I know. Bing has reminded me umpteen times. I said that Liv could only group date until she was 16 and then she could single date.
I lied. Sue me. Or get really, really pissed off at me. Bing sure is. Tinton is right next door to it.
I'd seen him many times. The boy. He is the son of the janitor or building engineer as they call them at Liv's school. He goes to a public high school in a poorer part of town. The kind of school where the majority of the kids are Hispanic. His name is Anthony and he often came after his school got out to wait for his Dad to get off work at 6 and ride home with him. Liv has basketball practice Monday through Thursdays after school til 5 and she would often call me to please pick her up at 6 instead of 5 so that she could get some extra practicing in. I would walk in around 5:30 or so and wait for her. She was usually playing horse (a basketball game...look it up and get your mind out of the gutter, dudes...) with Anthony or he was coaching her by blowing this obnoxious horn at her while she tried to score from the free throw line. He would tell her that this would prepare her to not listen to the crowd.
He gave her some incredible tips and she has improved to the point where she is no longer second string on the team, but first. Her shooting percent has gone from 55% to 80%.
I like Anthony. Sometimes when I came to pick Liv up, other girls would be hanging around too. Sometimes not. Sometimes, she and Anthony would be sprawled on the bleachers and she would be quizzing him on his French, which he did not excel at. At all. Anthony's Dad, Coronado, and I would sometimes exchange pleasantries. When it was time for them to go, Coronado would call to Anthony and say, "Time to get home to Mama's good cookin', my man."
I'm not blind. I could see that Anthony liked Liv a lot. He wasn't moony over her or at least had the sense not to show it around me. But, I liked the way he treated her, with good natured warmth and lots of kidding around. But...something else too. As I said, I am not blind. He looked at her with interest. Like he felt just a little lucky to spend time with her.
Liv never talked about him at all, or I should say very little. She did tell me that while his Dad was Hispanic, his Mother was black and that he told her that he used to be a fat little kid because his Mother put Crisco in everything. Fried a lot of things. And that she had learned to make his Dad's favorite foods: burritos, tacos and cheese enchiladas. His family was big. Three older sisters and one younger brother. His Mother was a SAHM.
That's about all I knew about Anthony. I did know that he and Liv talked on the phone sometimes, but she never seemed secretive about it or goofy around him.
So, I was shocked when on the way home one night a couple of weeks ago, my daughter turned to me and said, "Mama, I need to talk to you. Run something by you."
I said okay. I honestly never saw it coming.
Liv said, "Anthony has asked me to the Winter dance at his school and I thought that I might ask him to the Winter formal at my school if it's okay with you. And Bing. And Dad. I know. It took a village. But, you are my Mother and I know that if you nix this, I won't be going."
I sat as a red light turned green until the car behind me beeped and then I quickly stepped too fast on the gas and we lurched forward.
I pulled into a church parking lot and put the car in park. Turned to Liv.
"Are you kidding me?" I asked her.
Liv looked completely calm. No, she said. She wasn't kidding.
"You are 14!" I said. She nodded. Looked quietly at me.
I didn't say anything for a long time, thought quickly and carefully. My first instinct was to firmly say no. My second was to think before I spoke.
I looked over at Liv. She was looking out her window, waiting patiently. She knows that I think pretty fast, but I do need processing time.
"Give me a day to think, okay?" I asked.
She said okay. I made her pinkie swear NOT to mention this to Bing or her Dad. She laughed and said, "I can easily pinkie swear on THAT, Mama!" And we did. Pinkie swore.
So, I thought about it. All night.
And most of the next day.
I realized that what I really needed to do was first come to a realization. Liv is not a mini me. When I was 14, I was no more ready to date than I was ready to go to college. I was an extremely slow bloomer. I was 16 before I even had a crush. Number one: Liv is not me. She is, and always has been, her own self. In her own way.
But still. 14 was young. Too young? I thought so. Maybe. But, still. Neither one of them could drive. So, no real time alone. Both dances would be well chaperoned, I thought. Especially Liv's formal dance. Nuns and priests galore. I wanted more information. Knowledge is power.
That night, I went into Liv's room and shut the door behind me. She smiled and rolled her eyes.
"Mama, you're acting as if I'm pregnant or something!"
I tried to laugh with her. Told her that I was sorry...but this was kind of a big thing. A date. At her age? I sat down cross legged on her bed.
"I've almost made up my mind, but I have some questions and concerns," I told her.
She closed her lap top and joined me on the bed, sitting across from me, cross legged as well.
I took a breath. Another.
"Okay," I started. "First of all. Who will do the driving to and from these dances, IF I allow this date to happen?"
"Well," Liv said, slowly, "We were thinking that maybe his Dad could drive us and you or Bing or Dad could pick us up at both dances."
I nodded. That seemed okay.
"Now, this is just a special occasion, yes? You aren't going to start wanting to go alone with him to movies, etc. are you?"
Liv paused. Thought. "I don't think so," she said, carefully. "He hasn't asked me to do anything like that. Can we just cross that bridge when we come to it? Actually, I think group dating to movies and parties sounds like a better plan, agreed?"
I heartily agreed.
"I know his Dad and I will speak with him about this. I would also like to speak to his Mother. How do you feel about that?"
Liv looked a little greenish at that. "What will you talk about? Mama, PLEASE don't start setting kissing rules and all that shit, I mean stuff. I swear we don't kiss. We haven't even held hands!"
I sat back. Did she really think I would do that? Seriously? I told her that OF COURSE I would not set up some arbitrary kissing rules! I just wanted to meet his family. I knew his Dad and liked him and I wanted to know his Mother as well. At least speak to her.
Liv sighed, agreed. But, you could see she was leery about this. She was worried that I would embarrass her. I have now become a potential embarrassment in my daughter's life. Well, tough titty.
I looked at her for a long moment and felt my heart go soft. She looked so sweet in this light, so very young and smart and yes, even a little wise for her age.
I reached and took her hand in mine.
"Liv, have you talked to other girls about this? Do other girls have....um...dates? (I could barely SAY the word, this was not boding well...) And what about the fact that he's well...not white? Is that going to put either of you in a hard place? I know that I am old and in my time things were different, but I guess I really don't know what the racial atmosphere is like at your school..."
It was nice sitting here holding my child's hand, even if mine felt like it was a sweaty mess....
Liv answered quickly. She said that she knew of just a couple of girls in her class who had dates, not many. And that, yes, she had talked about it with her friends, especially her close friends on the basketball team, her new besties at school: Sylvie and Polly. They both liked Anthony and didn't think anything of it. One girl at her lunch table had made some smart alec comment about her dating the hired help and Liv had quickly squelched that.
"I told her that if she wanted to act like a racist elitist, be my guest," Liv said. "Mama, it isn't an issue for me or Anthony. You know what one of the first serious things was that we talked about? The fact that he had one foot in the Black culture and the other in the Hispanic one. I told him that I felt kind of the same way, that my Father was a full blooded Lakota and you were first generation American Irish AND that I have the added bonus of having two Mothers. I could care less what his Father does for a living and he's never asked what you or Dad do for a living. He knows that Bing is a teacher. It isn't really an issue for us. And if it's an issue for any of my friends, well, who wants them as friends? Anthony and I are really good friends and we'd like to attend dances at each others schools. It is really just that simple. I don't even need a new dress. I can wear that pretty black one that I have to his dance and my sage green one to our Christmas formal. That's pretty dressy...."
I let go of her hand and stroked her foot, right above her arch, where she particularly enjoys being rubbed. She has high arches and lovely, long feet. Ballerina feet, I always thought.
"Well," I said, "I guess it's settled. Do you have his home phone number? I can call his Mother if it's okay with you and if that goes well, I guess we need to put this in front of Bing and Tinton, but I will stand by you, okay?"
She took me by surprise. She flew into my arms so hard that she knocked me backwards. We lay giggling (yes, I do giggle occasionally, but ONLY with my daughter...) and then smiling at each other. I suddenly felt almost shy and whispered my next question to her.
"Livvy...how do you feel about Anthony? Do you like him or do you....like him?"
Her face softened. "Mama, I really, really like him. Not like...I want to marry him like him, but I think he is funny and smart and kind and sweet and he makes me feel cared for and he's such a genuine boy, so thoughtful and goodnatured. I sort of feel...floaty...around him sometimes, but mostly, I just think he's so much fun and we have such a lot to talk about...." She tapered off and I watched her face.
I asked her if she had been prepared for me to say no.
She nodded, slowly. "I was kind of surprised that you said yes, but you know...you see my heart and you trust me, right?"
"So, I hoped that you would come around...."
We agreed that our hurdle would be Bing and maybe her Dad. We decided to just go lay everything on the table with them after I spoke to Anthony's Mom. Liv asked me if they both said no, if the answer was no or.....?
"I am the final vote," I said. "But, I want to give them a fair chance to be heard, don't you think that's a good idea?"
"Um...not really...," Liv said. I saw that her cheeks had two bright pink spots, her tell. Whenever Liv is really nervous or anxious, she has a pretty good poker face, except for those two spots...
Liv dialed up Anthony and when he answered, explained that her Mother would like to talk to his. He promptly put her on. She and I talked for several minutes. Her first sentences to me were, "Well, I was hoping that you would call me. If you hadn't, I would have called you. Our Anthony sure thinks highly of your Liv." And then we just talked. She has a garden too. We both grow roses. I told her that we would be calling in a few days to finalize the plans for picking up. I liked her. She seemed very nice. She also told me to give her best to my partner and Liv's Dad, so she was obviously cognizant of our lives and okay with everything.
Liv watched me carefully for the first few moments and then pulled up her laptop and did homework until we finished. Then, she told Anthony she would call him after she faced "the firing squad." She laughed nervously into the phone over this and then hung up and raised her eyebrows at me and said she was ready.
So, we went downstairs and called a family meeting.
Liv didn't even get the first paragraph out of her mouth before Bing was shaking her head no. Adamantly.
"No," Bing said, firmly. "No, Liv. You are too young. Maybe when you're 16. For now, no."
Tinton was quiet, as is his way. He tends to think things through. But, he said that he ultimately agreed with Bing, that yes, Liv was too young. Perhaps, Andy could come over and have dinner with us sometime?
"His name is ANTHONY," Liv said, a hint of ice in her voice.
Bing looked (a little smugly) over at me, I thought. "What do YOU think, Maria?" she asked. She was so very sure of my answer.
"I think that yes, she is young. But, I am not opposed to this," I said. "It's a well chaperoned dance. I've met Anthony's Father. He is the janitor ("BUILDING ENGINEER" Liv corrected me....Jeez Louise, he's the janitor, enough with these made up names....) at her school and I like him. I've already spoken to his Mother..."
Bing interrupted me.
"You are FUCKING kidding me!" she practically yelped. "You've already talked to her? So, hey...why are WE even being consulted?"
"Because I care about what you think," I told her. "But...you are ABSOLUTELY correct in assuming that the final say is MINE. I am her MOTHER."
Bing was furious. I could see the tip of her nose going white. Her tell when she's angry. She muttered, "I'm her Mother too, Maria. No, I didn't birth her, but she's mine too. And Tinton's."
Tinton hadn't spoken since his first utterance against it. He still didn't speak. Just looked at me gravely.
Bing tried again. "You always said, we always AGREED that Liv should be at least 16 before she dated, Maria. We AGREED."
I tried to be consoling. "I know, honey," I said. "But, I have to follow my heart, my arrow. And the truth is that I trust Liv and I think that in this situation, it will be just fine. As, I said, both dances are well chaperoned and Anthony's Dad will take them and one of us will pick them up PROMPTLY at the end of the dance."
Bing's face was hard. "Not me," she said coldly. "I refuse to participate."
Liv looked at me. "So, are we finished?" she asked. "Can I go back to my homework?"
I said yes. Liv walked by Bing and quietly hugged her arm as she walked by. Bing didn't pull away but she didn't hug back either.
And then the three of us stood looking at each other silently.
Finally, Tinton said, "Well, the one up side to all of this is that I can't wait to see your Sister's face, Maria, when she sees the photo that will ultimately be taken of Liv on her first date with a dark skinned boy whose name is Anthony Cortez....."
And bless him....that broke the ice between all of us. We all had to laugh. Because, yes...my Sister will totally freak out. Liv has her first date...not with some privileged boy from an all male Catholic school, but with a janitor's son, a half Black, half Hispanic boy. I can just hear her calling my other Sisters to report how this is EXACTLY what they feared from the way their heathen Sister has raised that Livvy.....
So, the dances were last weekend. And they were fine. His dance was on Friday and that one was less dressy. It was something called a "Jeans and Tees" dance. And that is what Liv ended up wearing: a pair of jeans and a tee shirt. So did Anthony. His Dad took them to the dance. Tinton picked them up and said that he ended up giving another boy a ride home too because he was spending the night with Anthony. So...not such a big deal.
Liv's formal Christmas dance was more...datey. She wore her beautiful green dress and seemed almost nervous as she dressed. She asked me to help her curl her straight-as-a-seal hair and I wielded the curling iron well. Liv put on some blush and pale pink lip gloss. High heels.
We were all downstairs except for her when the doorbell rang. I answered it and there was Anthony, looked dapper in nice shirt, jacket and tie. He held a small box in his hand and I was glad that we had thought to buy him a boutonniere. Liv came down the steps carefully in her heels. I felt Anthony catch his breath when he saw her. She blushed.
He caught himself and said drily, "Well, you sure clean up nice...."
He handed her the box and Liv opened it to find a lovely pink wrist corsage. It was um....HUGE. It was so big that her tiny wrist seemed engulfed in bloom. But, she smiled broadly with her jack-o-lantern smile as he helped her put it on her wrist. And then she ran to get his flower and tried unsuccessfully to pin it on Anthony's shirt. I saw her hands shaking. It was then that I realized that she was nervous, she was scared. This immediately propelled me into Mama-fix-it mode and I pinned it on for him.
I liked the way he looked at Liv. There was nothing wolfish about him, something that I admit I had secretly feared. He looked...awestruck and at a loss for words but he was gamely trying to joke his way through it for both of them. I liked him so much for that. But, more...I saw something in his eyes that comforted me. I saw that he would protect her, look out for her. I have no idea from WHAT as they were not going out into a zombie apocalypse, but merely to a formal dance.
As he helped Liv with her coat and then held the door for her, I suddenly became so choked up that I couldn't talk and it was then that Bing stepped forward and took over for me. She put her arm gently around me and said, "Have fun, guys...we will see you at eleven SHARP."
I waved, still couldn't speak.
Because suddenly it hit me.
My daughter was going on a real date. A formal date. With a boy. She had a fucking CORSAGE on her wrist. A giant corsage. A fucking giantess corsage. On her sweet little innocent wrist.
What the FUCK was I thinking? HOW could I have said yes to this? Was I INSANE?
I turned away as the door shut and looked over at Tinton whose face mirrored mine. We both stared helplessly at each other. Again, he broke the tension.
"I've always been that anti-gun guy. But right now, I want to stand in that doorway with a rifle across my chest and I want that little punk to see it."
And there....we all laughed just a little.
Finally, it was time to go pick them up. I had agreed to go get them and Bing, true to her word, was not participating. But, Tinton said that he wanted to ride along with me.
"Do you think that looks too parenty?" he asked me.
I told him that we WERE the parents. We were ALLOWED to both be there.
"Do we have time to stop at a gun store on the way?" he asked, smiling at me. And then suddenly, before I could make a smart crack back, he was hugging me tightly, his chin hard on my head.
"I can't believe I just saw my daughter in a formal dress with a corsage on her wrist tonight leaving the house on a real date with a real boy," he said. "I may not recover anytime soon...."
I took a deep breath and hugged him back and then pulled away. Bing stood alone, a few feet away. Tinton held out his arm to include her.
She shook her head. "Oh, no you don't," she said. "I want to go forever down on record as being opposed to this idiotic thing."
And so she was.
We picked up Anthony and Liv. They were pink cheeked and breathless from dancing almost every dance and drinking lots of lots of punch and eating many, many sugar cookies and as Anthony called them, "those little wedding mints that sort of melt on your tongue."
They both said that they had fun and talked animatedly all the way back to Anthony's house about how that teacher had tried to teach everyone something called the chicken dance and how a priest had insisted on waltzing several teachers around and a few students too.
After we dropped Anthony off, (he didn't even try to kiss or hug Liv just sort of patted her and told her that she looked "super awesome" and thanked her again and again for being the best first date in the world), Liv fell asleep almost immediately on the way home.
"I feel like we should stop at the liquor store and get some tequila and go home and do shots," I told him.
"I feel like I NEVER want to see a boy look at my daughter like that again," Tinton retorted. "I think we should get her to a nunnery....like tomorrow morning."
So...it's over. Liv has had her first date.
I wonder what's next?