A couple of weeks ago, my lovely wife and I dropped Ellison off one evening and went to a local Italian place for dinner. To call it Italian might’ve been a little generous, but it’s West Texas…looks like Italian, tastes like Italian, it’s Italian. We get ushered to our table which sits just a hair off the middle of the dining room. Nothing fancy. I’m enjoying a beer and my lovely wife a modest glass of wine. And breadsticks. As it always seems to go on our dates, despite our intentions, we start talking about Ellison. You try to avoid it, but it always happens. It’s not a rule necessarily to not talk about Ellison, but when every waking hour revolves around her, you try to talk about something else when you’re out on a date with each other. Last time we successfully made it through dinner without talking about Ellison, I ended up trading in for a Subaru the next day.
About fifteen minutes go by and we’re just gabbing about our baby Ellison and I see my lovely wife’s attention catch a snag over my shoulder. She begins peering towards the door as patrons begin filing in. I give a half look over my shoulder. Quite a party entering in apparently. I try to refocus my lovely wife. We were busy talking about our first trip to Fenway with Ellison. Refocus. Refocus. “Must be prom,” she says. I whirl around in my chair (along with everyone in the dining room) to a party of about sixteen or twenty sharp-looking high schoolers that high step through the dining room like some catwalk. So much for an inconspicuous entrance. The girls slithered like serpents and the guys galloped like stallions. It was like a fashion show. The guys in their cheap rental tuxes worked the room with the flare of Bart Conner in Rad and the girls, one of which was wearing a hand towel as a “dress,” flirted and winked their way to their tables which lined the western-most wall of the dining room.
Now, realizing that I’m sometimes an irrational and completely unfair person who doesn’t give situations and, sometimes, people a good chance, I saw the future as these kids danced their way through the restaurant like some beer commercial. Now marks the first chapter in a sixteen-year training stint where I’ll prepare myself for the battle that undeniably awaits me. Build your alliances. Secure the perimeter. Exhaust all resources. All hands on deck because we’re heading toward a high-stakes battle that will strip us as parents down to the very core of our being. We will fight like hyenas. We will lose our humanity as we defend our home base. I circled the date on my calendar that night: Ellison’s first prom.
Editor’s note: Notice above that there’s six girls and seven boys. Now, either pick the dude going to the date by himself or the girl who is going with two guys. Ick.
Also worth noting that you can’t go anywhere in this town without running into the ever-pervasive white trash. You try to go out on a date with your lovely wife or your girlfriend the night of prom and, never fails, two tables over and only about ten feet away, there’s a guy rocking a now-sleeveless Nascar shirt featuring the animated M&Ms and jeans tucked into his boots. And he’s wearing his ballcap at the table. Never fails. I haven’t found one place in this town where you’re safe. It’s like they just strolled in from rounding up the last calf. Go home. Shower. And take off that freaking cap at the table.
For these kiddos, if everyone gawking at them like they were zoo animals didn’t kill the moment, Cletus probably did as he sat there behind four empty beer bottles chuckling creepily.
The girls have their backs to us and the guys are on the other side of the table facing us. Perfect. Now I can size these guys up. My eyes start at the right hand side of the table and scan left. I’m an oddball like that. I read backwards. There’s the cat who’s likely not to tip. Not that he doesn’t have money to tip, just looks like the kinda guy who would fail to tip because he doesn’t recognize hard work deserving of a tip. He’s a jerk. He’s smacking his gum and looking at me like Val Kilmer in Top Gun. He looks actually like he’s already old enough to drink legally. Not boyfriend material. The next guy is silent. Creepy. There’s one thing on his mind and it’s not the ravioli. He’s looking to have sex tonight. You can see it on his face. Somewhere between projectile vomiting or dancing like a happy little girl. Yeah, nice poker face, dude. The next guy has already begun shoving breadsticks down and he’s talking with his mouth open. Fail. Sorry. The next two were quiet. They looked like deer in the headlights about to be used as paint the highway red. I don’t know about quiet guys. I find it a little spooky. Probably prude. And, if so, probably for the better. I just saw one’s adams apple dribble up and down. Yeah, nerves. Been there. Scan more to the left side of the table and, spontaneously, a rousing version of “Happy Birthday” kicks off a few tables away. The kid on the end joins in and starts singing “Happy Birthday” with the most genuine and undeniably adorable smile on his face. Like he was really happy for the birthday boy at the other table. That’s our boy. He even clapped at the end. The only kid at the table not too cool for school and not too cool to sing along. Probably a good choir boy.
My lovely wife was playing along too. Another couple walked in and the kid was wearing a white tux with one of those Gucci-print Yankee hats on backwards. Why don’t you just show up in your boxer briefs and a shirt reading, “I wanna sleep with your daughter.” Creep.
I must disclose that as a high schooler, I never went to prom. I went to a couple of banquets, but nothing as high stakes as prom. I wasn’t such a hot commodity back then. Acne-ridden bassist. Drove a stationwagon…a Dodge Aries stationwagon. My diet consisted of a daily double-dose of Arby melts and a steady stream of sodas. I didn’t play any sports and was endlessly socially awkward. I’ve seen video footage from those days and am never surprised why I rarely was asked to dances. If I was ever asked, it was usually at the tail end of the eleventh hour. I was the impulsive pack of gum at the registers…not the reason you came, but it’s cheap and convenient.
We thought about Ellison. I told my lovely wife, “I hope she’s picky.” My lovely wife returned, “I hope she gets picked.” My fear was that she’d have too many options and only a couple of good ones. My lovely wife feared that she’d not have any options at all. Not that either are really reasonable. A little presumptuous to think that Ellison will have boys lined up around the block and a little unfair of my lovely wife to think that no one will want to take her to the prom. It’s even likely that we have both submerged both of those fears and are secretly devising different contradictory attack plans to ensure that, in my lovely wife’s case, Ellison gets picked on prom night. I, however, am planning for something else. I’m planning to protect my daughter from all the freaks at her high school.
Before long, I’ll be formally organizing the neighborhood chapter of the Angry Dad Club. We’ll aim for, let’s say, quality control in the dating field. Someone’s gotta ensure that these girls don’t end up getting knocked up or slapped around by some cat destined for either a cruelty to animals conviction or cameo on “Too Catch a Predator.” We’ll be a lawless vigilante group committed to weeding out all of the chumps from our daughters’ social circle.
I started putting myself in the role at the restaurant. First thing I’d do is shake these cats down once they arrive the house. Check their person and their car for lighters, condoms or flasks. If either or all are found, end of date. No questions asked.
My lovely wife suggested that you take everything from him when he arrives and leave with only enough money for dinner and gas. I’ll be a little generous and up it to a $100 bill. You keep in exchange for your daughter, all credit cards, debit cards, checks and cash as well as his drivers license. His drivers license? Damn right. But what if he gets pulled over? Don’t get pulled over, homie. Watch your speed. Don’t swerve. Stop at all red lights and stop signs and you won’t have anything to worry about. Yes, even his drivers license. He’d still have enough to treat my daughter to a nice dinner, but not enough to get a hotel room. Either way, he ain’t getting a room without an ID.
I envision the Angry Dad Club to be like a governing agency and we govern by force, b’lee dat. There’s me under a single light and the back wall is lined with fathers in cargo shorts and t-shirts. All of them smell a little like whiskey. One on the end is twirling a crowbar in his hand. His face is unrecognizable from the shadows. I conduct the interrogation. I make this kid cry and then send them on their happy and merry way. We’d tattoo approved boys with an insignia kinda like the Better Business Bureau. You’d know the kid was choice if you saw that marking on his forehead.
Perhaps I need counseling (Mr. Obvious says, “Yeah, perhaps.”). Eh, Sox are over .500 for the first time this season on a game-ending two-run double by payroll PacMan Adrian Gonzales. Perhaps that’ll dull my edge down a bit. Yeah, perhaps.