Published: January 18, 2004

Scene: The living room of the house I’ve been occupying for several years since the end of my long marriage. During that time, no dates, no other women. My older daughter, Lillie, a 10th grader, is visiting. We’ve finished dinner and are sitting around, and it feels like a good time to mention that I have finally had my first date. As I had suspected, she has a flood of questions, which I have decided in advance not to answer. Instead, I start taking notes.

Me: Did you get my e-mail?

Lillie: No.

Me: I wrote you about how I actually didn’t end up alone on Thanksgiving. I had a date.

Lillie: Hey, give me five! WHO??

Me: Well, I’m not telling. I didn’t want to tell you any lies about where I was, but I’m keeping details personal for now, which will drive you crazy. Sorry.

Lillie: Come ON! Just tell me her name! Do I know her? Is she from here? Wait, how old is she? Just tell me she’s over 30. Uh-oh, it’s one of our baby sitters, isn’t it? Ew! Or wait, is it a guy? It’s a dude. You’re GAY. I knew it!

Me: You think I’m gay?

Lillie: Yeah. Are you going to see her again? —Oh, I know, it’s Mom!

Me: I knew you’d say that.

Lillie: Did you share a room, did you drive together? Did you hold hands or was it a one-night stand? Does she know me? Why won’t you tell me? Are you two engaged?

Me: We could be married. They voted to allow gay marriage in Massachusetts, you know.

Lillie: I’m going to kill myself. Where did you meet? Did you pay for her dinner? Is she your girlfriend? Dad, you have to tell me. If you don’t tell me, I’ll get pissed and do what I did to Mom’s boyfriend and egg her car. —You have to work with me here, because I can turn on you in an instant. Do the other kids know? I’m going to tell them. I’m going to tell them that you’re leaving them and going to Poland with her like Uncle Spencer did, and never coming back. —Wait, is she in my grade?! She probably is. Oh, God.

Me: She’s not.

Lillie: Does she dye her hair, does she wear makeup? Is she hot? Does she smoke? Wait, that’s an issue for me.

Me: You mean you don’t like smokers?

Lillie: Not in stepmothers. Only in boyfriends. Wait, I’m going to check your caller ID. [beep, beep, beep] O.K.! Jens Bahrawy! Who’s that? [He’s my divorce attorney.] That’s her! Jens. Jens. Jens. So she’d be . . . Jens Allison! Ew. Is she coming for Christmas? I may have to fight her. ”What are your intentions toward my father, bitch?”

Me: You’re tough.

Lillie: Is she one of the first five people I would guess? Is she Madonna or Britney Spears? Is she skanky? Or is it Alison Krauss? Is it my English teacher? Does she have a gut? Is she good at poker? What’s on her iPod? Do you even know her last name? Does she have any scars?

Me: You haven’t asked if she has a tattoo.

Lillie: Well, does she? Does she know you have a long hair on your nose? Does she work in public radio? Does she know who she’s messing with? Does she wear glasses? Is she a pothead, an alcoholic, a psycho? Does she play games with your heart? Did you watch the sun set over a lake? Did the night watchman catch you hooking up? Does she wear hats? Does she know Britney Spears? Can she get me tickets? Is she any good for things like that?

Me: It was just a date, you know. . . .

Lillie: She’s not a Yankees fan, is she? Is she one of your old girlfriends, like the freckly one from ”Indiana Jones”? Does she kiss on the first date? Would she like me? …Is she taller than me?

Me: I’ll tell you one thing. We drove on Route 35, I’m not saying what state that’s in, and there was no one around, and it was late at night and rainy. We stopped the car and turned up the radio and danced in the road.

Lillie: High five! Well, as long as she makes you happy, Pa, I can’t hate her too much. . . . I can still egg her car, though.