Iris is one of my daughter’s friends. She’s 26 years old. I think she may be one of her best friends, because when she comes over they have such a fun time. They stay up to all hours laughing, drinking, smoking, talking and listening to music. It’s a grand old time here at the squirrel house as they call it.
The term squirrel house came out of something my daughter used to say when she was little. I was working in New York at the time but kept an apartment in Haddonfield, NJ for awhile. This was back in 2004, so Lorelei would have been around 8 years old. I had two sofas, and the smaller one was hers over by the window. When she would lie on it and look out the window all she could see was trees, so she said it felt like we were living in a tree house. It was a cozy apartment and she said we were like little squirrels living in their house in the trees.
So now in 2020 when it rains and we’re safely tucked away in our apartment in Rittenhouse, we call it the Squirrel House. It’s a sweet memory for us both. Her friend Iris is incredibly perceptive and has a great memory. She’s has a great ability when it comes to recall. She’ll hear something once and be able to talk about it. She heard about the squirrel house reference and now refers to me as Papa Squirrel. Probably one of the kinder titles I’ve earned over the years. She sometimes calls me Faja, and I’m assuming that’s father in another language.
I’ve known her for several years, but in the last year or so she and Lorelei have become close. During quarantine I’ve had zero social life except for a few zoom calls here and there. It’s nice to have people over. It’s great to hear my daughter laughing and enjoying time with her good friend. I’ve had the opportunity to hang out with them a little bit over the last few months, and have really gotten to know Iris.
Iris is adopted, and never had a father, or a real father figure in her life. I think this has led to a few bad decisions when it came to vocation and romantic partner choices. But she’s a resilient soul and my daughter really likes her. Lorelei’s a good judge of character and wouldn’t keep her around if she didn’t like her.
Iris has expressed that I’m the closest thing she’s ever had to a dad. I found that hard to believe because I don’t see her that often. But I suppose in the time she’s been here it’s felt like that to her. Maybe she sees how Lorelei and I interact as father and daughter. Lor’s mother was pretty strict, inflexible and set in her ways. I remember that because I was married to that woman for 8 years. It was rough. It was even harder on Lorelei living with her for 18 years. But when she turned 18 she left New Jersey and moved in with me. It was her choice to get out from under the oppressive thumb of her mother. Lorelei finished out her senior year in high school, commuting from Philly each morning by herself. Lor has lived with me for over 5 years now and we couldn’t be happier. I’ve always treated her like an adult, and she respects me and the house. She’s a good kid, and I’m really proud of her.
Iris has expressed on a few occasions that she wished she could rent me as a dad to hang out with. I liked the idea, because she’s a nice kid and I could be a father figure to her. Just somebody to talk to when she’s struggling with something that she can’t share with her adoptive mother or any of her friends. Never having a father takes an enormous toll on all children. Especially young women. Guys can sort of make it without their dads. We just need that older dude to kick us in the ass sometimes and teach us some skills, manners and keep us in line. But girls suffer because their father is the first man they ever meet. They’ll meet several, but their father is the very first. If you’re a good father your daughter will go out in the world knowing what a good man acts like. A father instills in them the tools and nurturing a young woman needs to meet some the challenges of the world. Good information, time, and love are all paramount to her development.
Here’s piece I wrote for Father’s Day.
One night when Lorelei was out training for a part time gig, I woke up from my nap. (Yea, I take naps now during the pandemic. Writing books is exhausting! lol) I came out to the living room and Iris was still there. She had stayed over the night before but normally she’d be gone. But she told me where Lorelei was and that she was staying over that night as well. Like I said, I’m happy to have people over and if Lorelei’s happy, I’m happy. Iris is always welcome in our home. (We’ve even given her keys)
I fixed myself a drink and sat with her. We chatted and it was really the first time we had ever hung out together. Just the two of us. Normally I stay in my room when she’s over because I don’t want to be the hovering dad encroaching on my daughter’s time with her friend. But this time we just chatted about a lot of things.
It came up that she wished there was some way we could hang out sometimes. I was all for it, but we both had concerns about the dynamic of the relationship. How would Lorelei feel about it all? It all seemed like a slippery slope built on other people’s expectations and social norms. I think that was the biggest part of it. Iris is in Philly often not just to hang with Lor, but she has other friends in town. So she’s around quite often. I thought it would be nice for both of us. I could take her out to eat or to a museum or whatever. We could talk and I could provide some semblance of what it might be like for her to have an older male figure in her life that cared about her. She’s never really had that. But we didn’t know if Lorelei would share. And most of all we didn’t want it to be awkward or weird. I’m sure it wouldn’t be because I’m not awkward or weird and it would just be wrong for it to be anything else. I wanted to spend time with her, and she with me. She had expressed it before and said she had often thought about it.
So we agreed that at some point we’d breach the subject with Lorelei, but weren’t sure how or when we would do that. So I decided to run the notion by a few of my male friends.
I spoke with my best friend Duncan about it. His response was: “Dude, she’s in her twenties, smokes weed, has tattoos, has had questionable jobs, and no father figure. How are you just not going to fall into that?”
Okay. Bad Idea. Duncan is a divorced bachelor. He has no game. Never been a dad, and has shitty role models as parents. He’s a driven businessman and totally the wrong person to ask. I should stick to conversations about rock music, comic books, and Star Wars with him. So that was a waste of time.
I spoke with my friend Johnny R. If you’ve been reading this blog you know him already. If not, simply go to the search bar on this site and type, ‘Johnny R’. he’s the king of vice in this city. A great. smart guy who’s been in a stable relationship with the same woman for over 10 years, and has had only two different jobs in that entire time. Sounds tame, right? Johnny R. loves tobacco, alcohol, gambling, adderall, cocaine, strippers and hookers. Like I said…king of vice. But a great guy! None of that affects his relationship with me. But I ran the idea of spending some father/daughter time with Iris.
“Dude. Do you think you’re entertaining these ideas because you’ve been in quarantine for five months and the pool of female companionship has shrunken down to a puddle in your life? Do you really want to do this, or are you just desperate to hang out with a woman who isn’t someone you’re related to? I know you’re accustomed to being surrounded by women all the time. You have a very active social life. You write a dating and relationship blog full of your exploits. Do you think because you’ve been locked down, you’re just happy to hang out with Iris? Come on… she’s 26 years old. But most of all, she’s your daughter’s friend. It’s wrong. Think of your daughter. What will she think?”
Johnny makes some good points here, but like my friend Duncan, they come from similar places. Both not married. Never had any children. Having kids changes a man. It makes you a better, morale man in this world. If you haven’t ever been a parent you just don’t know what it’s like. So I did appreciate his opinions and he made some great points, but I think I’m barking up the wrong tree talking to these guys.
I have three sisters. I grew up living with women. Most of my male friends don’t understand how I can be friends with so many women in this city. Most men think any connection with someone of the opposite sex is a means to an end. Them trying to bed her. That’s never been the case with me. There is the romantic candidates and those endeavors play out accordingly, but most of the women in my life are simply friends. They like the idea that they can hang out with an older gentleman that isn’t trying to get into their pants.
One of my female friends once said to a mixed group of people, “Charles is the type of man we all wished the men in our lives spoke about us when we weren’t around.”
I think that sums it up. Most of my readers here on phicklephilly are women. If I were a wolf they’d know it, and steer clear of my blog. I can’t let other people’s ideas and perceptions cloud this subject. They aren’t me and are nothing like me. It’s always good to get a second opinion, but I think in the end, people are going to do what they’re going to do.
I even ran it by James at the Drive In last week. He knows about Iris. I told him about what was happening and he told me to do nothing. I love James, but he’s neither a husband nor a father. Normally he’s asking me for advice but I thought I’d run it by him. I respect his words, and decided to listen to him. I’m not going to pursue it.
But then opportunity knocked.
To Be Continued on Thursday…
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