Friday, September 15, 2006

The Curmudgeon tries to facilitate mother-daughter communication -- or -- Yet another clueless male story

At Younger Daughter’s high school, the day after Back to School Night is a free day. It was Back to School Night last night so the question was what Younger Daughter would do today while the rest of us were at work or school.

Younger Daughter had tried to explain her options to me on the ride to school yesterday morning: She’s been fighting with Ramona, but Ramona wanted her to go to Woodfield. Ramona had also invited Cindy. But Cindy wanted Younger Daughter to go with her to Old Orchard. Cindy told Younger Daughter that she (Cindy) had lied to Ramona and said she couldn’t go anywhere. And that was OK because of the way Ramona had confronted Younger Daughter at lunch last weekend when Cindy and Younger Daughter were patching up a recent dispute. Ramona hadn’t been invited, but she’d wheedled the whereabouts of this summit meeting from Cindy’s mother. And she was making such a big deal out it, too. And Younger Daughter was mad at Cindy again, too, because, I think, Cindy was lying to Ramona. Or maybe it was because Cindy wanted to shop for Homecoming dresses for the upcoming dance at her boyfriend Brian’s school. And all Cindy ever talks about is Brian. When she isn’t actually hanging out with Brian.

I was unable to discern any clear plan of action from these disclosures. I suggested that Younger Daughter could avoid all this controversy and spend time with her grandmother – and this was not well received: “Great, I’m almost 17 and you’re getting me a babysitter.”

Younger Daughter went to her job immediately after getting home from school. Long Suffering Spouse went to Back to School Night. When they spoke late yesterday evening, Younger Daughter’s plans for today were not addressed. The conversation instead focused on the various teachers and classes and all the things that Long Suffering Spouse heard for the very first time about forms that needed to be turned in, class requirements – many important things – but nothing having to do with today.

So this morning I asked LSS what Younger Daughter was going to do today. And, of course, she didn’t know. Younger Daughter came downstairs and I put the question to her. And she said she wanted to go to Woodfield.

“Woodfield?” I exclaimed. “With Ramona?”

“Oh, no. No way,” said LSS.

Younger Daughter stormed out of the room one way; LSS went out the other.

I won’t go into the play-by-play on all this; a lot happened quickly, but at some point here I must confess to raising my voice. I may have shouted a bit. I was a wee bit frustrated because we had to leave very soon and there was, as far as I could tell, no resolution of what Younger Daughter would do today.

My little outburst instantly united LSS and Younger Daughter in common cause – against me. I was, in their newly united view, completely out of line. And I, foolishly, tried to defend myself by running through my understanding of what Younger Daughter told me in the car yesterday, concluding with what I thought was an honest question: Why would anyone want to spend the day with someone with whom you are fighting?

“I’m not fighting with Ramona; we patched that up. I told you all that,” Younger Daughter said.

LSS began to laugh. “You can’t expect your father to keep track of all these details. He’s just a male, you know. Don’t give him anything but the highlights.”

Younger Daughter explained at this point that she and Ramona and Cindy would all go to Woodfield; that Ramona’s mother would drive; and that Younger Daughter would be back by early afternoon. (Cindy? I thought – but weren’t you mad at her too – and I thought you said she’d lied to Ramona about... but fortunately I kept my mouth shut. But my head began to hurt. Badly.)

“Oh,” said LSS, “Ramona’s mother will drive? Well, then, sure you can go.”

And then I made another mistake: See, I told them, I’m facilitating good mother-daughter communication. No, they both told me, in no uncertain terms, you’re just a nut-burger, yelling and carrying on like a crazy man.

But they’ll get over it.

I think.