Long ago, in High School, there were annual events that were advertised boldly on great sheets of colored paper and poster paint. Prom, Tolo, Homecoming, Mother/Daughter Tea and Daddy/Daughter Dances.
Each year, during the winter (if memory serves), the DDD would be held somewhere with a “chicken or beef” type dinner, a DJ and a room full of fathers with their teenage daughters. I’m probably remembering it through foggy eyes, but the girls were dressed up (likely in some kind of Laura Ashley knock-off dress, all floral and poofy in the sleeves, perhaps with a matching hair barrette; what can I say, it was the 80s) and the dads were sporting suits and looking a bit uncomfortable. The large dining tables required small talk, often with people we barely knew at school – let alone their dads. It was awkward, even for someone like my dad who is seasoned at small talk (years of practice in his business life, but still not something that he really digs – who does really love small talk?)
More awkward than the meal though was the dancing after. The little parquet floor was indeed little – hardly more than a postage stamp. The fathers would escort their daughters to the floor and an odd melange of 1960s and 1980s would emerge. Most of the girls didn’t know the first thing about partner dancing; the closest I ever came to doing it well was during musical theatre performances and somehow the dances from “Hello Dolly” never seemed to come back into fashion. The fathers would stumble a bit, trying to look cool in an impossible situation. Forget those commercials of brides and dads waltzing lovingly and all dewy-eyed; most of these dads were trying not to step on their kids and the girls were trying not to look at their dads while they danced.
For me, as a shy kid who hid her shyness by singing, dancing at these events was really tough. For my dad, it was probably a little tougher. My dad and mom are cute together when they dance but my dad and I make a odd looking pair. Dad too is shy and I know going to this kind of thing was something he really wouldn’t want on his own, but that was the point. He did it for me.
I remember getting a corsage for one of these dances. I think it was pink. I’m sure mom had ordered it for him but I remember feeling like it was something really special to be going out to dinner and dancing with my dad, a pink carnation and rose corsage pinned to my dress. I think he wore a gray suit that night, maybe even with a pink tie himself. Pretty sure we both had the chicken. We both shambled and stumbled on the parquet dance floor before making a hasty retreat, both probably relieve to be going home. But I won’t forget that he brought me, taking the time to share an awkward dinner and dance with his daughter.
I appreciated it then, dad, and I remember it fondly now. Happy Father’s Day.