On Saturday night, I dropped Zoe off at her first co-ed party – a bonfire at the house of her friend “B” who happens to be a boy from her class that I have never met or even heard about until earlier this week when her father dropped her off after dinner. She said she wanted to ask us a question and because she was fidgety, we immediately sensed that it wasn’t going to be an average, run-of-the-mill “can I have some ice cream?” question and instead was going to be something along the lines of she left her purse with $1,000 in it at a restaurant three hundred miles ago and would we mind going back to get it? Then she asked if she could go to a party that B was having this weekend at his house, a party with a bonfire that didn’t end until 11:00 pm.
Her father hesitated and looked at me. I choked back the WHAT, ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? NOT A CHANCE IN HELL that was on the tip of my tongue and looked at him. And even though we’ve been divorced for almost ten years, we still have that ability to read each other’s minds when it comes to our daughter.
I had already handled the first boyfriend scenario months ago as I was driving Zoe home from youth group one night and Zoe, who up until then had never uttered the name of a boy, told me not to freak out but she kind of had a boyfriend because “G” had kind of asked her out and she had kind of said yes. I had to pull over the side of the road and get my bearings before I could process the fact that my first born, my baby girl who was in diapers the day before now had a boyfriend. I don’t know if I was more shocked that she was interested in boys or that she voluntarily told me something without my having to force it out of her by sitting on her head.
So her father, stepfather and I had to navigate the whole “going out” business and for those of you who are curious, it means walking together to class, sitting together at lunch and possibly giving each other a hug goodbye at the end of the day, unless you are our daughter in which case you can just forget about the hug or any other public displays of affection until you are thirty or we are dead, whichever comes first. Also, just so you know and can prepare your own child in the event they find themselves in this situation, going out very often leads to the couple having nothing more to say to each other within minutes of becoming an “official” couple, leading them to speak to everyone else but each other despite sitting next to one another in the cafeteria and why this happens is a mystery. Maybe they exhausted all of their conversation prompts that led one to ask the other out in the first place or maybe the entire ordeal is just God’s way of preparing you for marriage, no one knows.
So, back to the bonfire party … Zoe’s father and I took turns blasting off the questions:
- Who’s “B”? (A boy she knows)
- What do you mean, a boy? (a friend of hers who happens to be a boy which is SO not the same as boyfriend so PLEASE, just stop)
- Where does he live? (within quick driving distance in the event of a medical emergency, including mom’s potential nervous breakdown)
- How do you know him? (from school, he’s a friend, remember? keep up)
- What grade is he in? (same as hers – eighth)
- Has he ever been arrested? (blink, blink, stare, roll eyes)
- Who’s going to be there? (rattles off names of various friends)
I said yes, she could go, provided we call B’s parents and ask them if they knew their son had invited the entire school over to his house for a bonfire in his backyard and were they cool with it? And because Zoe is fourteen and a girl and my daughter, she immediately overreacted and raised her voice an octave and practically yelled a question that sounded suspiciously like OH MY GOSH, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
So her father informed her of her choices:
- We don’t call, she doesn’t go and stays home to play restaurant with Helena
- We don’t call, she gets to go and so do we. For the entire party.
- We call, she gets to go and we only get to embarrass the hell out of her over the phone and not in person.
I was secretly rooting for #2 because I don’t get out much and I would have loved the opportunity to hang out and catch up on who’s hot and who’s not and the latest and greatest in purses and makeup and stuff and basically recapture a tiny little speck of my youth. I think Zoe saw the glimmer of hope in my eyes because she wasted no time in shooting me down cold, declaring FINE, go ahead and call if I want to and by the way, she hoped I was happy with myself for being so overprotective and did I know how embarrassing it was going to be for her to have her mommy call, that nobody else’s mother was going to call and blah blah blah. I stopped listening after about a minute. So did her father, who told her to get over herself and count herself lucky that she had parents who cared enough to ask questions and how would she like it if we didn’t take the time to ask questions and instead, threw her in the back seat and drove her to B’s house on our way somewhere to get stoned and maybe if she was lucky, we’d even slow down the car before shoving her out the door.
So I called B’s house later that night and spoke with B’s father who really sounded like the nicest guy who apparently had a lot of time on his hands as he kept me on the phone for almost fifteen minutes just chatting away about nothing in particular. Because I am married to Nate who thinks the phone is strictly for emergencies and keeps any and all conversation on a need-to-know basis, I was in unfamiliar, albeit enjoyable territory.
He was well aware of the party as it was an annual event, he likes bonfires, has them often as they live on a farm and have the room for it, he was going to try to scrounge up some good wood so feel free to bring any in case we had any tables or chairs we didn’t need, we were welcome to stay if we wanted but not to worry because his girlfriend would most likely be there, going through a divorce and all and you know how that is, kids would hang by the bonfire, no funny business and pickup was around 11:00 because he turned 41 this year and could no longer stay awake past 11:30 pm for fear his body would crumple up and disintegrate. Yes, I did know how that was, having just turned 41 myself not too long ago. It sucks.
So I thanked him for his time, hung up and told Zoe that her season of humiliation was over and she could go. She then proceeded to tell me that she had made plans with her friend “N” for N’s mother to drop them off at the party, pick them up around 11:00 and take them back to N’s house for a sleepover.
Whereupon I asked Zoe “are you new here?” and proceeded to educate her as to how it works in this house with the whole asking for permission deal. For instance, no one is allowed to touch any food in the refrigerator before a holiday without asking first because more likely than not, that particular item is crucial to a specific dish that will taste like vomit without it and I wrenched my back while driving around to ten different stores to find it and if someone touches it, I would be forced to eviscerate him/her so aren’t you glad you asked permission first because life is difficult enough but without intestines, it’s just plain hard.
Asking for permission has a far better chance of me saying “yes” as opposed to telling me how it’s going to go down, which is risky and often ends up with me saying HELL TO THE NO. This would be one of those times.
So I informed her that I would be the one to drive her to the party so that I could meet B and his father and scope out the situation first hand in case they were serial killers on the make and that I would also be the one to pick them up and she would be sleeping in her own bed that night. End of discussion so stop talking because my head hurts from playing responsible mother all day.
Saturday came and the party started at 7:00 so I was not a bit surprised when Zoe and her friend starting getting ready at 3:00 and I could smell the perfume and nail polish down the street. Luckily it wore off by 4:00 at which time Zoe asked for permission to wear eyeliner. I didn’t know whether to rejoice in the fact that she actually listened to my lecture on permission the other day or wail, shriek and cry because wasn’t it enough that I was dealing with her first co-ed party, did I really have to deal with makeup issues too?
I let her wear the eyeliner but only because when she put it on to show me, it was so faint as to be nearly nonexistent and I figured if I could handle co-ed, a little almost-invisible eyeliner wasn’t going to kill me.
It was about five minutes before we had to leave for the party when Zoe took one look at me, screamed in horror and chained me to my chair, telling me in no uncertain terms that I was not allowed to leave the house looking as if I had just cleaned every bathroom west of the Mississippi. I thought she was being ridiculous until I looked in the mirror and actually scared myself so I changed my clothes, put on some deodorant, tried to work some gel into my hair for all of 10 seconds and then gave up, telling Zoe that I wasn’t fooling anyone, she had to accept me as I was because if God had meant for me to look good all the time, he wouldn’t have invented hot flashes or bloating.
I dropped her and her friend off at 7:00 sharp, spoke to the dad, tried to find B but couldn’t figure out which one he was, turned to Zoe for a hint but couldn’t find her either as she had apparently fled the scene the moment I stopped the car, sighed and got back into my car and left to go home, all the while wondering if I had done all I was supposed to and berating myself for not quadruple checking that Zoe had her phone and that it was actually charged and working.
I returned four hours later at 11:00 pm and didn’t even have to get out of the car as Zoe and her friend were waiting for me the second I pulled up. They ran into the car, declared it was an awesome party and that all went well despite a massive amount of bug bites. Everybody got along, there was no drama, the fire department was not called and no DEA officers were spotted. As far as I can tell, nothing out of the ordinary happened. I let out my breath, surprised to find that I had been holding it in for the last four hours.
First boyfriend … check
First co-ed party … check
Only 4,508 left to go.