Save the Last Dance for Dad

Posted February 6, 2012 by jimhigley

My daughter and I went to a Valentine’s Daddy-Daughter Dance. It was in the cafeteria of a local grade school. “Formal,” said the pink flyer she brought home one day. I later learned that meant all fluorescent lights would be off and we’d be dancing to the moonlit glow of a few exit signs.

My daughter had one goal for the night. She wanted to look grown-up. Apparently, in her seven years on the planet, she had her fill of girlie dresses that made her look like, well, a little girl. She was ready to advance to the next look.

We found that “look” in a sophisticated dark green velvet creation, complete with a matching sash, black tights and black patent leather shoes. She most definitely got the older woman thing down, easily passing for a nine-year-old.

There wasn’t much “Daddy-Daughter” dancing going on that night, however. It seems seven-year-old girls prefer dancing with other seven-year-old girls much more than they do with their Shrek-like dads. But, thank goodness for the deejay who, before playing the final song of the evening, told all the girls to grab their fathers because “your daddy always gets the last dance.”

So I got my last dance. I also got a promise that we’d return the following year for a repeat performance.

That was ten years ago. And, no, we didn’t return the next year or any other year for that matter. As fast as you could say “Cha Cha Slide,” dances with daddy went out of style.

What never went out of style, however, was the pursuit of finding the perfect dress for the next dance on her social calendar.

Our most recent hunt began a few weeks ago.

“Dad, I was hoping we could look for a dress for Turnabout tomorrow,” suggested the young woman who once was the little girl in the green velvet dress.

And, so began our day searching for the perfect dress. Our itinerary included four stores. The “look” this year needed to be unlike dresses of the past. “Mature” was the goal. I was having a deja vu moment.

Ive got this dad-etiquette-in-the-womens-dressing-room thing down. Ive learned how to give my daughter the space she needs to try things on but be close by when she wants to show me something. I know when she refuses to step out of the dressing room in dress “A” that I shouldn’t push the issue. I know when she invites me to sneak a look through a dressing room door to show me dress “B”  that she’s unsure of something and wants to dialogue. And, I know when she steps out of the dressing room in dress “C” to give me the catwalk thing that I need to focus.

We had a morning full of “I’m not coming out,” and “This is gross!” and “Too long,” or “Too short,” plus “I look like curtains!” kind of comments. So I spent a lot of time sitting on pink leather chairs and cream-puff-like ottomans paging through copies of fashion magazines and catalogs while she tried on an assortment of dresses.

But, then she found it. The one. I not only got the catwalk thing, I got the entire sales staff to join in and start accessorizing her. If this were a movie, there would have been a flood of sunshine from the skies, butterflies fluttering, and bunnies and deer flocking around her feet. It was a Pretty Woman moment. Teenage version.

“Are you sure it looks good?” she asked me over and over.

I assured her it was fantastic several times.

What I wanted to tell her was that I preferred to wind back the hands of time to the days of the green velvet dress. And, speaking of which, I had half a notion to point out that this new dress actually had far less fabric than the green velvet dress. I wanted to suggest to her that black tights might look good. Who wants to see so much leg? I guess I wanted to admit to her–or maybe to myself–that I wasn’t quite ready for her to look so grown-up, walk in high heels without wobbling, and not require my chauffeuring services to-and-from dances.

But this wasn’t about me so I bit my tongue, absorbed the moment, and pulled out my credit card.

Driving home, while she was looking through a bag with new shoes and jewelry, I casually tossed out a question. “Do you remember the deejay from the Daddy-Daughter dance we went to when you were little?”

“Um, no,” she answered. “That’s random.”

“Never mind, “I retreated. “Never mind. I was just thinking…”

  • Michael Gray

    Wow.  This is a great post.  Does your daughter ever read your blog?  If so, I think this will be very meaningful to her (if not today, then someday).

    I hope to be fortunate enough to have a daughter of my own one day — though stories like these make me wonder if I can make it through in one piece.

  • Erica McNeal

    This is PRECIOUS! I agree with Michael… hope your daughter reads this. Thanks for the reminder to do everything I can to live each day to the fullest with my little ones now; for they will not be little for long! Oh, and there was just a Father/Daughter dance out here this past weekend… maybe it’s coming back! =)

    • Jim Higley

      Thanks for such a nice note! My daughter HAS read this and I think she loves it. Great memories! Thanks for reading!