Thanks to new rules under which the citys public schools must eliminate gender-based practices unless they serve a clear educational purpose, PS 65 on Staten Island has canceled its annual father-daughter dance.
What a tragedy. Such a dance means something a little different for each daughter and father who attend, but I have no doubt all girls and dads get something invaluable out of it.
The first and only father-daughter dance I ever attended was when I was in ninth grade, way back in 1972. Its my first memory of my father and I doing something together. It served as proof to me that after a 10-year separation, my parents had indeed gotten back together, and he would from that point forward be ensconced in my life.
My parents separated before I was school age. I spent kindergarten through eighth grade as one of three girls in the class being raised by a single mother. And because the dads of the other two were dead, I really didnt feel like I was part of the small group. My dad was alive, just not around.
Right after I graduated from eighth grade, my mom told me my father was moving back to the Bronx. My parents were going to give things another try. I never asked what prompted this I guess because even then, I knew what goes on between married people was none of my business.
At first, I had mixed feelings. He left and decided to come back and I was supposed to welcome him with open arms? Yeah, right. Then I realized that up until then, our not having a relationship was on him, but if I didnt want to get to know him, then not having a relationship would be on me.
Id spent a decade fantasizing that someday my prince would return and then it happened. Not only that, but at the perfect time: I was going to start high school, meaning all new people, who, unlike those in grammar school, would know me as someone with two parents.
I could finally start sentences with, My father said . . . My father doesnt want me to go . . . and, Thats OK, my dad will drive me.
One of the first events of my high school career was the dance. I understand now that the beginning of the teenage years is when a girl starts to pull away from family, hence the reason why when the flyers went out, quite a number of girls scoffed and called the event lame.
That was fine, as I generated enough excitement for 10 people; in fact, I believe I was first in line to get my tickets. I was finally able to go to something with the father-daughter combo in the title, and no amount of razzing, bullying or eye-rolling was going to keep me from it.
My mother had told me that my dad was a great dancer, and I couldnt wait to show off my skills. We moved to slow and fast songs, and he taught me a dance called the Jersey Bounce that he and my mom had burned up the dance floor with long ago down the shore.
Aside from the girls who didnt want to go, I knew there were probably a lot of girls who couldnt go. I felt for them. In grammar school, whenever there was such an event, I remember my mother would look at the invite and bristle. And yes, I felt bad as well.
Because my mother had a lot of sisters, it meant I had a lot of uncles willing to step up to be my escort. I declined, though, since for me, going with a substitute wouldve been worse than not going at all.
This is not a one-size-fits-all world; not everybody can do everything, go everywhere, and not every situation would be meant for me. But the fact that not everyone can do everything doesnt mean that those who can do something special should be prevented from doing so.
Meaning, in this case, the fact that some children have two mothers, or two fathers, or an absent father, or a deceased father doesnt mean we should have to cancel the father-daughter dance for everyone.
A womans father is the first model of how a relationship with a man will be; she goes on to pick a romantic partner based in no small part on the characteristics of her father even if she chooses the opposite type.
There are no absolutes, but when Dad is in the picture and involved, school-age children tend to do better academically and are more interested in extracurricular activities, have higher levels of career success, and are more mature socially.
Why cant we celebrate that fact, and encourage more engagement from dads?
I really cant say whether, in the six years I had my father in my life he died when I was a sophomore in college it had any kind of magical effect on my grades, my social life or on my eventual career success.
All I know is I got to go to a really fun dance with my dad. That was enough and it was everything.
Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels Back to Work She Goes and Fat Chick.