I must be getting old.
Or am I?
Even though I was the older brother of little sisters, I must confess I pretty much did everything possible - consciously and subconsciously - to avoid having to deal with Barbies or tea parties, anything colored pink, or basically anything that they wanted to do as we all grew up.
I asked myself the other day, "am I subconsciously doing the same thing with my 12-year-old daughter?"
In a sincere effort to test the waters on this latest parenting theory, last night I plopped down on the "girl's" couch in our house and watched one of my daughter's favorite shows. With her. No pleasantries or explanations needed. It was just "prime time," dinner and homework were over, and rather than escape to the "man cave," I opted for the latest episode of ABC Family's Pretty Little Liars. Apparently, it's my daughter's favorite show.
Boy, was I in for a quick and rude awakening. I had been certain and confident in my patriarchal skills - I could handle this, couldn't I? A show that girls liked?
Well, not exactly.
Within minutes, I found myself shouting over the TV to my wife in an another room "is this appropriate?"
The question arose when two of the show's characters - both high school-aged females - were soon in liplock, hands roaming everywhere, laying on top of each other on one of the girls' beds.
This wasn't exactly the Disney Beauty and the Beast moment I had been seeking with my daughter who has seemed to instantaneously outgrown those "goodnight dad, I love you" sentiments I had grown so accustomed to. At what point did such graphic scenes enter the forum of appropriateness for ABC Family Prime Time television.
I thought, "Am I a complete stick-in-the-mud" now? Am I missing some sort of socio-cultural exercise or turn of events that has precluded my ability to have an open mind? Have I become, well, "old?"
Never-mind the detailed Machiavellian "high school" scheming, backstabbing, betrayal and over-the-top boy-girl dilemmas - this super-sexually themed show had my cheeks rose-red and my ire steaming. And I did my very best not to show my dismay. Not cool, I thought. Not cool at all.
I could feel beads of sweat on my temples as I prayed for the camera to switch back to the sordid high school hallway scenes. I prayed to every god I could think of to please, please get back to the dark, quasi-evil cafeteria text messaging the show's main characters seemed transfixed (or addicted to?) upon in every other scene.
Am I that far removed from my high school days that I have completely lost touch with the reality of what it's like to be a teenager, chock full of anxiety and hormones, false bravado, violent gesturing and sharply vindictive humor? Has high school "life" as I once knew it now become a pseudo-pornographic travesty? Didn't the "ABC Family" logo emblazoned on the bottom right-hand corner of the television screen imply that I wouldn't have to suddenly be thrust into the realm of explaining to my daughter why two young women, barely older than she is were intertwined and writhing on a bed on the TV screen at 8:25 pm on a Monday night?
I escaped the immediate explanation as the clock ticked down to 9:00 pm - saved by the bell, as it were! Or had I been? I sensed the fleeting credits at the end of the show was only a temporary stay of insanity - eventually, sooner rather than later, I surmised I would be left with little choice but to be prepared to answer such questions. As much as I felt I did not have the stomach to do so, it was my job. It is my job. Why does it have to be my job? Why?
I guess it's part of a kinder, gentler, "don't-stick-your-head-in-the-sand" society we now live in. Accept it. It happens. It's part of life. We are immersed in a Just Do It universe.
My mind roiled and toiled and my palms sweaty. This was not pleasant. I did not welcome having to explain the two teenage girls "making out" not once, but twice, at length, on the screen......
YIKES. I yearned for the "Lion King" days. I yearned for Nickelodeon. I yearned for Pokemon and those glorious days when my daughter carted her American Girl dolls around like they were her children.
Her bedroom door shut with an awakening thud. Those days are gone, I realized. Those days are long, long gone.
Where did her childhood go so quickly?
And for that matter... where did mine?
Sean Walsh's column, "Musings from The Mills" appears on Patch.com weekly. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org