The girl, who looked to be about 7 years old, was standing with her mother in the locker room at the gym. Tears were streaming down her face, and she was mumbling something unintelligible. I could only hear her mother's response.
"Okay, but I'm just warning you, Daddy isn't going to be nice about it."
I passed them by and proceeded to get my stuff. Sobbing, yelling and whining are par for the course in the women's locker room at the Lifetime Fitness in Sterling, Va., which is why I tend to shower at home after my workout these days.
The pair migrated over to the sinks next to me. The girl was still crying and the mom had more to say. Her tone of voice was simultaneously instructive, sympathetic and wearily remote.
"But seriously, don't ever expect Daddy to understand when you're crying. Daddy is very uncomfortable with tears and ... stuff."
The girl apparently asked why, but all I caught was something about "a lot of emotions involved" as I walked out.
Remarkable. Usually, one has to wait until at least age 13 or 14 to find out that one's father is an emotional cripple. Was it a gift, or a curse, that this girl was being told so early, so explicitly?
It was sad to hear the woman trying to help her daughter understand a shortcoming that she'd clearly spent some of her own adult time coming to terms with.
"Tears and ... stuff."
I thought about my own dad. He's not a heart-to-heart kind of guy, but I can't say he ever got freaked out by crying. Especially from a 7-year-old. If you're uncomfortable with tears, why have a child at all?
I feared for that girl, thinking of all the tears in her future that would be repressed or ignored, and all the things that girls eventually do when they don't get enough validation from Daddy.
Music: "Have a Cry"