When Dad Was in Charge of My Social Life

I grew up in the 80s – the age of big hair, Jazzercise, jelly shoes, and landlines.

And yes, the transparent phone was actually a thing.

One of the challenges of landlines was having to rely on the members of your household to let you know who called while you were out. While my mom and sister were reliable when it came to delivering messages, Dad was hit-or-miss. Case in point: I came home one day when I was around 10 or 11, and Dad informed me that Bar had called.

I stared at him a moment, then asked, “What?”

“Bar called,” he replied, his eyes glued to the television. (I can’t remember what he was watching, but it was definitely a Western, fishing show, or football.)

“Bar?” I replied.

“Yup.” As if to drive the point home, he handed me a piece of paper on which he’d written: KELLY BAR CALLED.

“I don’t know anyone named Bar,” I said, but Dad declined further comment. As far as he was concerned, his work as messenger was concluded and the conversation over.

I paused to think. Who could have called whose name sounded like Bar? I ran through my friends’ names, and none of them fit the bill. I then remembered I’d been assigned a class project with a boy named Paul. Had Paul called about the project? Did Paul sound like Bar?

“Was it a girl or a boy?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Dad replied.

Sigh.

Now, I was in a sticky situation. I’d never called a boy before, and the very idea was horrifying, but if Paul had called and I didn’t call back, he might tell the teacher I was shirking my responsibilities. Argh! So with my heart hammering in my ears, I found his family’s name in the phonebook and dialed the number.

His mom answered, and I squeaked out, “Is Paul there?”

“Sure, just a moment, please,” she replied, friendly as could be. “Paul!”

I almost puked in the five-second interval between speaking to his mom and hearing his voice say, “Hello?”

I swallowed hard. “Hi, Paul. This is Kelly Menser. Did you call me?”

“No,” he snapped, snide as could be. His mom’s positive role modeling clearly had no effect on him.

“Okay, bye!” Utterly mortified, I slammed down the phone, then stomped upstairs as my cheeks seared and mind swirled with furious thoughts about my father’s message-taking abilities.

That evening, my friend Laura called. “I called earlier and talked to your dad,” she said. “He didn’t tell you?”

I closed my eyes and heaved a breath out my nose. Dad knew Laura very well. He had probably talked to her a hundred times. “He told me Bar called,” I grumbled.

“Bar?” she replied.

“Yes. He even wrote it down.”

“BAR?” She burst out laughing.

When she’d quieted down a bit, I added, “And I thought it might’ve been Paul, so I called him.”

“You called PAUL?!” she shrieked. “AH HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!”

So at least Laura got a good laugh out of it. After I got off the phone, I went into the family room to inform Dad that it was Laura who’d called earlier.

“Okay,” he replied. Thinking back on it now, I imagine he had no idea what I was talking about.