Fathers also have rights of passage

March 18, 2001|By Leonard Pitts Jr.

MIAMI -- Dear Justin Timberlake:

I've got a major beef with you, dude. I figure it's time we had a few words.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Who is this guy and why's he calling me out? I don't even know him.

Well, Slick, you don't have to know me. I know you.

In fact, I've known you for years. I knew you when your name was Davy Jones and you sang with the Monkees, knew you when you were Jermaine Jackson of the Jackson 5. I remember when your name was Ralph Tresvant and you belonged to New Edition, remember when it was Jordan Knight of New Kids on the Block.

Heck, I can even go back to the time you went by Paul McCartney and sang with the Beatles.

Now, of course, you're calling yourself "Justin" and your group is `N Sync.

Doesn't matter what name you use, I know who you are.

You're the "cute" one in the boy band, the one whose dimpled smile makes all the little girls weak in the knees.

But that's not why we've got beef, you and me. No, my problem stems from the fact that you are the First Boy.

The First Boy of Girlhood, to be exact. It's sort of like the first robin of spring -- a harbinger of change. Except that the bird's appearance heralds blooming flowers and warmer days.

You are the bearer of less welcome tidings.

You still don't get it, do you? OK, let me break it down for you. I have a daughter, Onjel. She'll be 11 this year.

I went in to paint her room the other day only to discover she's had it wallpapered instead. With pictures of you. Everywhere I turn, there's your grinning mug.

That really grates my cheese, pal.

I can remember when I was the only man in her world, when all I had to do to make her smile was come home. But that was before you came around, before the arrival of the First Boy.

Now my stock has fallen like a dot-com.

And it's only going to get worse. I mean, you know what comes after the First Boy? That's right, the Second Boy.

He'll show up at my door in a few years. His unfinished voice will sound like James Earl Jones as impersonated by Michael Jackson. He'll be wearing a body he hasn't finished growing into and his mom will be waiting in a minivan at the curb.

Naturally, he'll be uncomfortable. So I'll invite him in, offer him a seat, fetch him a soda and do my best to make him more nervous.

I'm thinking I might pepper him with questions about his intentions, interrogate him like a murder suspect on "NYPD Blue." Or, I might glare at him in silence. Maybe I'll just sit there, casually cleaning my fingernails with a hunting knife.

Not that it matters. The Second Boy will inevitably give way to the Third and the Fourth.

Somewhere down the line, maybe the Fifteenth Boy turns out to be the Right Man.

Next thing you know, I'm sitting alone in some hotel ballroom wearing a rented tux and watching the cleaning crew sweep up confetti, poorer by $10,000 and one daughter.

All because of you. Thanks a lot, pal.

You say it's not your fault? Maybe you're right.

Still, you're a harbinger. And I'm not quite ready for the change you're harbinging.

Unfortunately, like the kid who's "it" in hide-and-seek, change comes, ready or not.

I bought my daughter and myself tickets to your summer concert tour, by the way. Thrilled her to pieces and made my stock rise, which is what I had hoped it would do.

Hey, I'm not proud.

I expect to find myself sitting alongside a bunch of other fathers whose stock has taken a beating lately.

We'll smile tolerantly when you storm the stage and our daughters turn into wild women. We'll remember that no one ever loves anything quite as ferociously as an adolescent girl loves a boy band. And we will also make mental notes to stop at Wal-Mart on the way home.

They do carry hunting knives, don't they?

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him via e-mail at leonardpitts@mindspring.com or by calling toll-free at 1-888-251-4407.

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