‘Fathers, be good to your daughters’ | TheUnion.com

‘Fathers, be good to your daughters’

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

It was one of those ideas that sounded sensational in theory, if not in reality. Spend an entire eight hours reading some of the state’s best newspapers? Count me in!

But by the time 4 p.m. rolled around last Friday, and judging for the annual California Newspaper Publishers Association Better Newspapers Contest had come to a close, my mind was dizzied with information overload and I was in serious need of either a cool beverage or a nap.

I got neither.

Instead, I hurried home, grabbed a shower and quickly got decked out for one special date — the Daddy-Daughter Dance.

“It’s such a precious thing seeing the dads with their daughters, dressed to the nines … “
— Gayle Guest-Brown, DVSAC’s new executive director

Friday night marked the sixth annual edition of the dance sponsored by the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition and we haven’t missed one yet. I say “we” because over the years I’ve been accompanied by both of my girls, including two years with one on each arm, and we’ve now seen a bit of a passing of the torch between sisters — which, of course, is a nice way to say I’ve been kicked to the curb by our teenager.

“Isn’t there an age limit on that?” she said, when asked if she’d be joining us at the dance.

“Of course not,” I said. “You’re never too old to watch your dad get down.”

Perhaps it was the thought of her tragically unhip father working up a lather to Lady Gaga that led her to skipping out on the sixth annual event, but I’d rather believe it boiled down to the baby-sitting gig she worked instead, knowing she still needs to fund her eighth-grade trip to Washington D.C. and New York.

Still, Big Sis was game to help Lil Sis get all gussied up for the date, so it was still somewhat a family affair for my girls.

Modeling her new dazzling dress and sparkling shoes, along with a head of curls thanks to her sister, the most beautiful thing my 8-year-old daughter wore was the proud smile on her face.

And that’s what this dance is all about.

“The Daddy-Daughter Dance provides another opportunity for girls to learn what a healthy relationship may look like with the males in their lives,” Gayle Guest-Brown, DVSAC’s new executive director wrote on the organization’s website.

It’s like John Mayer’s words in one of the songs that had us slow dancing on Friday night.

In short, Mama and I’ve got some modeling to do of our own:

“Fathers, be good to your daughters

“Daughters will love like you do

“Girls become lovers who turn into mothers

“So mothers, be good to your daughters too.”

Sadly, we know not every princess gets a chance at such a fairy-tale feeling — even if for just one night. And more depressing are the real-life stories of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Statistically speaking, according to a study by the United Nations Development Fund for Women, one of every three women in the world — or to really bring it home, one of three girls at Friday night’s dance — will eventually be raped or beaten in her lifetime.

One in three.

Who will it be?

My girl? Yours? Or yours?

That’s the mind-boggling statistic being shared by the DVSAC, as it spreads word on its next event — joining the nationwide “One Billion Rising” effort to stop violence against women and girls. On Valentine’s Day, DVSAC will join other Nevada County activists and organizations in the downtown Grass Valley Safeway parking lot at 5:15 p.m., before walking and dancing up the street toward The Center for the Arts.

According to DVSAC.org, the walk will be followed by a 6 p.m. reception and then, at 8:30 p.m., a dance party.

“We will come together as a community to let everyone know we refuse to tolerate violence in Nevada County,” the website states. “It will not happen here. It will not happen to those we love.”

This community comes together for all kinds of causes, including this one.

Friday night’s packed house at the Veterans Building in Grass Valley is one example, as all proceeds from the Daddy-Daughter Dance are directed to the DVSAC’s mission “to offer resources for building healthy relationships and to work with community partners to provide services for healing the effects of interpersonal violence.”

Another example is the widespread community support for Women of Worth (www.Women-of-Worth.org), launched to assist families in crisis and domestic violence victims through an array of services, including its safehouse Hetty’s Haven, named after Hetty Williams, a much-loved member of the community who was murdered in a domestic violence incident.

As a father of two girls, it gives me great comfort to see such support for women in our community, one where Nevada City’s Ellen Clark Sargent is said to have founded the first women’s suffrage group way back in 1852. Gather the Women (www.gatherthewomennc.org), a local organization which annually holds a conference each March, has emerged with a new group, “Creating the Gazelle,” focused on how women from all political parties can “unite for greater effectiveness in creating solutions.”

From last year’s 40th anniversary of Title IX to ongoing efforts over equal pay and electing a congress that’s actually more representative of women in our society, progress has been made but much work remains to be done.

“There are so many more opportunities for women today,” Guest-Brown said by phone Tuesday, as she reflected upon her first Daddy-Daughter Dance, which proved impressive as DVSAC believes it might have reached record turnout as more than 500 people were dancing the night away.

Thank goodness for the “Shirley Temple” fountain that kept thirsty girls happy while a run for more bottled water was made.

“I’d heard about it, but there’s nothing like seeing the dance in person,” Guest-Brown said. “It’s such a precious thing seeing the dads with their daughters, dressed to the nines … It’s so cute and endearing, watching the dads bend over to talk to them while they’re dancing.

“I was surprised how much it was like a real party out there. I mean, sometimes we can’t get our husbands on the dance floor. But I guess they just can’t say ‘no’ to their daughters.”

Toward the end of the evening, during one of the final slow songs of the night, my girl asked me to pick her up and hold her in my arms.

As we circled in an embrace, she leaned over and gave me a smooch on the cheek.

“I wish,” she said with a smile, “that they had this twice a year.”

Contact Managing Editor Brian Hamilton via email at bhamilton@theunion.com or by phone at 530-477-4249.

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