My wife, Sue, and I tend to keep pretty good track of our occasional medical expenses, so we aren’t taken by surprise when the insurance company’s explanation of benefits (EOB) comes in the mail.
But a few weeks back, we received an EOB regarding our daughter. She was away at college and never notified us of any doctor’s visit. Initially, we thought it might have been an “accidental” rebilling of an appointment from a year ago. These things happen, you know, especially when insurers think you’re not paying attention.
To find out for sure, I messaged her the following day from our iPad: “We received something from the insurance company regarding a claim under your name. Did you see a doctor in the last month or so?”
A few minutes later, I received a terse, “Yep, I did.”
“OK,” I replied, “what was it for?”
I knew that my daughter learned about sex and birth control in middle school. But I didn’t think she’d actually go through with it.
A legitimate question, right? I mean, wouldn’t I have been neglecting my parental duties by not inquiring about my daughter’s health and well-being after a doctor’s visit?
The Dreaded Answer
Yet, after going 12 hours without hearing from her, I started to wonder, “Did I say something wrong?” Because the problem couldn’t have been with her iPhone. That thing is like a pacemaker — the minute it starts to lose power, her life’s over.
That evening, Sue decided to take a whack at getting an answer. “Don’t bother,” I said. “If she didn’t answer me, why would she answer you?”
“You didn’t ask her the right way.” Meaning I didn’t write a lighthearted message punctuated with cute emojis. Duh.
Seconds after Sue messaged our daughter, we received an answer. Funny what a few little pictures of hearts and smiley faces will do for a girl. If there had been iPads during my dating days, I could have saved a fortune on flowers and chocolate.
Sue read our daughter’s message aloud without skimming it first. “Everything’s fine. I just started birth control last month, that’s all.”
“She WHAT?!” I barked, sounding eerily like my late father. I tried grabbing the iPad to examine the evidence myself, but Sue pulled it out of my reach, perhaps to keep my spittle from splashing on the screen.
I rinsed, lathered and repeated the message in my disbelieving brain: “I just started birth control last month, that’s all.” That’s all? A flu shot is “that’s all.” A prescription for Flonase is “that’s all.” Even a few pain meds for a root canal is “that’s all.”
But birth control? No way does that come under the heading “that’s all,” at least if you’re a father on the receiving end of the news.
I mean, I knew that my daughter learned about sex and birth control — that is, reproduction and contraception — in middle school. That was fine. It saved me the trouble of me explaining it to her, which would have been pretty hideous. But I didn’t think she’d actually go through with it. Wasn’t this whole sex business supposed to be theoretical?
Now before you accuse me of being sexist, let me say in my defense… I’m being sexist. But only for her own good. For as smart as girls are — and trust me, they tend to be plenty smarter than boys — they have no idea what the opposite sex is really thinking from the age of 15 to 93.
“Love” is the cleanest four-letter word boys know, and they don’t learn to use it properly until they’re middle-aged, if they’re lucky. And even then it’s still a double entendre as far as they’re concerned.
Sue’s response to our daughter was quite supportive. Mine was to get out of my leather chair and stomp out of the living room. I’m very fluent in stomping.
My Little Girl, All Grown Up
When I got to our apartment’s entryway, my eyes immediately landed on some photos I found recently when cleaning out my desk. One was my daughter at the age of 5, sitting next to the window, contentedly drawing in her sketchpad. In another, she’s around 10, hugging Sue while on vacation in Rhode Island.
I tried to reconcile the little girl in the photos with the young woman she was becoming. Sue and I grew up in a time when our generation was rewriting society’s rules — rules that today’s kids are now living. And by “kids,” I mean anyone under the age of 40.
Our parents were baffled and upset by the changes going on around them. To us, it was all quite natural. If the older generation didn’t understand their kids, well sir, that was their problem. We were the future, so it was time to start taking charge.
How funny to be on the receiving end of that mantra now. Hilarious, actually, judging by the way Sue had reacted to me a moment earlier.
I tried looking at it another way. We raised our daughter to be independent and self-respecting. We were always part of her life. Unlike other girls her age, she’d never been promiscuous or abused drugs and alcohol. She felt comfortable telling us — telling her mother, anyway — about going on birth control.
Now that our daughter has moved on to a new stage in her life, our message to her is what it’s always been: Make wise choices, respect yourself and don’t let anyone take advantage of you.
I look forward to giving advice to her future boyfriends as well. Like not to be fooled by this skinny old guy with the glasses and friendly smile. Because no matter how many chocolates they give or emojis they send, I know exactly what they’re thinking.
Remember, boys, I helped rewrite the rules.