August 9, 2000
The Conversation


Last night at dinner we finally had The Conversation.  

You know which conversation I mean. 

The conversation where we ask Daughter #1 what she plans to do when she flies home to TicTac tomorrow. Stay with the Dysfunctional Boyfriend until the lease is up? Or throw his sorry ass off the balcony? Find a new roommate, preferably one with ovaries this time? Look for a better job? Go to school? Move back home with her dad for a while? Enter the military?

The conversation where David launches into his patented Roth IRA/Preparing For The Future/*If I Had Done This At Your Age I'd Be A Bazillionaire Today* speech.

The conversation where we gently but firmly stick our loving, concerned, affectionate noses into the deepest, darkest, most secret corners of her eighteen-year-old life ... while she squirms uncomfortably over her bleu cheese and almond salad.

(The conversation where we force her to double-dog-swear that "Schmidty" is not in fact going to be the father of my grandchildren.)

Yeah. THAT conversation.

Jaymi & David ~ August 2000

Jaymi & David on the pier outside of Skate's On The Bay
August 2000
(As always, click to see enlarged photo)

She knew it was coming, of course. We all did. For the past five days we have purposely kept the conversational topics light and non-confrontational. Lots of chit-chat about weather and shoes. Lots of aimless blather about music and Bay Area history and family gossip. Lots of ant jokes.

I'm sure she was aware that it was only a matter of time before we ambushed her.

We launched our attack last night over $100 worth of foccacia bread, garlic chicken and iced tea at Skate's on the Bay. Our original plan had been to take her to Emeryville and buy her a badly-needed pair of glasses, and then have dinner somewhere in Berkeley ... but that fell through when we got to Lenscrafters and were informed that the optometrist was gone for the day. So instead we pointed the Subaru in the general direction of the Berkeley Marina.

"Let's go someplace nice," David said.

The conversation was a little slow-going at first. Lots of uneasy silence over bread and iced tea. Lots of furtive looks, back and forth between David and I, during salads. (Say something! No, YOU say something!) Midway through the main course some of the tension finally began to dissipate, and she opened up to our questions a little. 

We didn't ask her anything overtly scary. 

What do you think you would like to do when you go home? I don't know yet. Is going home to live with dad for a while an option? No. Are you and Schmidty going to stay together? No. [whew] What about college? Maybe. How about looking for a better job, or asking for more hours at the job you have now? I'm already looking. What about moving in with a friend, or looking for a roommate in the newspaper? I'm thinking about it. Will you let us know how we can help you? Yes.

(Can we have the rest of your key lime pie if you're not going to eat it? It's all yours.)

And of course the great unspoken question: If we offered you advice -- if we were to say, Jaymi, here's what *we* think you should do -- would you take our advice?

And her unspoken reply: Probably not.

Would *I* have listened to advice from my mother -- or from anyone else, for that matter -- when I was Jaymi's age?

Hell no.

Our circumstances are similar in a lot of ways. I moved out of my father's house in a blaze of glory when I was only slightly older than Jaymi is now. I was only marginally employed at the time. I had no money saved. I had no furniture. I had only the vaguest of life plans. I immediately hitched my wagon to probably the most unsuitable man on the face of the planet: the infamous Balding Aluminum Sales Guy (significantly older/newly separated/two small children/hugely in debt/even bigger substance abuse problems than *I* had) ... and when that relationship fell apart, I was left stranded.

I spent the next little while lurching from relationship to relationship, like a desperate deranged frog, leaping from lily pad to lily pad. (That's how I ended up married, forcryingoutloud.)

Would I have listened, when the Aluminum Sales Guy and I blew up and I was pondering my next lily pad, if someone had said to me, "Secra, you need to suck it up and move back home with dad or your grandparents for a little while." Maybe go back and finish that last quarter of junior college. Maybe work. Save some money. Buy some towels. Wait until you're better prepared to live on your own.


Or if they had said, "Secra ... you need to find a nice, compatible roommate or three."  Translation: 1.) There is no way in hell you can afford to live by yourself, much as you would like to, and 2.) You seriously need to quit thinking about men for a while.


Or if they had said, "Secra, until you learn to take responsibility for your own life and happiness, you're just going to continue to leapfrog blindly from one impossibly fudked-up situation to the next impossibly fudked-up situation."

Would I have listened to any of it?

Of course not. And neither will Jaymi. And neither will her daughter, when the time comes.

The best that any of us can hope for, I think, is that with each successive generation the message is delivered a little more expediently ... and that it sinks in a little earlier ... and that a lot less time is wasted, hopping from lily pad to lily pad.

throw a rock