Musings & Observations / Barry Halpin
I look up and Kelly is standing in the doorway to the family room, arms gesticulating wildly, pinball eyes darting all over the place. She stands there in silence for what seems like an eternity and then in total exasperation the words explode out of her mouth, "Daaaaad, you just don't know what it's like to be a girl."
My mind reels with the enormity of this stunning revelation and I give her my best dumbfounded dad look while scanning my memory banks for a witty response ... but there's none to be found. Being a parent, I decide I am above resorting to the infantile schoolyard comeback: "But you don't know what it's like to be a boy ... Nah nah ne nah nah."
I attempt to get in touch with my feminine side to see if it can offer me any advice or insight but my masculine side has blocked access. Seems my masculine side is a little ticked off about my feminine side showing undue sensitivity at a chick flick I saw recently with my wife and daughters.
My masculine side had said my feminine side was being irrational and overly emotional and she told him to "grow up." It quickly degenerated into a heated argument replete with name calling, then escalated into some serious posturing, until my inner child pleaded with them to act their age and stop it! Cooler heads prevailed and a group hug made everyone feel a whole lot better.
With all the shelves in local bookstores devoted to self help books for every possible relationship or situation, I wonder why some expert hasn't written "What it's Like to be a Girl ... A Father's Guide to the Inner Workings of the Feminine Psyche" or "The Metamorphosis from Loving Child Who Adores You to Alien Life Form" or "Parenting ... What to Do Before You Start Pulling Your Hair Out and Go Stark Raving Mad."
I would like to believe that I have some insight into the inner workings of the female mind as my resume does include close relationships with both my mother and grandmother, 30 years of marriage, twin 24-year-old daughters and women friends and co-workers. I understand that as a general rule, connecting through talking is more important to women, and that women have invisible antennae that allow them to be more aware of the emotions and needs of those around.
Nevertheless, I'm not going to kid myself, I am wandering around in the dark on this one, searching for any beacon of light to guide me on my journey; I hate to admit it but my daughter was 100 percent right ... and she knew it.
Come to think of it, is there anyone out there besides relationship soothsayers, pundits and coaches, Dr. Phil, the occasional guest on the Jerry Springer Show and the Psychic Friends Network folks who claim to really know and understand with any certainty what it's like to be the opposite sex?
Relationship coaches? It's sobering to realize that we've arrived at a point in our evolution where we seem to need coaches for just about everything ... dieting, exercise, investing in the stock market, taking vacations, changing professions, raising children, getting makeovers, having relationships.
If you're looking for guidance or coaching in any aspect of your life, there's always someone out there who will provide it for you -- at a cost. Isn't it so much easier to run someone else's life and don't we all know family members or friends who fall into that category, people who know what is best for us and are not shy in sharing that information, in the spirit of helping us live a more fulfilling life?
I want to know the success rate for these relationship coaches and if their own personal relationships are exemplary and ones I would want to model. When I look around, I see human beings still having incredible difficulty getting along with each other and half of all marriages ending in divorce.
It won't be too long before these coaches move in with us and start giving us a 24-7 dose of advice about how to improve our relationships and of course our lives ... and who in their right mind doesn't want to improve their relationships and their lives.
With the onslaught of reality televsion shows these days, it's only a matter of time before "The Extreme Relationship Makeover Show" comes to prime-time television. Entertainment Weekly would say, "See the raw emotions of people struggling to relate to each other and find true happiness with one another. `The Extreme Relationship Makeover Show' is ground-breaking television, with more epiphanies and emotional catharses than any show in the history of television. It's guaranteed to heal your ailing relationship or save your marriage!"
As Kelly waits for my parental wisdom to pour forth in what she calls Daddyisms, I wonder whether there might be a hidden agenda to her gender-related question. So I look her in the eye and ask, "Kel, you know I don't know what it's like to be a girl ... is there anything else going on here. Am I perhaps missing the hidden subtext?"
An enigmatic Mona Lisa smile crosses her lips, "Dad, am I doomed to only like guys who don't like me and have guys who I don't like, like me." The plaintive cry of a a young woman going through relationship angst, trying to figure out how to navigate the unchartered waters of The Sea of Love.
"Kel, you're bright, attractive and very talented and I know that soon you will find a guy who likes you as much as you like him."
"Dad, you're just saying that because you're my dad and are required to say those kind of things."
"How did you know that? When I took you home from the hospital, I was given a list of things that I was required to say in certain situations and that happened to be one of them. Among the others were: `This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you,' `Don't you dare eat any of my Godiva chocolates' and `No, you can't go out with boys till you're 30.' And one day you just might experience a `Twilight Zone' moment and find yourself saying the same things to your children. Ye olde Circle of Life."
Her glazed look tells me I wasn't getting anywhere, so in the spirit of total honesty I switch gears.
"Kelly, men are simple creatures at heart, while women are much more complex. The average guy's priority is not worrying about relationships. We're in them but relationship analysis is for you ladies. Give a guy some pizza, buddies to hang out with, a wide screen TV and a universal remote and he's deliriously happy. Throw in a car to work on and it borders on nirvana."
She starts to leave the room, but suddenly turns back wearing a Cheshire Cat grin and says, "Thanks for that Daddyism, but there's no need to state the obvious here! Girls figure all that out at an early age."
Barry Halpin is a prevention specialist for Liberation Programs, a substance abuse healthcare agency based in Stamford that provides substance abuse counseling to adolescents and their families in Darien. He's also the director of the countywide Peer Players, an adolescent theater company. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.