Thursday, December 4, 2008

Love is for Puppies

Inches and Falling - The Format (mp3)
Love Love Kiss Kiss - Alkaline Trio (mp3)

"Why would I want to deny my daughter the joy of puppy love?" A coworker (and frequent reader) asked this rhetorical question to me when explaining why she derived such happiness from seeing and encouraging her daughter on the dating scene as a high school freshman.

While I have frequently and unequivocally expressed concerns about the parental overprotection of teenagers in matters of love and sex, the true test of such flighty philosophies is when the rubber meets the road, as the saying would go. (And please trust that I was not using "rubber" in that clever double-entendre sense, as that would destroy my whole point.) It's one thing to stomp on other idiots who think a simple ring creates a magic force field around their daughter's private parts, but it's entirely another to dismiss these thoughts when your own daughter(s) edge ever closer to that hormonal tempest of teendom.

But Puppy Love? Who doesn't love Puppy Love?!

Admittedly, Puppy Love is the gateway drug that inevitably leads to other more dangerous drugs: True Love, Heavy Petting, Together Forever Sex, Cheesy Break-up Songs, Unwanted Pregnancy, Itchy and Burning Private Parts, etc. But, like most asenine and insulting arguments about gateway drugs, opposing Puppy Love merely because it leads to other things is like opposing life because it's a gateway drug for death.

As I sat in the ER (and I don't mean East Ridge) with my mother this week, we discussed the strange nature of love and long-term relationships. We spoke fairly honestly about our experiences with and opinions of these things, and I expressed to her my sincere gratitude that she never tried selling me stupid shit about marriage being like a never-ending Hallmark card, never made a good relationship so unrealistically out of reach that I'd be doomed to Icarus-like failure.

I shared with her some of the biggest haunting moments from the latest Richard Russo book, Bridge of Sighs, a heartbreaking and beautiful look at the standard Russo topics of family and small town life, but also at the nuanced and nasty nature of marriage. Even good marriage. It meditates on the nature of being capable of only living one life, with singular choices and singular outcomes. This isn't a topic unique to this book, but it's certainly a topic that fascinates and inspires and haunts me in equal measure.

My point is, I admire this mom for managing to have what seems to be a very realistic outlook on her expectations in raising a young high school girl who will no doubt be confronted with temptations and opportunities I didn't have until... well hell, I might never have those kinds of opportunities, and I'm not just sayin' that because I'm a guy. This coworker knows what her daughter's up against as she grows into a young woman, yet the Mom in her seems very calm. This calmness is either foolish or enviable, and I lean to the latter.

We can't stop 'em. We can't feeze 'em cryogenically to remain at a certain age. Most of us parents, even the really good ones, can't even keep 'em on the path we have mentally laid out for them. So why am I so convinced the Puppy Love years -- closely followed by the Dogs In Heat years -- is gonna give me at least a handful of ulcers when every bit of evidence in my personality says they shouldn't? I'm not overly controlling, nor am I necessarily a stress-bucket.

Truth is, it's because I was so completely off the radar with Puppy Love as a teenager. I had one girlfriend. While smitten heavily for six months and deep in the canine amore, the most intense we got physically involved necking. I might have once grabbed her bottom, but it was over whatever clothing she wore. Sadly, nothing we did, make-out wise, would even be censored from a Nick at Night TV show.

[NOTE: Pictured above left: That's about as far as I ever got, physically, before I was past my teen years. Pictured at right: Even virtual people in Sims-World have been places I didn't get as a teenager.]

So how's a guy who got through 95% of his high school life dating only one girl and hardly ever even earned a Base on Balls s'posed to shepherd his precious and precocious daughters through the stormy waters of Puppy Love?!

"Lots of self-medicated alcohol" is the jokey answer, but the real one is much more unnerving. Sure, the practical part of me, who opposes unnecessary worry in all of its forms and manages to keep it to a minimum, realizes there's not much point in fretting it when we'll have at least one more Presidential election before it's an issue. But the other part, the part who loves love, who loves his daughters, who wants them to be everything they want to be even if it's totally impossible to be both a successful musician and a nuclear physicist... that part of me dreams of being the guiding god-like hand that guides their boat safely through the Scyllas and Charybdises to whatever safe harbors they may find.

"Inches and Falling" is off one of my Best Albums of 2008 (even though it came out in 2006). "Love Love Kiss Kiss" is from Alkaline Trio's first large-market studio album, Agony + Irony. Both are available at both iTunes and's mp3 site.

1 comment:

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