My 16-year-old was in a van heading home from Johns Island, SC, where she’d been on a school-sponsored house-building trip when the first text came in: could her friend, who I’ll call Taylor, sleep over the night they got home? They wanted to watch all five seasons of “Hey, Arnold,” whatever that is. I am not a big fan of sleepovers–at least not at our house–for my eight-year-old (too much shrieking and arranging of stuffed animals) or her 13-year-old brother (too much soda and staying up all night watching horror movies), but for the big one, I really don’t mind. Her friends are mostly pretty great, and I figure they’re old enough to know when to stop drinking Coke and go to sleep. Besides, as I pictured her reading texts in the van surrounded by her peers, I imagined this as the perfect opportunity to win points for being cool, laid-back mom. “Sure! What an excellent use of time!” I typed back ironically. “Really?” she responded. “You’d let him sleep over?”
Luckily we were texting so she couldn’t see how pale I turned. Apparently “Taylor” had one of those names that can go either way, like Jordan or Kendall. I had the vague sense that I’d heard about him before and should have known that. So I couldn’t back down now. Here’s how our text-message conversation proceeded, verbatim:Me (recovering quickly): “In the guest room.” Her: “We couldn’t sleep downstairs?” (Usually the kids prefer to hold slumber parties on the big sofa in front of the TV in the family room.) Me: “Hmmm I’ll have to check with dad …. Have you hooked up with him and/or is he hot for you?” Her: “No and I don’t think so …. He’s just a good friend.” Me (after mentioning to my incredulous husband): “Dad is not thrilled with the idea. It would be better if he were gay!” Her: “Dad would love if gay guys were the only ones I talked to!”
So true. What is it about fathers being unable to deal with their daughters as sexual beings? I find it alarming that they can so clearly recall how horny they were as adolescents, and therefore consider it essential that all teenage boys stay far, far away from their daughters. When I told my husband our daughter had assured me that Taylor was just a good friend and not hot for her, he scoffed. “Of course he is!” he said, though I wasn’t sure if he meant how could anyone not find his baby beautiful, or how could any straight teenage boy not be attracted to any straight teenage girl–especially one with whom he was lying on the couch watching “Hey, Arnold” all night?
In the end, I told her to take it up with her father–and she never did. When I texted her later to see if she still had plans with Taylor, she wrote: “No we were just seeing if it was allowed.” So it was a test! Personally I’m inclined to allow it: if she doesn’t want anything to happen with Taylor, it certainly won’t in our house. And if she does, well, I’d rather have them in our family room than in a parked car or public place. But the former teenage boy living in our midst may have another view.