Aw, Hell. I thought we'd worked through love issues last summer when she announced her intention to marry Aquaman.
"I haven't written it down yet," she explained, "but it's memorized. It's the Most Handsome Men List of 2010!!!!"
It just feels so early for this. But apparently, my daughter has been reading issues of People magazine behind my back.
We've done everything we can to sell her on the whole Beauty-Is-Only-Skin-Deep Ideology. When we watched Beauty and the Beast with her, we pointed out that pretty boy Gaston was actually just a jerk with a big jaw who treated women like dirt and liked to kill animals. I actually overheard my wife deliver the "It's what inside that counts" lesson, and Mini-P seem to vaguely get it.
Of course that lesson went out the window when the Beast himself became human in the end and turned out to be Fabio. Thanks for that, Disney.
The fact that my eight-year-old daughter has a Most Handsome Men List shouldn't be a big deal. It doesn't mean she's going to grow up and be shallow, or harbor a lifelong attraction to callous pretty boys. It doesn't even necessarily mean she's going to be straight. (Frankly, I was pulling for a lesbian since the first ultrasound: Shun men and their devious XY chromosomes, Sweetheart! They're rotten and inconsiderate and they smell and they only want one thing and they're just... bad. Go find a nice girl and put a ring on it! So far, though, all signs currently indicate that Mini-P is headed down Hetero Road.)
At some point, Mini-P will become smitten with someone, for real. There will be stages of love, stages of boys, and I will have to prepare for that.
Luckily, I think I have a handle how this is going to work. I haven't looked up studies from Impressive Universities yet, but I think they'll back me up regarding the stages of emotional attachment for girls, progressing from age 4 to 14:
Phase One -- Plush Toy
Age: 4-5 years. Daughter pledges to marry favorite stuffed animal. Species irrelevant. Safe and harmless, since stuffed animals almost never have private parts that serve as gender identifers. Sometimes they wear bows between their floppy ears, or tiny
baseball caps. Phase considered to be a healthy act of role play ("Do you, Mr. Turtle, take me to be your beautiful bride? You do? Yay! Let's have Otter Pops!").
Phase Two -- Daddy
Age: 6-7 years. Daughter decides she will marry Daddy. A sweet stage, good for a father's ego. (Only awkward when I had to explain to Mini-P that I'm already married, to her mother, and am positive about said marriage's long term prospects.).
Phase Three -- Jonas Brother
Age: 8-11 years. Daughter falls hopelessly in love with a pre-teen pop star with floppy hair, clear skin and an earnest face. (see: Brother, Jonas or Bieber, Justin) He will sing songs about feelings, wear a purity ring and make a public vow to remain a virgin until marriage. His appeal is largely sexless, and therefore harmless.
Phase Four -- Vampire
Age: 12-14. Daughter will discover that vampires are both pretty and dangerous. Plus emotionally frail and unattainable. Plus evil, albeit sometimes conflicted about it. The vampire wants to get close, to fall in love, but has that streak of Bad Boy that forces him to keep the girl at a distance. (I haven't seen or read Twilight, but I'm right, right?)
From there, things seem to get more individualized. Heartbreak comes during one of the later teen phases, the one that involves loving a jerk. Someday, some dude will realize that my daughter has a crush on him, will get her to do his Trig homework for months, will ultimately string her along for a while and then blow her off for Prom. And that's a best-case Unrequited Love scenario. I'm sure I'll be totally unhelpful when that phase arrives. I imagine it's the stage when fathers become useless.
But that's later. "So let's hear it," I said to Mini-P. "Who tops your list of Most Handsome Men of 2010, oh daughter of mine who's eight-years-old?"
She recited the list from memory. "Easy: Mario, Luigi, Wolverine, Spongebob, and Jimmy Neutron."
The Pirate overthinks again.