Review by Shari Burnett
"Oh my god, what have we done!"
Probably the same feeling of uneasy anticipation most fathers-to-be go through when it all sinks in.
Nils Ling's one man play, The Truth About Daughters, profiles the rollercoaster of ups and downs facing dads raising daughters, and more than that, it takes the audience on a reminiscing ride.
I'm the oldest of four daughters, and every time I see a father walking down the street with a young girl, I always wonder what my dad thought of being the only male in the household. The Truth About Daughters offers a glimpse into the minds of "Every-dad".
Ah yes, Every-dad. He's the one that attends "pre-nasal" classes, cringing at the educational video. Every-dad takes on the daughter and the bedroom disaster area (unsuccessfully I might add... mom to the rescue!). And Every-dad forgets to pack extra diapers on day trips. Now this particular story tickled my funny bone. As Ling detailed this great poopy work of art "one great poop for kid-kind" I couldn't help but think about my father's gag reflexes jumping into action. I don't know if my father has ever successfully changed a diaper because he'll tell you straight up about his fear and loathing of poop.
Every-dad also faces the moment when he realizes that his daughter has reached the age when she's embarrassed to be seen with him in public. As Ling points out, moms usually bow out gracefully in this situation, just giving their children that hurt look.
Dads, however, prefer revenge. Ling's method involves following his daughter around the mall, doing the monkey walk. My Dad used to try to make funny in front of friends by doing a little dance. Well, instead of being mortified, my sisters and I found this hysterically funny. And for whatever reason, this white man boogying around the living room reminded us of Bill Cosby. To this day his nick name is Bill. In fact, many of our friends think Bill is my fathers real name.
Every-dad sits through Christmas plays, games and piano recitals. Judging from the hearty snickers in the sold-out crowd at Our Lady of the Mountains on March 30, and only half-hearted attempts to conceal them, this touched a chord with many. "Darlin', no matter what I said back then, it wasn't half as much fun as I made it look."
Every-dad is not a big fan of everyone else's children. Having to listen to 20 ten year olds pounding a piano can be torture. But Every-dad also feels the heartache of watching someone else's daughter fail miserably on stage. Amidst the laughter, Ling tenderly draws the audience in to experience the emotions he felt in just such a situation. Whether you're a mother or father, whether your daughter or son is a pianist or football player, parents want nothing more than success for their children. They want success for all children.
The scenario from The Truth About Daughters that still stays with me is Ling's adventure to buy his daughter a prom dress. Not the usual scenario, but one that my father also played out. Ling hits the mark when he comments that he was just the credit card. Eleven years ago, I thought the same of my father. But reflecting now, my Dad drove me around for days with little or no fuss. And when I finally emerged from the dressing room in a town an hour away from home, I knew I had found the right dress when I saw the smile in his eyes.
When the lights came on, the people sitting next to me noticed my notes and asked what I thought of the play.
"Well, I'd like to see my dad," I smiled.
"Why, so you can quiz him about this stuff?" they asked.
"No, so I can hug him."