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Who Wears Short Shorts? Apparently Everybody Now.

8 Sep

by Roger White 


So while I’m waiting for the pain meds to kick in, let’s talk about dad radar for a bit, shall we? Mind you, dad radar is generally not nearly as potent or vigilant as mom radar. To compare, mom radar is somewhere on the scale of the National Weather Service’s gigantic Doppler Array systems—you know, those things that look like monster ping pong balls perched atop our nation’s tallest mountain ranges—while dad radar would be likened to the handheld jobs used to clock baseball speed or thereabouts. Dad radar works, but not nearly on the same level as mom radar.

That being said, my little detection gun did sound recently when wifey and the girls came back from their Annual School Clothes Shopping Safari at The Mall. I was anxious enough as it was, watching the smoke rise from the wife’s purse, knowing that where there’s smoke, there’s an exhausted MasterCard white hot from all the day’s friction. The anxiety level only increased as my girls, a sophomore and an eighth-grader-going-on-college, began exhibiting their safari trophies.

Note to dads everywhere who have daughters: (1) a blouse is not a shirt, so don’t call it that; (2) same goes with a skirt—it’s not a dress, it’s a skirt; (3) girl clothes and accessories, although by and large much, much tinier than boy clothes and such, are exponentially more expensive—quantity of cloth and/or plastic used to make a girl thing does not equal price of girl thing; and (4) if you have no idea what it is, just say “very nice.”

That’s not the high anxiety part, however. No, this episode began when the girls modeled their new shorts. And when I say “shorts,” never has the word had a more appropriate meaning. The smidgens of clothing I witnessed having a god-awful time trying to do their job were so minuscule that my radar gun melted before it ever had a chance to make a sound.

“They’re volleyball shorts, dad. Everybody’s wearing them.” That was the explanation I got for all the skin. And here’s the weird part: As I stood there, open-mouthed with my dad radar gun melted all over my shoes, the wife just smiled happily and said she liked the color.

The room started to swirl.

“They’re a little, uh, short, aren’t they?” was the best I could muster.

“I think they’re cute.”

“Well, sure, dear, Bettie Page was cute, too, but…”

“Who’s Bettie Page?”

“Never mind. It’s obvious you were never a teenage boy.”

And there’s the rub. Nobody in that room, except for me, had ever been a teenage boy. And I know how teenage boys think. There are only two things on a teenage boy’s mind, I told wifey later, teenage and girls.

“Oh, they’re all wearing them,” she said. “You’re being way overprotective.”

This from the woman who makes the girls walk together to fetch the mail.

I spent the remainder of the evening arguing with the wife, the debate meandering from fashion and hemlines to morals and health class curriculum back around to clothes and the evolution of the school dress code.

“Well, in my day, the assistant principal measured the length of girls’ dresses and shorts with a ruler,” I huffed. “What do they use today, a toothpick?”

“You’re sounding old again, dear.”

“Well I am old, dammit. Why does everyone insist on showing so much skin these days?”

My whole line of reasoning was immediately sunk, however, when I tuned into the ESPN Classic Channel’s broadcast of the 1975 NBA playoffs. I’d conveniently forgotten how disturbingly tight and skimpy the shorts were then; jeez, Rick Barry was showing enough skin to frighten off Hannibal Lecter. I flashed back to my high school sophomore year and my purple crushed-velvet hip huggers. Man. How did I get any circulation?

Ah, well. Guess I need to get a new dad radar gun.


Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit


Oh, No! It’s NAP Time Again

21 Apr

by Roger White

There’s politics, and then there’s politics.

We are all well aware of the tragicomic events being played out on state and national levels, so I need not delve into that arena here. And if did proceed to delve, I would surely lose half of my tiny but faithful readership the minute I began naming the goobers. Besides, they’re all goobers anyway—I don’t care whether your side of the fence is painted red or blue (or purple, for that matter).

As soon we wake up and realize that they are all politicians first and real people second the better off—and less divided—we’ll be. Heck, half of them would change sides in a heartbeat if they thought it would keep them in power, and many of them have done just that.

And still politicians drivel on about protecting liberty and freedom and justice. You don’t hear much about the lobbyists and the earmarks and the free junkets to the Caymans. Today’s media doesn’t help any. Don’t get me started on those guys—that’s about three columns worth of material right there.

Wow. I said I wouldn’t delve, and yet here we are, delving. My apologies. No, the politics I wanted to vent about is the much more localized brand. Painfully so. Of late, I’ve been personally exposed to heavy, harmful doses of two varieties of politics—the adolescent species, which we’ll label Middle School Girl Politics (MSGP); and the local adult species, which we’ll call Neighborhood Association Politics (NAP).

One of them involves childish tantrums, teasing, silent treatments, and cruel power plays designed to crush another’s spirit, and the other is the Middle School Girl Politics.

We’ll take MSGP first, since it’s closer to home. One of my lovely daughters is currently enduring the hellish, three-year sentence known as middle school, and the other daughter just escaped from it. So I know of whence I whine.

I think we all remember middle school—or junior high, for those of you of the “duck and cover” Cold War bomb drills era. I still carry the scars from my hard-time stretch at Pauline G. Hughes Middle School (“The Rock,” we called it). Whenever I hear someone yell, “Hey, skinny!” I immediately reach to protect my schoolbooks and take off running. I’m in my fifties. I still do this.

But at least with boys, you get beat up a few times, and that’s usually it. Girls endure—and inflict—a much more insidious brand of persecution. Friendships are fluid; cliques mix and dissolve like a bad chemistry experiment. Self-esteem gets batted around like a badminton birdie. And just so I can go three-for-three with bad similes, carpool rides among former-friends-turned-rivals become as tense as a caffeine addict playing Jenga. You see, in Jenga, you have to very carefully pull out these wood blocks… Oh, never mind.

Anyway, I have come to understand the term “frenemy” quite well.

A hopeful sign emerged when my daughter and her frenemies immersed themselves in MSGP recently. After trying to wait out the petty games and tearful episodes, the parents of all parties involved sat our little politicians down and set them straight. This isn’t the way to behave, we instructed. This isn’t how adults conduct themselves, and you young ladies are quickly becoming adults, we admonished.

Thank goodness our young ladies haven’t been paying attention to the neighborhood “adults” these days. It’s NAP time, and the local self-important ones are in full stride.

You see, several positions on the neighborhood association board came up for election not long ago, and our tranquil little suburban oasis has melted like quicksilver into Peyton Place. One faction is up in arms because it believes another faction is trying to run all the “childless couples” out of the community. One group is at war with another group because they went about attacking the oak wilt problem all wrong. A certain bloc is convinced there’s a conspiracy afoot to effectively close off the association pool to anyone not affiliated with the neighborhood swim team. One splinter group claims malfeasance on the part of association management in the collection and expenditure of neighborhood funds. When pressed for specifics, these complainants couldn’t come up with any hard evidence; my personal opinion is that they just wanted to use the word “malfeasance” in a public forum.

The public comments section of the web site our neighborhood association maintains currently reads like the transcript of a Jerry Springer show. Congress would be proud. I know that if I informed my daughter of all these shenanigans, she’d surely tell me that this isn’t how adults conduct themselves. Don’t be so sure there, young one. Classic case of “do as I say…”

The good thing is, NAP time will blow over until the next election, so we can all go back to being frenemies again.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat daschund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit