BY LIZ AXELROD
My daughter has had two boyfriends so far. She’s a late starter (not a problem for me) and quite a picky gal (also not a problem). Last weekend she asked if she could stay at boyfriend number two’s place in upstate New York. Not having met him, I said no but he can come to our place.
Now, this is not really about my daughter and her night of pizza making and hanging on the couch with the kid who walked in with his sweaty palms and Beiber hair and said “Hey, I’m Kyle from Orange County.” I had to stifle my giggle at his nervous stance and almost-eye contact. I tried my best to stay out of their way and be available too – quite the opposite of what my mother had done. When I was a teen, my mom worked all hours as a waitress, and then stayed out all hours as a young hot south Florida single mom in search of her candyman. She didn’t know better. It was the times, I guess. And the candy was sweeter then, and more important, and much less filled with artificial colors and flavors and cancer.
We live in different times. I’m a single mom too, but I would not be able to function if I didn’t know my daughter’s whereabouts and whatabouts as well. I still have my fun, but I forgo the sugar candies for the healthy stuff with substance, well…most of the time. Hey, a girl needs her sugar fix sometimes too. But I digress…
Back to the night of Beiber and my daughter – suffice to say, they had a great night together – and then she didn’t hear from him. It’s been a couple of weeks. I’ve consoled and I’ve offered advice, but there is nothing a mother can do but try to be there with the tissues, the chocolate and the answers based upon my experiences. She will survive. That much I know. I did. We all do.
Her ordeal brought me right back to my teens when I was a wobbly-legged, budding-breasted insecurity-laden lovestruck fool with a book, and always a crush and a sideways glance.
Oh, how I remember Tommy Jones (not his name, I don’t really remember that). He wore knee socks and jean shorts and his curly blond hair waved back and forth as he hit the paddleball with his hard, calloused palms. More than anything, I remember the whap twip thonk of the ball hitting the powder blue wall in the back of our school, which is now a correctional facility in South Florida. Yes, there is some sort of strange poetic justice to that place being a lock-down facility. It was where all my crushes were put in solitary.
Face it, when you’re young you tend to pick from the pool of wide-eyed poster smiles, and think that substance is about the length of hair, the width of hip, the brand of clothes and the swagger. We all love a bit of swagger and we all love the thought of the beautiful ones wanting us for more than just the beauty. Of course that happens sometimes and sometimes it is perfect and fabulous. But more often than not, it’s just facade.
Today it’s even harder to peel away the layers of improvisation to get to character, since we all seem so intent in creating our character for our pages. We tumble and tweet and post our likes and lusts online and we don’t even get to smell the perfume before our credit cards are maxed out from buying all that plastic. It’s hard. So the best we can do for our daughters and ourselves is try to step away from the page and get to know each other.
I talked with my daughter about this, and she seems to get it. Her latest was in love with emoticons. He sent her so many hearts she thought he was in perpetual swoon. I told her to be wary. She did take a couple steps back and took her time before pasting hearts and flowers into her texts too. Oh, they texted for weeks and went on pretty city dates to libraries, clothing, and comic shops, but then, abruptly, the emoticons disappeared, and the texts, and the calls.
I wish I had answers for her, just like I wish I knew why the boy I lusted after all junior year finally took me on a date, why we had two happy months together and then he cheated on me with a our favorite waitress. I still get that sinking feeling in my stomach when I think about how Tommy Jones never swiveled his body back to look my way, or how the professor I loved in college spent the night at my dorm and then wouldn’t kiss me goodbye the next day, and ignored me in class the rest of the semester. Or how the boy I spent New Year’s Eve with showed up on my birthday, five days later, to a poetry reading with another date. I can’t fathom rhyme or reason. We all go through it. We all try hard to grasp at answers when we know the answer has nothing to do with us. It’s the way of the world. Like Woody Allen say’s “The heart is a very resilient little muscle.”
When she said all men suck, I told my daughter to look at her dad. Yes, that didn’t work out so well for me either, but he’s a good man.
And then we talked about how wonderful and awesome my man is. He loves me for me and he loves her as well. He hates to see her sad, said he seriously wanted to kick that boy’s ass. But that’s not the thing. The thing is – he and I have a bond that goes beyond emoticons and keeps growing stronger. And she will find that someday too.
Frogs reproduce much faster and are way more prevalent in the pond, but there are also swans and lily pads, lush green grasses and trees to provide shade and solace while we nurse our wounds and take the time to learn that there are still princes - they just don’t necessarily conform to Disney standards.
And neither should we.
Editor's Note: This originally appeared on our old site.
Liz Axelrod received her MFA from the New School in 2013. She writes poems, book reviews, essays, fiction and anything her pointed pen finger deems relevant. Her work has been published in The Rumpus, Publisher’s Weekly, The Brooklyn Rail, Electric Literature, Counterpunch, Nap Magazine, Yes Poetry, The Ampersand Review, and more. Her Chapbook "Go Ask Alice" was chosen as a finalist in the 2015 Finishing Line Press New Woman's Voices Competition and will be published in March, 2016. She is an Adjunct Professor at SUNY Westchester Community College, a book reviewer for Kirkus Reviews, staff writer for Luna Luna Magazine, and co-host and curator of the Cedermere Reading Series in the home of William Cullen Bryant. Find her here: www.yourmoonsmine.com