Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Rachel: What’s the deal with the White Stripes? Is it over or what?

Jefferson: Looks like. With new drummers, Jack White will just have to learn to count past four.

The emails fly back and forth between my teenage daughter Rachel and myself.

She’s always been open with me, telling me things she doesn’t necessarily tell her mother or stepfather. I’m a sounding board in her life: a smart, responsible adult who loves her without wielding any actual authority over her.

This makes me “cool.”

It’s my compensation for having my child grow up so far away.

A few months ago, a breezy email from Rachel ended with an off-the-cuff query. “So, Dad, if I were to get married (like, next summer), which side of my family would pay for the wedding?”

I pondered that for a moment before replying.

“The days are long gone when a bride’s family was expected to shoulder the full costs of a wedding,” I wrote. “When you marry, I’m sure everyone will contribute. But if you marry in your teens, you should factor in the price of more dental work, because I’m going to break all of your newly straightened teeth.

Because I love you like that. Dad.”

“I dunno, Dad,” Rachel replied. “I kinda like my new teeth. But I have to tell you, I think Ray is going to propose at a party this weekend. And if he does, I’m going to say yes.”

Ray is the guy Rachel has been seeing since June. They work together, they go to college together and—since August—they have lived together.

Rachel is eighteen. Ray is nineteen.

My mind raced through the obvious responses.

They are too young to marry. They’ve only known each other for a few months. Clearly, they should wait before taking such a step. Get engaged, maybe, but hold off on marriage until after college. If they love one another now, then why not wait to see how they feel in a few years?

This much was obvious. I could be sure that Rachel had considered these factors, and I could be sure that other people had said as much to her.

Now she brought it to me—the “cool” adult in her life.

She had already anticipated the obvious responses.

She told me about the possibility of an engagement now because she had to do so. I would need to know at some point. To a lesser degree, she sought my advice, as she trusts my judgment and, to an even lesser degree, she wanted my blessing.

But we both knew she didn’t need my permission. She was old enough to vote, get tattooed or die for her country. By law, she could marry anyone she wanted.

One sixth of her life again, and she could buy a six pack of beer.

I would need a more considered response.

My relationship with Rachel is easily the most delicate and nuanced in my life. She’s my daughter courtesy of the accidents of biology and preference.

I fucked Rachel’s mother for a few months when we were in college, unaware that, at age nineteen, she was forming a lifelong aversion to birth control that would come to produce my daughter and the seven brothers and sisters that followed; the children to come from my marriage would ultimately give Rachel ten younger siblings by the time she hit her teens.

“Cum inside me,” her mother had whispered.

“The pill is awesome,” I had thought, accurately but, in this case, without relevance.

Rachel grew up with two other fathers. The first was her mother’s first boyfriend, who was lead to believe that Rachel was his child (1988-1990). The other was the man who fathered her mother’s seven other children (1990-present)—her mother’s other children to date, I feel obliged to add, as her mother is still young and no less averse to birth control than she was when Rachel was conceived.

Not long after I knocked her up, Rachel’s mom found religion. She read the Bible at least as far as Genesis 1:28. She was destined to be fruitful and multiply.

She ran into a sticky situation somewhere around the ninth commandant so long as her boyfriend believed Rachel to be his child.

She fixed that, rather messily, by confessing to her boyfriend that I was the previous patriarch and then seeking to find another.

Her boyfriend of those years is still close to Rachel and her mother, and, in a curious turn of events, a third father to Rachel and a second to her siblings, even as he continues to hope for children of his own.

Through this happenstance, Rachel has known me as her biological father since she was in diapers. At age seven, she sent me a very nice letter asking if she could call me “Dad.”

That night, I got drunk and cried. The next day, I sent her a very nice letter signed “Dad.”

Since then, her stepfather has been “Bill” and I have been “Dad.”

Now, a decade or so later, “Dad” was asked to weigh in on Rachel’s imminent offer of a proposal of marriage.

Never mind that I was still digging myself out of divorce.

I bought a little time with Rachel, and asked my friends for advice.


Anonymous said...

Don't try to be cool: just explain to her why you think that's a bad idea. If that doesn't convince her, accept what she wants and be happy for her.

And make sure you don't let your own failed marriage weigh in too heavily. Just because you married the bitch from hell doesn't mean it never works (even if she's 18).

Oh, and a very happy new year!

Josh Jasper said...

You know, you're also alowed to talk to *him*, as well as her. I mean, beyoned a threatening his life phase. And also to suggest that they make it a long, long engagement. Say, a couple of years. You could offer to put some money aside for them each year if they delay for a while to make sure it's the right thing.

Jsut a thought. Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Being near the age of your daughter and having a younger sister in the same predicament, I feel the need to say something. If she is hell bent, nothing you say, short of cutting off her bf's penis will stop her. However, I did point out to my sister that she is still figuring out who she is as a person, and while her bf and her may grow together, they may also grow apart. And until she has a strong hold on who she is as a person, she needs to think of how her love will be affected. She has a better shot of growing with her bf and marrying him someday if they have the freedom to choose to grow and stay together. When you put pressure on a relationship too soon it can ruin even the best of intentions. They may both want to love each other forever, but in reality love doesnt always work like that. I am still torn on the soulmate/no soulmate debate, but I do know that many of the people we love in life are only supposed to be our lives for a short time. Perhaps to teach us something, or force us to grow more towards the person we are to become. So, tell her that she should just be content in her relationship for now, and when they are ready to get married some day they may be much happier overall because they waited. Hope this helps a little.

Anonymous said...

She's smart, right? And responsible?

So, more power to her, whatever she decides.

If she gets married now, either the marriage will last and she'll be happy for a long time, or it'll fail and she'll have the practice one out of the way.

Or it will be, god forbid, a terrible tragedy, but that can always happen no matter what we decide.

Asian Big Girl said...

You know, convincing them not to marry would be a hell of a whole lot easier if they weren't so gosh darn *cute.*

Though I'm still more than willing to do the subtle (for me, anyway) behind the scenes email back and forth to her and casually comment some more on the whole thing...ya know, cute girl to cute girl. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey, Jefferson, I'm glad to see you have ads on your blog now! Okay, I know that seems like an odd, out-of-the-blue thing to say. But I was thinking about you this morning and thinking, "Ya know, that guy gets enough hits that he could make some serious bourbon money if he put up some ads." And you have!

You can see, also, that I have dropped any pretense of pseudonymity. Personally, I can't keep up with that shit. So here I am!

Bad Kitty said...

I got married when I was 21, to someone I had dated for 5 years, and it lasted 2 1/2 years until I realized that I wasn't who I was trying to be, and the real me didn't have a whole lot in common with the man I had married. The main problem was that I wasn't self-aware enough to know these things when I got married. . . I had to grown into it.
On the other hand, my brother married at about the same age, to his high-school sweetheart, and they now have 3 beautiful children and have a very tight partnership.

There really is no way to know what will happen, or who we will become. While I agree with the idea of a long engagement and help with fundage, the main ingredients of your relationship will remain the same: Trust, Support, Honesty and Love.
It's okay for you to have doubts, but if she doesn't have any, then support her decision to marry if she feels that it is the right time. If you are honest with her without trying to control her, she will love you and respect you no matter what happens to her relationship with this man.
There's my 2 cents. Hope it helps.

Anonymous said...

I agree with josh jasper, although I'm not saying that you're daughter is that way, but where I'm from kids think that once their adults, that their able to marry. From my observation here, the girls push the guy into it. I have seen plenty of people my age and younger already divorced by the time they're 21, but on the other hand, there's always the high school sweethearts going on 50 years.

I've finally figured out why there is a shortage of men around here, they're either married or have 10 kids and a crazy ex-wife.

Josh Jasper said...

Pseudonymity. I've heard of that.

Bianca said...

If they're really in love and mature, then I think they should be able to handle a long engagement. There's nothing wrong with being engaged at this age, especially since it would give her a chance to see if she still feels the same way in a year or two.

And also, what is the deal with the White Stripes? Are they together still or not?

Anonymous said...

well, you could urge them to wait and mature a bit, but what the heck is maturity anyway? - i am nearly 40 and still discovering myself...so, maybe they should just go for it now instead of wondering in 20 years what life would have been like had they married younger...that's just my two cents, for whatever it is worth. -dg

Madeline Glass said...

Honey, the fish you've got to fry with that one are still swimming in the barrel of bathwater.

Anonymous said...

ah L'amour! my french mom told me 2 things that have paved my way to the blissful lifeI now live" never marry a man youhave not lived with for a year." " never live with someoen until you have enough money set aside that if you wanted to walk out on a whim you'd have enough for security deposits and at least the first month's rent." I liked the advice. having said that. You are obviously a fantastic sensitive father and the answer you seek lies within. ( chinese cookie style) _frenchysfollies lost her password and now I am condemned to anonymous...