This video appeared in my Facebook feed today. I normally don’t bother with this stuff anymore, but I was bored and curious, so I clicked.
If you don’t feel like watching, here’s the summary: Guy getting all dressed up. For some reason, he’s with another guy, and they’re talking about whatever is going on like it’s a big deal. Guy #1 says whoever “she” is will be surprised. It sounds for all the world like he’s about to propose marriage (though from the title of the video you know already that’s not true). We follow him to another location, where he picks up not an adult woman but a little girl who turns out to be his daughter. He proceeds to tell her how cute she is (she says she gets it from her mother). Then they go on their “date,” all dressed up, to play at the playground. At the end, the text says, “You’ll always be her first love.”
The first thing that grabs me is how utterly creepy this is due to the common aspect of conservative Christian culture where dads “date” their daughters and daughters make purity pledges. Now, I’m not saying that’s what’s going on in the video; only that it reminds me of purity culture. Aside from the unnecessary sexualization surrounding the “date” concept, this puts dads as a place holder for their daughters’ future husbands. What an absolutely inappropriate practice, a sheer removal of her agency in her own life.
I also found myself wondering why the hell they needed to get into formal wear to play on the playground. Have these people ever seen kids at playgrounds? Mine always come home dirty and sweaty. And fancy dresses are not a whole lot of fun for climbing and running and jumping. Couldn’t dad and daughter just have gone out to play without all the hoopla?
Additionally, what about a girl who doesn’t have a dad in her life? Perhaps he died or disappeared or she’s only ever had two moms. What then? Should her mom or moms hire a dad for the day? Or is she under the care of her grandfather or an uncle? On the flip side, a girl might have more than one dad. Is she expected to do this with both a father and a stepfather if she’s close to both of them? In fact, is she even allowed to? Do both her gay dads have to put on tuxes for her? And is that simultaneous or one at a time? I have so many questions.
We do not do this to our sons. We do not encourage mommies to dress up in pearls and ball gowns and “date” our sons. (Though if we did, it would look vastly different—it would be on the sons to pretend to be grown up men, courting their ladies.) In fact, we think boys with this attachment to their moms is unhealthy and strange. It’s even in our language. Being a “daddy’s girl” is a good thing, a sign that dad is the most important man in her life. Being a “mama’s boy” is exactly the opposite—evidence of an immature little boy in a man’s body who can’t let go (or his mother won’t let go).
I’m going to take it one step further and say that we don’t encourage moms to “date” daughters and dads to “date” sons, either. That speaks volumes to the fact that it does indeed have romantic/sexual overtones. If we were to encourage moms to “date” their daughters (and I mean more than a girls’ day out to the spa), we would have to acknowledge both the pre-sexualization and the homophobia present in the “date” concept.
We would also have to acknowledge the gender-role norming. Dads are certainly encouraged to spend time with their sons, but not ever by doing anything as “gay” as getting dressed up in tuxes and going on a date or as “feminine” as treating themselves to a day at the spa or a round of shoe shopping. (Believe me, I know plenty of guys—gay and straight—who would have loved the chance to do this with their dads!)
I’d like to propose a far less creepy alternative (with far less messiness than figuring out who gets to/has to play Dad-in-Shining-Armor). How about we eliminate the “date” concept entirely? Maybe we just spend time one-on-one with our kids, doing things they enjoy. Maybe instead of a surprise day of playing playground prom we get into our grubby clothes and hang out with them at the park. Maybe we listen to them and find out what their interests are and then find ways to enjoy their hobbies together.
Here’s an idea: Let’s talk about it and share ideas for fun things to do with our kids. If you’re a parent (even if your kids are grown), what do you like to do with your kids? What do your kids enjoy?