Dicklenburg was smart in this approach. It knew Marcy would come to use her college account for all her e-mail. But in that first semester, scrolling through announcements of concerts, invitations to join the Campus Democrats, cautions from the R.A. about playing the radio too loud, made me feel connected to my daughter in her distant new home. I couldn’t see everything, but I could glimpse the vague outlines of her unfamiliar world. Plus, Dicklenburg let me access the dining hall menus. And no, I didn’t look every day. But once in a while, I’ll bet you’re having the Indian-spiced spinach and sesame-tofu bake tonight, I’d think, and that would comfort me.
If you’re sneering, right now, at the lonely bathos of a grown, busy woman vicariously picturing what her almost-adult daughter is eating for supper a few hundred miles away, then to hell with you. Clearly, you would never Google your kids.
AT LEAST WHEN Marcy comes home, we talk. We pour out our hearts to one another as we drive in the car or cuddle on the sofa. Jake is a harder row to hoe. He pays no mind to cultural ephemera, keeps his own counsel, and thinks I’m the stupidest human on the planet. You couldn’t pull gossip out of him with a hammer and tongs. This is the absolute true verbatim transcript of a recent conversation we had (only the names have been changed):
Me: So! Are you going to Winter Ball at school?
Me: [lightly, so as not to be perceived as prying] Too bad. I was looking forward to seeing you in a tux.
Jake: You can rent me a tux for prom.
Me: [hiding astonishment; it’s only November] You’re going to prom?
Jake: Yeah. With Gina Taylor. [pause] I think her dress is yellow.
At this point, I clamp my mouth shut. I feel so privileged to be entrusted with this minute glimpse into my son’s teenage life that I don’t dare pursue the subject — though questions are roaring in my brain like the El. How does it come to pass that you, a man-child who never knows which day of the six-day school cycle it is, are sure you’re going to prom with Gina Taylor six months from now? If you’re going with her to prom, why aren’t you taking her to Winter Ball? And, most perplexing of all: How does she already know the color of her dress?
I need more insight. I need information. I need that Facebook page.
At work, months ago, I cajoled a bright young thing into “friending” my daughter on Facebook. Mind you, I could have friended Marcy myself, under a phony name, and she’d likely have given me the keys to the kingdom. I have standards, though. I didn’t do that. Instead, every couple of months I’d ask my co-worker to come to my office and type in her password so I could see Marcy’s page — who her friends were, what her questionnaires said (in a relationship, or not?), what sorts of photos she’d posted. Alas, this co-worker has moved on in her professional life.