Lurking in Waldman’s novel, as in many portraits of the dating scene (ahem, Lena Dunham, ahem), is a kind of moral traditionalism that dare not speak its name — or that can be spoken of only in half-jest, as when the novelist Benjamin Kunkel told Traister that the solution was “some sort of a sexual strike against just such men.”
Because Kunkel is right: One obvious solution to the Nathaniel P. problem is a romantic culture in which more is required of young men before the women in their lives will sleep with them.
To the extent that parents tend to see the next generation’s world through their children’s eyes, that’s an insight that’s more immediately available through daughters than through sons.
And no matter what the next study says about your likelihood of actually turning into a Republican, once you’ve flirted with that insight, you’ve tiptoed a little closer to something that might be described as social conservatism.
Even if you live in Brooklyn.
-Ross Douthat, The New York Times
Hello. I’m Ross Douthat. Is this thing on? [unintelligible mumbling] I thought there was a…a little secretary inside. With the magnets. Like a dictaphone. I just type in it, then? Okay. We can get rid of this part, though, right, before it goes to press? Great.
I’m here to talk to you about a problem that’s real bad, this problem: daughters: everybody’s got them. Or at least it seems that way. Nowadays you can’t turn around in a shipyard without spilling your flagon of home-brewed pineapple bread on a daughter. I don’t live in Brooklyn, but some people do, and a lot of them are or even have daughters. Daughters can turn you into Republicans, but they don’t always. You gotta build a castle to protect your daughters, from dragons that want to eat their hair, usually, but also from guys who want to have sex with them. The daughters, not the dragons. As far as I know nobody but dragons are having sex with dragons, but I’m a pretty broad-minded guy. If someone wants to have sex with the dragon and the dragon is willing and the field is big enough, I say follow your bliss.
What is a daughter, anyhow? Science defines them as mostly skin and eyes, but with also some liver and teeth and central nervous systems, and they live in your house and they like Honey Graham Os better than they like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and they’re right here in the room with you and their name is Denise and they have soccer practice. I am not a Republican. I am a human man, and I am writing an essay on a tall desk made of quills and excellence. This will be published in The New York Times, which is not my daughter.
Full disclosure: The New York Times is my daughter. Hello, darling. Daddy loves you awfully much. He’ll never let those awful dragons have sex with your hair.
Before I had daughters, I was just Ross Douthat. Now that I’ve had daughters…I’m Ross Doutheart. Sometimes I worry that Lena Dunham is my daughter. Could I still have sex with her novel?
Sometimes I go to bed, and I can hear my daughters giggling in the walls. I read a book this week about a man named Nathaniel. Nathaniel Hawthorne was an important American short story writer and also novelist. He wrote a book about a house with seven gables, and it was about a friendly house I think. He had no daughters and was a Whig. I don’t think that’s what this book is about, though, because this Nathaniel’s last name is P. and also he lives in Brooklyn today instead of Boston 300 years ago. But hey, to each their own. :)
Next time you’re having sex, ask yourself: could she have a father? Doesn’t that sort of make you her father in a way? It doesn’t, doesn’t it? Daughters: a modern menace. Daughters: a real problem. Daughters: ponies are too expensive, darling, stop asking.
Men, we’re indecisive, it’s hard probably to make some decisions. Women want to be in love but we want sex well into our thirties. What are you gonna do?? Make daughters I guess. Whose eyes do you see the future through? I tried looking through my daughter’s eyes, but when I did I saw the most horrible strangled-looking black-eyed things hanging from every lamp and lighbulb in the house that I sat down hard on the floor and I cried and cried. And then I voted for Ted Cruz, just in case. Only Ted Cruz can save my daughters from the horrible strangled-looking black-eyed things hanging from every lamp and lightbulb in the house that won’t stop screaming. I’m Ross Douthat, and I don’t think you should sleep with your boyfriend until he likes you a whole lot, especially if you’re a daughter. Are you? Are you my daughter? Will you help keep me awake before the black-eyed things get me?
In conclusion, I am Ross Douthat. Please do not have sex with my daughters, celebrated dead novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne. You get back in your grave. You stay there. You belong in the past. My daughters can see the future, and it’s filled with horrible demons that already know our names.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.