Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Two Words That Come to Mind are "Gulp" and "Vomit."

Last night the worst thing happened. It was bound to happen, I guess, so I shouldn't be so horrified, so surprised, so nauseous. But I am. Oh, am I ever.

Last night my father walked in on me as I was kissing a boy. I've never seen my father move so fast, especially at 3:30 AM, a time when sane 54 year-olds should be in bed, sleeping and dreaming dreams where their daughters are young and not yet kissing boys, or dreams where their daughters are living far away in other states, where the kissing and whatnot goes on in houses other than their own.

The fact that my father walked in on and then ran away from me kissing a boy makes me want to cut out my tongue and scoop out my eyes. I am mortified. If this were a perfect world, he and I would both stay out of each other's way for several days, weeks, months until I felt okay to face him again. But no. Tomorrow I have to attend a graduation party with him.

The boy I was kissing last night was a Boy From Work, and the kissing was just that: plain kissing, straight up kissing, kissing without other things going on. We were, however, under a blanket, which I am certain made the situation look a lot more scandalous than it actually was. All clothes were on and accounted for, except for my sweatshirt, which was pooled at the foot of the couch. I had another shirt on underneath, but I'm sure my father's worked what he saw over and over in his head until he's imagined something very R-rated.

My father isn't one who handles things like this very well. I am, after all, his little girl, and his little girl would never do such a thing with a boy. As he sees it, his little girl bakes cookies and teaches English and likes cats and is a virgin. And because he doesn't handle things like this very well, my father and I have had had our share of uncomfortable incidents. Once, my senior year of high school, after he found out that I'd been sneaking around with a boy he didn't very much care for, a boy I was definitely wasn't supposed to be sneaking around with, my father drove home from work early and sat at the kitchen table until I got home from school. When I walked in the door, my stomach almost fell out of my body. The look he was giving me was pure disaster. He made me sit down with him, made my brother leave the room, then made me answer a string of awful questions.

He said, Did you let this boy touch you, Jessica? and I had to say, Yes, Dad. He said, Did you let him touch you with his hands? and I had to say, Yes, Dad. He said, Did you let him touch you with his mouth? and I had to say, Yes, Dad. I wanted to disintegrate, to spontaneously combust, to melt like the witch in The Wizard of Oz so I would no longer have to be sitting there answering those horrible questions.

I was barely seventeen years old, and what I'd let the boy do with his hands and mouth (no big deal, really--nothing scandalous, nothing advanced) were things that most girls in my grade had been letting boys do since they'd started high school. I was getting a late start, but at that moment, when I had to confess things that were really none of my father's business, I thought there was a good chance I was going to be so scarred by my father's interrogation that I would never let a boy touch me anywhere ever again.

Well, I was scarred by that day, but not scarred enough to stay away from boys forever. A few months later I had met and somehow charmed Keith into liking me. A few months into our relationship, Keith and I were sitting in my bedroom, on my bed, watching TV. My door was half-open, because I knew if I tried to close my door my father would have a royal conniption.

Whatever we were watching went to commercial, so I leaned over to lightly kiss my boyfriend. It wasn't a kiss that involved even the slightest bit of tongue--there were parents around, after all--but I was unlucky in that my father happened to be coming down the hall and--in fine Dad-Fashion--my father overreacted. He told me to meet him in the kitchen right now. He said he had to talk to me about something very important.

When I got out there, my father told me that there was no way his daughter was going to be lazing around on a bed and tongue-ing her boyfriend under his roof. I tried to tell my father that there certainly wasn't any tongue-ing going on, but this only made him angrier. He went on to say that there would be no more half-shut, three quarter-shut, or any kind of shut doors in his house while Keith was there. In fact, there wasn't really a reason for Keith to be in my bedroom anyway, so we might as well go watch TV in the living room, where there were no beds, only couches that were in plain view. My father, who was worked into a real frenzy now, went on to say that he also wasn't a fan of the fact that Keith had come over a few minutes prior to my parents' arrival home that night. He said there was a new rule, and that rule was that Keith could never ever ever ever be in the house if there wasn't at least one parent present. If Keith came over and my parents were running late after work, we had to stay out in the driveway and wait until they got home. He thought all these rules would somehow keep us from being consumed in a fiery swarm of sin.

Of course, my father's discomfort with my relationships with boyfriends didn't completely erase after I grew up, moved out, went to college and grad school. In fact, after my thesis reading last May, the Wily Republican and I were in a corner of the bar, half-hugging and half-dancing, when my father came over and put his hands on my shoulders and took me away from the WR for no good reason. I didn't think anything of it at the time, until I got back over to the table where my friends were gathered for the celebration, and one of them said, What was that all about? And I thought to myself, Yeah. Wait a minute. What WAS that all about?

This winter, when Josh came home from Quebec, he and I went out to our former place of employment on a Saturday night, when it was teeming with the trashiest of the local trash and the skeeviest of the local skeeve, and Josh had an awful lot to drink. There was no way he was driving home, so I drove him back to my house and put him up on my couch with a glass of water and a couple Tylenols. I put on some late night TV and we watched it for a bit before falling asleep. The next morning I woke up at 7:30 AM, and there was my father standing in the archway to the living room, surveying the damage. I was on one couch and Josh was on a separate couch on the opposite side of the room. We couldn't touch each other if we wanted to. But a few days later, while lunching with my cousin, she told me that her mother had come home from a family function and told her that my father had been talking about the horrors of waking up one morning and having a boy in his living room, a boy who had spent the night right there, right next to his daughter, mere feet--oh, those dangerously few feet!--away from her. I was twenty-five years old and on a separate couch from a boy, and yet this was quite the event for my father.

So I think it's easy to understand why this last incident is one that has my skin crawling, that has me wanting to bury my head in the sand, that has me wanting to spend several nights far away from here. There's just something about fathers and daughters--especially this daughter and her father--that takes embarrassment to another level. And if it weren't for this weekend's graduation party, you can bet I'd be long gone, that I'd be somewhere else, some other place that would keep me from running into my father and pretending nothing ever happened, pretending that he didn't demonstrate impressive agility and speed as he ran away from the living room and back to his bedroom, where he probably lay awake for long, long minutes, thinking he liked it so much better when I played in the sandbox and wore pink corduroy pants and called him Daddy.

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