Friday, May 26, 2006


Every Daddy knows that little girls love to play “dress-up.” For little girls, it’s a simple form of play-acting that is a basic part of growing up, an emulation of Mommy, the Feminine Ideal. As they get older, the play-acting element gradually disappears, to be replaced by the drive towards maturity.

Little girls all want to be older than they are. Then, as soon as they get into their mid-twenties, a Psychological Flip-Flop takes place, and it’s all about looking (and acting) younger...and it will be that way for the rest of their lives.

It’s normal when adolescent girls strive to look older than they are. When they act older than they are, ahh, that’s when trouble starts. Smoking, drinking, you name it. The most extreme example, of course, is Jail-Bait Related Activities.

But, for the moment, let us focus on those magical times when little girls get to take those first steps out into the World o’ Grown-Ups without necessarily taking matters too far. And “magical” is not too strong a word, for there is a story I can share.

It was the summer of 1993. Elder Daughter had, the prior year, reached a milestone in the Growing-Up Process, having become a Bat Mitzvah. And now, courtesy of SWMBO’s mother and Step-Dad, we were enjoying a few days in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas, in the early 1990’s, was neck-deep in its misguided effort to become a Family Playland. The cheesy thrills of places like Circus-Circus, which Hunter S. Thompson once famously described as “what the whole hep world would be doing on a Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war,” was yielding to more and more extravagant Theme Park Hotels. The Mirage, with its Erupting Volcano. The soon-to-be-opened Treasure Island, with its promise of a Swashbuckling Pirate Battle and Adventure every hour, on the hour! Luxor, like a Honkin’ Glass Pyramid! Excalibur, with the Knights of the Round Green Felt Table! Wait, there’s more: New York, New York, the City-as-Theme-Park concept!

Just between you and me, the only kind of family that needs to go on a Family Vacation in Las Vegas is the Manson family. Vegas is not Disney World, no matter how hard it tries to look like one. It is Sin City, the place to go to smoke your brains out, drink ’til you puke your guts up, and gamble until they ship you home with a pair of cardboard boxer shorts, a pile of unpaid markers, and two black eyes. I don’t give a Rat’s Ass how many Riverboat Casinos are floating on the Mississippi River these days, or how many Indians in New England have crawled out of the woodwork to build Slot-Machine Palaces...Vegas is still the Best Of Its Kind. More whiskey. More tits. More ass. More fun, 24/7.

But, nevertheless, we went there. As a family, yet. Is it possible we were smoking crack? No, but since the Missus and I were not having to foot too much of the bill, we figured, What the Hell.

And it was fun.

We stayed at the Mirage, where there was a humongous swimming pool – the perfect place to hang out with the kids in the sultry 120° heat. And while SWMBO and her Momma looked after the kids and went shopping, Step-Dad d’SWMBO and I would go and visit the Palace of Green Felt, there to risk our fortunes on the turn of a card.

One night, Elder Daughter and I went stepping out, just the two of us. She put on a long, dark dress for the occasion, and believe me when I tell you that she looked far more mature than her (then) fourteen years. We strolled the mall down by Caesar’s and dined at Spago. We made Squashèd Penny Souvenirs for each other in those stupid machines where you put your money in and turn the crank. We then walked into Caesar’s and wandered the casino floor, watching the hordes of morons playing the slots. Surprisingly, nobody bothered us or tried to throw Elder Daughter out for being underage. Either she looked mature enough to fool the Powers that Be, or they could see that she kept her distance from the machines and tables. We walked around, with me explaining the various games to her, enjoying each other’s company. For me, it was a chance to spend a few precious hours with my daughter just as she reached that Tipping-Point between childhood and adolescence. The calm before the Hormonal Storm, if you will. For Elder Daughter, it was more than just a chance to bond with The Old Man – it was a heady glimpse into Adult-World. And it was magical, that evening.

As we slowly wound our way through the casino, we became separated briefly as I stopped to watch the action at one of the craps tables. While Elder Daughter stood by herself for a few brief moments, an Asian gentleman – he must have been about sixty years old and five-foot-four – sidled up to her and asked her, “Are you arone?”

Even through the filter of a heavy Chinese accent, E.D. knew a pickup line when she heard one. And she could think on her feet, too.

“No – I’m with him,” she said, inclining her head in my direction. And the old fellow responded, “Oh,” and quietly slunk back to where his friends waited. There was a lot of elbowing and snickering going on after that.

Did my daughter look skanky? No. Just mature...and well-dressed. I guess that makes you look like a high-class hooker in Vegas.

But a look at Elder Daughter’s feet would’ve tipped the old guy off. No self-respecting Vegas hooker wears Doc Martens.

No comments: