y nuke-powered teen daughter is lovid with me. No, not livid. That would be too easy, and Rebecca backs away from the easy. Lovid, she informs me, is a word that means being totally furious with someone while still loving them. Livid would make me persona non grata for whatever length of time she chooses, depending of course on the severity of the wrong, which she also gets to measure. As a dad, I’ve escaped the worst.
When and how did dear old Dad (hardly dear and not so old) lose the plot? That one I know. I’m in lovid-land because I outright refused to buy Rebecca the latest iPhone, the 000 or the 7-11 or whatever the ghost of Steve Jobs has decided to attach to his latest wired utensil. It may not even in fact be the latest, but wherever it stands in the hierarchy, Rebecca has to have it. “Dad,” she said, “this is not like, um, a choice. This is more like do it now or why are we even talking about this.”
We are not buying the latest Jobs, I replied, because, well, daughter, love of my life, you don’t need it. I waited patiently to be told that this one makes milkshakes or does homework or has a tiny AI processor capable of perfecting texts and writing songs, but, no, it didn’t do any of these enviable things. It didn’t even comb your hair.
But was that the point?
Marscia (go figure; the new age of spelling) had one, as did Alnees (Alnees?) and, here was the worst part, the “other” Rebecca did, too — how dare a parent name a child with an already occupied name. Plus, the other Rebecca was, like, “CONSEETED.” Or so read Rebecca’s text.
Lovid (cute twist) I was okay with, but when conseeted appeared, I, Android Dad, balked. And cursed myself for lowering the drawbridge that allowed smartphones into our lives. As I wrote in this space a few years ago, we’d managed, for years at a time, to keep the web from snacking on our lives. Sure, we both had phones, but I bought them second-hand and made a point of telling my daughter phone use had a time and place, which didn’t include walks in the park and dinner. For a while, this was our way of being cool, and Rebecca went with it.
That changed around age 12, when I finally gave in to Jobs, something I’ve regretted ever since. Suddenly, my daughter was on her phone for most minutes of most days — except when I made waffles, the last treat I was able to demand be phone-free.
It wasn’t about the cost. I wasn’t trying to punish her or be mean. I didn’t even hold the Great Kitten Disaster against her; last year, before we moved to California, she stepped on a neighbor’s kitten while watching a video, looking at the screen, not down. The kitten made a small but pained sound and fled. Rebecca burst into tears, then embarked on sending a slew of texts about what a terrible thing she’d done. She even tracked down the kitten to apologize and made a video of the miniature cat as it cowered in a corner.
Enough, I said at the time. Not sternly enough, it seems.
You have a whole wide world of life to lead and all kinds of cool words to learn to spell, and the latest Jobs, even if it makes pancakes, is a crutch and a distraction and no way to learn to relate to other people.
So, no, no new phone.
And, yes, she was lovid — maybe more. And she’ll probably stay lovid for days to come.
I hate seeing her angry.
I hate seeing her mope.
I hate seeing her cross-legged on the bed, ancient iPhone (2021) in hand, looking the part of an imprisoned princess who’s decided to respond to her incarceration by inflicting the silent treatment on captor Dear Old Dad.
That I work in tech and love tech makes this even weirder, and harder. But I won’t let my daughter’s smartphone kidnapping run its course without putting up something of a fight. As the deformed John Merrick screams to those who mock him in David Lynch’s incredible 1980 movie, “The Elephant Man”: “I am a human being!”
I know you didn’t mean to send us down this road, Steve Jobs. I know you meant well when you had your minions find a way to addict the human brain to a chunk of chips.
Robert Oppenheimer, much in the current mix because of a movie, also meant well at Los Alamos. He and his gang were determined to prove they could transform atoms into fireballs.
These days, though, both those men make me lovid.