Last night was the final Daddy-Daughter dance that Anna and I will attend. We’ve been going to these things since she was in the first grade, and I documented our initial experience in this post. They’re always a good time, always held in the gym at Anna’s elementary school and always remind me what a broad spectrum of dads there are out there. This year’s was different because Heidi, who is usually around to see us off and take photos and the whole bit, was conspicuously absent as she was off signing books in Kansas City. Before she left, she had Anna get all the pieces of her outfit together and put in a place where she could find them on Sunday, knowing that I’d be of limited use. She also made her an appointment to get her hair done up since I would have had to do the vacuum assisted pony-tail otherwise.
My biggest complaint about the dances in the past has always been the music. Usually, a couple of teachers playing music off an iMac or an iPod was what passed as a DJ and it seemed like year after year, they played the same damn songs over and over again. Imagine my surprise when we walked in this year and there was an actual DJ service. A step in the right direction, right? That’s what I thought. While they played the standard elementary school girl songs – most notably “Single Ladies” and anything by Taylor Swift – interspersed amongst these songs were random techno songs that I’m pretty sure they didn’t know. I ended up having to Shazam a lot of the songs because they were so obscure. As you might imagine, this didn’t encourage people to dance too much. People want to dance to stuff they know – or at least I do. Fortunately there was also a healthy swath of 80s material that the fathers probably all knew but were loathe to admit they liked (except for this one.)
They still played the sappy father-daughter songs. Every year, “Butterfly Kisses” has been played and, sure enough, it made an appearance last night. I had forewarned Anna about how schmaltzy and sappy it is, and when she heard the words “butterfly kisses” she kind of looked at me disdainfully, but we still danced to it. Last year they played “I Loved Her First” by country music group Heartland which I had never heard before but I ended up buying in spite of myself after the dance. This year’s attempt to pull at the heartstrings of all the dads out there was “Cinderella” by Steven Curtis Chapman and I’ll be goddamned but it really worked this time and reading the story about what happened after Chapman wrote the song got me again right now while I’m typing this. I would go buy that song but I couldn’t even listen to it on Spotify without being all mushy.
I’ve shared before how I am terminally sentimental I am when it comes to my daughter. I’m not sure what it is, because we don’t have one of those relationships that’s seen me drinking fake tea or dancing with her while she’s dressed up in a Cinderella dress. We’re a lot more likely to be sitting in the chair together watching a TV show and driving each other crazy. I will cover her eyes with my hands and say – just like my dad did to me when I was growing up – “NO MORE TV FOR YOU!” Just tonight, while we were watching Once Upon A Time, the Nespresso commercial came on and we kept saying “nespresso” with fake Italian accents to each other to make the other insane. I’ll sing the Glee theme song off key and she’ll put her hand over my mouth. Our relationship is full of inside jokes and the predictable me being dumb-but-not-so-dumb as Bill Cosby would say.
Last night was a little bit tough for me. She’s off to middle school next year and, as I mentioned, the Daddy-Daughter dances are behind us. Soon she’ll be going to middle school dances by herself or with friends or with a date. I’m not going to be one of those dads that wants to keep Rapunzel locked up in the tower to keep her from dating or one that meets every potential date at the door with a shotgun. What I like to think these dances have taught her over the years is how a boy should treat her. This is why I get so irritated when I see dads on their phones the whole night, not dancing and spending time with their daughters who, before you know it, will be grown up and less inclined to spend time with them. I was encouraged by the number of dads their with their kindergarteners or first graders. It gives me hope for the generation of men coming up behind me that being a man includes dancing with their daughters. I know I wouldn’t have traded any of those nights over the last five years for anything.
She was so funny last night, both a kid and a young woman all at once. It always makes me think of that damn Britney song “I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman” which I’ve never even fucking heard and I really don’t like Britney very much so I’m always kind of mad that it makes me think of that song. She was obsessed with getting her face painted, yet wouldn’t tell me what was in her purse because “a girl has to have some secrets” – whatever the hell THAT means. She enjoyed being with her friends, but also wanted to be with me and was oddly concerned with whether or not I was having a good time. There’s a handful of other fathers that I’ve seen every year that I usually talk to, but last night I was really more about being with Anna.
The dance ended very abruptly, and it really ticked us both off. They were playing a suite of songs from The Little Mermaid and then the principal announced that had been the last song. Anna only danced with me for part of it and she felt bad that she had missed most of the last dance of her last Daddy-Daughter dance. I told her not to blame herself for a minute, because it was the organizers of the dance that screwed that up and really, did that song SOUND like the last dance to anything? I have always thought they should use Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” for the last dance, but this never happened. I also always thought I should have been in charge of the music, but then I would have had to choose between the music and my daughter and really, the choice there is obvious. She told me later that she liked our music better anyway. Damn straight.
A good time was had, and we went to Dairy Queen afterward, where I was chastised for eating too much dairy that day.
Here we are in 2009 at the first dance and in 2013 at the last dance. I have 5000% more gray hair in 2013 – it’s like looking at a before and after picture of Obama! And Anna is 5000% taller.
I couldn’t be prouder of her. I feel like I’ve done something right somewhere. And her dad isn’t too hard on the eyes either if I do say so myself.