I added in a separate text, “Your dad is also so funny! Makes me laugh.”
That certainly should have prompted her to comment. But instead we got a detailed report about how her 16-year-old self had been barred from entering an R-rated movie. I said nothing, but did momentarily flash back to my being ushered in to see “Caligula” (!!!) at the age of 16, and my naively believing it would be a historical epic and not, well, hard-core porn, replete with scenes that made me clutch myself in protection while watching it. How times had changed. It used to be that you could pay your money and see your porn in the movie theatre along with everyone else as long as you looked to be reasonably close to 18. (Or, in my case, even while still looking 13.) Now I guess teenagers have to watch it in secret on the internet.
The bigger question I had, though, was at what point do teens truly transition into adulthood, with an interest in others? My daughter had been presented with numerous openings to weigh in on her father’s positive qualities. But instead she was relentlessly focused on the inanities of movie-theatre policies, which will become utterly moot for her within 18 months. Mistaken priorities, for sure.