Dave Barry: Where did my little girl go?


Girls do not go through puberty the way boys do. For boys, puberty is a gradual process — it took me decades — and it’s not all that drastic. When the boy is done undergoing puberty, he’s hairier and smellier, but still basically the same.

Female puberty is a whole different kettle of biological fish. For years my daughter was this sweet, innocent little girl who played with dolls, slept with stuffed animals and viewed me as a wise authority figure because of all the amazing things I knew how to do, such as tell time. Then one day at about 4:30 in the afternoon Sophie went into her bathroom (which is pink) and, WHOOM, some kind of massive hormone bomb went off in there. She emerged maybe 45 minutes later having aged, biologically, at least seven years. Suddenly she was this woman, with legs and everything, walking around. The same thing happened pretty much simultaneously to her friends — all of them were suddenly beautiful, feminine, poised, sophisticated, and several linear feet taller than the boys their age.

The day the hormone bomb detonated marked the end of the era wherein my daughter viewed me as an authority. These days, pretty much the only time she turns to me for guidance is when she can’t find the Cinnamon Toast Crunch. When she needs to discuss anything more important — school, relationships, hair, clothes, makeup, hair accessories, and biological matters I don’t even want to think about — she confers with her several hundred closest girlfriends or my wife, who is also a woman. I am way out of the loop. I don’t even know where the loop is.

Nevertheless I am, legally, Sophie’s father, and I have certain fundamental obligations, the main one being to protect her from harm, with “harm” defined as “men.” As a lifelong male myself, I am well aware of the way we think, and I don’t want anybody thinking things like that within a 1,000-yard radius of my daughter.

The problem I am facing right now is boys, which, biologically, are nothing more than short men. My daughter’s school is infested with them. Lately they have taken to hanging around our house, darting around out there on bicycles and skateboards and trying to act as though they are not thinking about what they are thinking about, which we all know is exactly what they are thinking about.

Here’s what really bothers me: Sometimes they get inside the house.

I blame my wife. If it were up to me, our house would be surrounded by giant (but humane) traps baited with some kind of bait that would be attractive to 13-year-old boys, such as fireworks or shorts that are even baggier than the shorts they’re already wearing. Every now and then we’d hear the loud THWONK of a steel door slamming shut, indicating that a 13-year-old boy had come too close to the house. I would then go outside and, after a stern warning, drive the boy out to the Everglades and release him into the wild.

Reprinted from “You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About” by arrangement with G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, Copyright © 2014 by Dave Barry.

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