Dave twisted the edge of the beige kitchen tablecloth between his pointer finger and thumb, exhaling slowly. He’d been dreading this day for a long time, dreading the mere thought of having a sexually informative talk with his daughter. It didn’t make it any easier to know she was going off to college, that she was mature enough to handle the topic. In fact, it just made it worse. When she was younger, at least he had time to repair her mental image of him, to fix the damage he was about to do with “the talk.” Now all he had was less than seven days before she shipped off to college, the thought of her comparatively-ancient father lecturing her on sexuality one of the last things she’d recall. It was horrible.
“Honey,” Dave said, his voice cracking slightly. “Do you have a minute?” He glanced over at Katie, who was washing something in the sink. Probably not her dishes, considering that—despite being eighteen years old—she still weaseled her way out of washing them after dinner every night.
“Sure,” Katie said, grabbing a paper towel and drying off her hands. She turned toward the kitchen table and wandered over, wiping her palms on her indigo jeans before placing one arm around Dave’s shoulder. “What’s up, Dad?”
Dave took a deep breath, Katie’s arm rising up as his shoulders lifted. “Honey, you’re a big girl now. You’re going to be on your own in a few weeks. I want to make sure that you keep safe while, you know, stuff happens.” Dave cleared his throat. He didn’t feel like he’d gotten his point across yet.
“Sure, I guess?” Katie said, pulling her arm off Dave’s shoulder. She took a step to the right and plopped down in the chair beside Dave. “What are we doing for dinner? Is Mom bringing home takeout again?”
“Hang on,” Dave said, fingers returning to twisting the edge of the beige tablecloth, “let me just say this.” He paused, taking in a deep breath, holding it for three seconds, and then exhaling slowly. It was a breathing technique he’d learned doing yoga, or rather watching yoga videos on YouTube. He’d never actually done yoga. “You’re going to college, you’re going to be in a lot of unique situations. You need to make sure that you always use protection—“
“Dad,” Katie interrupted, her head tilting to the left, “are you giving me ‘the talk?’ I’m eighteen years old, I’ve had four different health classes in high school. I know what sex is. Please don’t make this anymore awkward than it has to be.”
“I’m not talking about sex,” Dave sighed, placing his hands on the table. “I’m talking about selfies. I need to hear you say that you’re not going to partake in any selfies.”
“I’m sorry?” Katie said. She tilted her head even further, as if Dave had just told her that Hitler was at the front door, and he’d brought kosher pizza.
“It’s dangerous, honey. It’s dangerous and it’s unsafe and I don’t want you taking part in selfies. Think of the space-time continuum, think of the chaos that could ensue.”
“Dad? Are you feeling all right? You aren’t making any sense right now.”
“It’s just, you’re my baby,” Dave sighed. “You’re still my little girl. I don’t want you doing a selfie and suddenly disappearing, or being replaced, or anything of that sort. I just, I’ve recently read about the side-effects, the consequences of selfies. I can’t have you partaking in them, not even experimentally. I need to hear you say that you’ll be safe in everything you do, and that you’ll never do any selfies.”
Katie leaned back against her wooden chair and crossed her arms over her t-shirt, then opened her mouth. She stared at Dave, her head still tilted, and then closed her mouth again. She then re-opened her mouth one more time. “Dad, do you have any idea what a selfie is?”
Dave laughed softly, tapping the top of the tablecloth. He hated awkward talks, hated having to even discuss the idea of sexuality with his own daughter. That’s what the school system was for, that’s what her mother was for. Yet he’d made mistakes himself growing up, got too caught up in the moment and had to live with regret. He didn’t want her to have to endure the same, especially considering the possible consequences of her actions. He had to power through it, had to hear from her own mouth that she’d be safe, that she’d do everything she could not jeopardize her future.
“Of course I know what a selfie is,” Dave said. “I’ve read a lot about it, heard a lot of negative stuff. I don’t want you doing any selfies is all.”
“And what exactly is a selfie, then?” Katie said, leaning forward and squinting slightly.
“Don’t make me say it,” Dave said, sitting up straight. “You know what it is.” He could feel his heart beating faster, the beads of sweat on his forehead slowly growing in number. He should’ve turned the A.C. on before starting the conversation. It was too late now, too late to stand up and fidget with the thermostat. He had to suffer through.
“I do know what it is,” Katie said, “but I don’t think you do.”
“Of course I do, I’m your father. I keep hip to all your swag.”
“You clearly don’t.”
Dave sighed. “Fine, okay. It’s when you clone yourself and use that clone for sexual purposes. A selfie. Like mutual masturbation, except you’re technically both parties. And it’s dangerous.”
“What the f—”
“Look,” Dave interrupted, “I know what selfies are. I’m not dumb. I know. But I need to hear that you won’t clone yourself for sexual exploration. I need to hear that you aren’t going to do any selfies on yourself. Think of the confusion: what if the clone decides it’s the original? What if it tries to take over your life? What if you clone too many of you? What if you find out you’re actually really attracted to the clone and realize that marrying your mother was a mistake and that you only needed more of yourself all along?” Dave paused, that last one was a bit too specific. “What if something happens to you?”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Just promise me you won’t do a selfie,” Dave sighed, lowering his head toward the beige tablecloth. This was so much worse than he’d imagined.
“Dad,” Katie said. Dave glanced up, his eyebrow furrowed with concern and dripping with sweat. She stared at him for a moment before finally leaning back against her chair, shoulders drooping and head shaking. “Fine, I won’t partake in any selfies. But you need to promise me something.”
“What’s that?” Dave said.
“You are not allowed to read *The Onion* anymore. I think you’re having trouble differentiating it from reality.”
“Right,” Dave laughed, shaking his head. “I’m having trouble, sure. Come on. The only thing making it hard to differentiate reality is Obama, the lizard-man, forcing his brain-washing vaccines down my throat.”
“Did you read that in the *The Onion,* too?” Katie said.
“No, *The New York Times*.” Dave lied. He couldn’t actually recall where he’d read it. Perhaps it was *The Onion,*but it didn’t matter. He’d heard what he wanted from his daughter, saw her mouth form the words of the promise. He’d successfully completed his awkward conversation with her and lived. Now he just needed to talk to his wife about the article he’d read earlier in the day about their state considering outlawing cabbage. He didn’t want her to accidentally get arrested come supper time.