The Perfect Daughter, Part 1—Clark Humphrey
For her “alt-graduation” party, her father Gerry assembled a computer video clip entitled “A series of moments from the eventful life of our Roxy (so far).” She didn’t know in advance what he’d placed into it; he’d only promised her he wouldn’t include any really embarrassing footage. This did not assauge her fears; she knew he had far more lenient standard than she did about what was or wasn’t embarrassing.
Sure enough, on the Saturday afternoon of the party in the house, the very first image Roxy and her friends and her father’s friends see is her as a toddler on roller skates, repeatedly falling and getting back up, with adventure-movie soundtrack music dubbed in. Over that, Gerry had dubbed in the voice of his longtime friend Rondo:
“As soon as he knew he was having a daughter, and especially when he got primary custody, he vowed to make her into the kind of woman he’d most admired. What he hadn’t really thought through was that all the women he admired most were ficitonal. Xena and Buffy never existed. And what he really wanted to make her into, a Xena or a Buffy who also loved nerd boys, could REALLY have never existed.”
The next scene shows Gerry (younger, with more hair and more gut flab) videotaping himself waving in a full length mirror at a martial arts studio, then panning around to show the nine-year-old Roxy in a white robe, stretching and preparing for her bout at the studio’s quarterly championships.
Next comes a quick cut to the bout itself. Roxy kept her feet prancing Ali-style as she stared down her opponent. Her eyes were wide open but her ears were apparently closed, as her opponent and her both did their best to ignore the aggressive parental shouts and exhortations from the sidelines.
Another quick cut and we’re after the match (whose ending was not included in the final footage). Roxy and another girl are talking about the meet and the parental rooting sections. Roxy says, “It’s like they’re Pokémon trainers putting us into battle to settle their own disagreements.” The other girl sighs, “Then they beam us back into our little plastic balls and take us home. We don’t even learn what they’ve got against the other parents.”
Next scene: Roxy is about the same age, this time at a “learning enrichment” seminar. Four classrooms at an elementary school in town are being used this Saturday. Three of them are for kids who are trying to catch up with their peers. Only Roxy’s room is occupied by kids who are trying to exceed official expectations. Gerry’s minicam is peering into the classroom from a little window inside the door. The image of her is fuzzy and slowed way down; but it’s clear she finds learning things to be a far more valuable use of her extracurricular time than fighting made-up fights against other girls. She’s attentive and focused on the workbook in her hand and the textbook on her desk.
Next scene: Staged footage of the 12-year-old Roxy on a cross-country bicycle, in a city park on a cloudy morning, being “interviewed” by her father as if she were a star athlete before or after a big game. Among the things she says:
“I think what I like most about being on my bike is I can work out outside, by myself. No competition. No pressure. Nobody yelling at me to go faster or hit harder.”
Gerry asks, off camera and almost out of mic range, “Nobody like me, for instance?”
In the video on the big flat computer screen, Roxy just looks into the camera and fidgets with her handlebars.
Back in the living room of the suburban tract house, everyone young and old stops watching the clip and stares at the 17-year-old Roxy. She stands silently, having learned to hold her ground.