Snapshot: Missing the Good Ol' Days

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Commentator Jeff Obafemi Carr sent in this week's Father's Day "Snapshot" from a recent, awkward shopping trip he took with his pre-teen daughter.

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

It's time once again for our weekly Snapshot.

This one comes from Jeff Obafemi Carr. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where he hosts the radio show "Freestyle." Jeff is also a devoted dad with a pre-teen daughter but he says he's starting to miss the good old days back when she didn't ask tough questions and boys didn't give her a second look.

So in honor of Father's Day, Jeff sent us this snapshot. It's from a recent shopping trip they took together.

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Mr. JEFF OBAFEMI CARR (Commentator; Resident, Tennessee): Duct tape can fix anything. I heard repeatedly inside my head. I was moving through the aisles of Wal-Mart, seeking the rack when my greatest fear would be manifest in one small wiry, soft article of clothing.

Duct tape is good for everything except ducks, the guy in my head said again. I glanced to my side and saw my 11-year-old daughter walking next to me. Move this way, papa, she said with an exasperation that has become more frequent over the last few months.

I've noticed the sense of testiness in her voice, where they used to be wonderment in my parting of wisdom. Now there's a slight irritation.

Here they are, Bobba(ph). Yes, here they were indeed, covering an entire wall on the back of a store, looming over me like an army of Amazonian warriors, united in their calls against a lone, weakened father, beaming in their superiority in both size and permanence.

There I was: One man against a million bras, unarmed except for possibly duct tape. Could it be that simple? Could I just take my little girl home and wrap some of the trusty old handyman savior around her upper half and keep her frozen in time?

Body changes are quite painful, especially for daddies. Just yesterday, I was worrying about her doing her homework and talking to strangers. Now that I was buying my first bra, I needed to have other conversations. You know, little boys at this age start acting a little differently, I advised her using third person.

They start having strange sensations in their private areas and it makes them act kind of weird toward girls. She exhaled, whirling her eyes back into her head. How am I translating? Do I tell her that some little knucklehead named T-Roc(ph) is going to try hem her up in a staircase or try to get her to go in to the bleachers during P.E.?

And if I do that, will I push her against nature and rob her of her chance to experience a normal stage of human development? This is the dilemma, dads. And it's all because we remembered so vividly what it was like to be young boys when we began to want to watch behinds instead of bugs.

They're just bras, Bobba, she said, awakening me from some quick murder fantasy involving me choking T-Rocks for calling her a name. These weren't just bras. This one overwhelming article of underclothing makes her some new creature to me. I couldn't say that, though.

So I took a deep breath and for the next eternal moment, I shopped for bras with my daughter. Thankfully, she leaned more toward the practical than the lacy and racy, a small victory for me. I knew however that, too, would change soon.

On my answering machine is a two-year-old girl who announces my Bobba can't come to the phone right now and please leave a message. Why do I keep that message after all these years? Because it's a reminder of who my daughter will always be to me. I push the bra-laden car ahead past the hardware section and steal a hug from her, feeling good that I'm the kind of father who can shop for sensitive items with his growing daughter. Yup, there are some things that duct tape just can't fix.

(Soundbite of phone ringing)

Unidentified Child: Thanks for your call. My Bobba can't answer the phone right now. Please leave a message.

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CHIDEYA: That was Jeff Obafemi Carr with this week's Snapshot. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where he hosts a radio show "Freestyle."

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CHIDEYA: That's NEWS & NOTES.

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CHIDEYA: To listen online or subscribe to our Podcast, visit us at npr.org/newsandnotes. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African American Public Radio Consortium.

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CHIDEYA: I'm Farai Chideya. This is NEWS & NOTES.

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