DadBot v1.5 is… ONLINE
January 11, 2017
Snippets of conversations, and direct statement made to me by friends, girlfriends, and even a few adults during the time I was between 12 and 17 years old :
“That girl uses tampons, she’s not a virgin anymore.”
“A girl should NEVER take a bath or shower when it’s ‘her time’!”
“We did it while she was on her period, you can’t get pregnant then.”
“I’m a virgin, virgin’s can’t get pregnant on their first time.”
Getting through puberty was tough.
Being the single father of a young daughter was even harder.
Men are often assumed to be sexists, just because they are men and men often say or do things that are either subtly sexist or interpreted as being so.
However, I feel empowered to say that as a single father of a young daughter I often faced a not so subtle type of sexism directed at me from more than a few women who were revolted by the idea of a man raising a female child.
Over the years I developed a pretty thick skin about it, and learned to handle it in my own way. I faced family members who thought it was “unnatural” for a man to want to raise his daughter. I faced girlfriends and would-be significant others who believed that a man lacked the *ability* to make the right decisions necessary for raising a child. Especially a female child. I faced healthcare workers and school administration officials that refused to deal with me as the primary parent, even when presented with signed documents saying that her mother wished to abdicate her authority on these matters and the court had approved the arrangement.
It was a tough slog sometimes, but I managed to develop a certain toolset over time, that helped me deal with these individuals and these eventualities.
One of the tougher things about being the father of a very young girl was inevitable questions that any growing, curious youngster is going to eventually have about life, sex and the things they hear at a school lunch table.
Now, I know a lot of parents opt to allow the lunch table to be the the primary educator of their kids, and to some degree, I get it. These conversations can be hard, and when you’re a grown man and the questions are coming from a young girl, they can get more complicated, but I made the decision very early on that I would not be allowing other 9, 10 or 11 year olds to explain “the facts of life” to my daughter. This seemed like a recipe for outright disaster to me.
I also realized early on that when her mother abdicated authority on matters of school and health, she also apparently abdicated all responsibility for educating Mouse on… feminine hygiene. I had been assuming that there would at least be some downloading of the “basics” to Mouse, but I came to understand too late that this was a poor assumption. I knew the truth of this the day I was called by the school nurse to come and collect my hysterical daughter from her fourth grade class – “oh – and – bring a change of clothes.”
When I got her home, and got her calmed down a bit, I sat her down and asked her what she knew about what had happened. Her teacher and the nurse had explained a little bit, and told her this was a normal thing and that (to her absolute horror) it would become a regular thing. But… that’s as far as it had gone. She still didn’t truly understand. I pressed her about any information coming from her mother, but she assured me there had been complete radio silence on that front.
I made a decision. I decided I wouldn’t cop out, and I wouldn’t sell her out, and that I’d hit her right between the eyes with everything she needed to know. Knowledge may be power, but to a young girl misinformation or the lack of knowledge can be an outright tragedy.
I told her about all the apocryphal crap and wives-tales and absolute bullshit she was going to hear from other girls, other boys, and maybe even some adults. I told her what to really expect, and told her to not be afraid to ask any question she wanted to ask, and I gave her a promise that I’d always be truthful, and I’d always answer. I tried to make her feel better about it by emphasizing what an significant milestone in actually growing up this was. I knew she had more questions. I did my best to make sure she know I was open to any of them.
Easy for me to say, I suppose. Harder for a daughter to look her dad in the face and ask some of the questions a young girl standing on the edge of puberty was going to have. Harder still for a dad to keep his composure and not feel like a complete idiot when answering. What do you do when you really need information but have a hard time asking your own dad weird shit, and all you ever get from your mom is “ask your dad”?
I had a solution for her.
I created a robot.
Meet DadBot v1.5
He’s knows everything. And I do mean everything. He knows the clinical names of all those weird sexual medical organs and fluids and stuff. He knows what is really happening to the pubescent and pre-pubescent bodies of both boys and girls when they start to change. He knows the truth about all things sexual. He knows the lies that boys will tell to get a girl to do things. He also knows the lies that some girls will tell to get boys to do things. He knows what’s real, and what’s bullshit. And he definitely knows what all the great nasty words really mean!
When you overheard something at school (or on TV), and you needed to know exactly what that nasty-sounding word really meant. You could always ask DadBot.
I’m can’t recall now exactly when the DadBot first came online. But at some point he became just another part of being a dad, and Mouse came to realize that if she picked her moment just right, she could access DadBot and get the answers she needed without being misinformed by kids her own age, brushed off by her mom, or completely embarrassed by asking her actual dad.
DadBot v1.5 looked a lot like me.
To access him, all you had to do was ask your real dad “Is the DadBot online?”
Almost every time this would cause her real father to freeze in place. His eyes would become blank, and cease blinking. His head would swivel from side to side in a smooth, mechanical motion, and his voice would become clearer and his words would become short and clipped and adopt a staccato pace.
You knew he was online when he paused a long moment and said : “DadBot. Version ONE point FIVE. Is. (long pause) ONLINE.”
Then his head would swivel to point at you, but not directly. His eyes were fixed in your direction, but not directly at you, staring unblinkingly and focused on a point somewhere just beyond where you were.
This was the time to get your really good questions answered.
“Uhm… today at school, a boy named Tyler called me a NIMBO. Can you tell me what a NIMBO is?”
Hmmm. I have a vague idea of what Tyler might have been saying, but I’m not %100 sure. Better dig for a little clarification.
DadBot’s head would swivel back and forth a few times as if thinking for a while.
“What does ‘context’ mean?”, she asked the first time DadBot required it. After that she had it.
“Use. The. Word. In. A. Sentence. (long pause) Please.”
“Oh.. yeah… he said I looked like a real sex maniac, and I was probably a complete NIMBO!”.
Ah. Okay. Nympho. A 10 year old boy just called my 9 year old daughter a NIMBO. I got a house payment that says that little douchebag Tyler has not a one clue what he’s actually saying. But… DadBot v1.5 is up to the task.
“Negative. NIMBO. ERROR detected. IMPROPER terminology. PROPER usage is NYMPHO. Noun. Abbreviated form of. Nymphomaniac. A female person who thinks of nothing but sex all the time.”
“That’s just stupid.” She said, with a look that said why would anyone call anyone such a dumb thing?
Tyler would go on to be the source of a lot of consultations with the DadBot.
And over the years DadBot v1.5 fielded some real beauties.
I remember a long car ride one weekend. We’d been out adventuring, and listening to music and were heading home when there was a lull in the conversation. She was 11. Perhaps 12.
“Is the DadBot online?”
Dead Eyes. Swivel once. Swivel twice. Pause for effect.
“DadBot. Version ONE point FIVE. Is. (long pause) ONLINE.”
“I was wondering… when do girls… get… hair.”
Whew. Never know what DadBot is going to get, but this is easy. I’d been expecting this one. I’ll play it straight for a minute. For effect.
“Some. Girls. Are born. With hair. Some. Girls. Don’t get hair. On their heads. Until two. Or three.”
Frustration. “No, no no… I mean… when do girls get hair…” Looooong pause. Wait for it. “Down there.”
DadBot’s got this one. All day long.
“Girls can get. PUBIC. HAIR. Starting as early. As age. 9.” Let that soak in a second. Cover the bases. “Or as late as. Age. 16.” Make sure she knows that all girls aren’t the same. “Every. Female. Is. Different. Some girls. Get. PUBIC HAIR. Early. Some. Do not. “
Over the years DadBot fielded some true beauties. Of course, the older she got, the more… ‘complicated’ the questions became.
The ability to ask her dad a question, without really asking her dad a question, became an important part of our relationship.
The DadBot was a way that she could pretend that she wasn’t really looking her own dad in the face when she asked what a “clitoris” was, and she also absolutely knew she’d get a straight, albeit clinical answer. She was smart enough to figure out kids her own age (especially boys) were either dumbasses who were using words that even they didn’t understand, or that they had an agenda that might make them less than truthful. Other adults were tricky business too. Mom refused to answer anything that made her the least bit uncomfortable, and teachers and other family members could raise alarms and cause other issues.
Nope. If you wanted the absolute straight, clinical truth, and didn’t want to worry about bullshit or setting off fire-alarms, you asked the DadBot. He never let you down.
I guess somewhere around the age of about 15, the construct of DadBot got left behind. I’m not sure if she grew out of it, or if I did, but it was about this time that she just started talking to me directly, and didn’t need the DadBot anymore.
Past a point she had the answers, mostly, and didn’t need him much anyway.
He’s packed away now. Been in mothballs for a decade or so and is stowed up in the attic, safely.
But he’s here, and he still works, and I’ll keep some gear oil and a fresh battery pack handy.
In case she ever needs him again.