There's a question all high school girls wait for in the spring of their senior year. We go on Lord of the Rings like journeys from Great Northern mall all the way to Beachwood, searching for the dress of our seventeen-year-old dreams. We make fantasy drafts of who's going to be in our limos and whose house is the most picturesque for photos. And, most importantly, which boy is going to ask you that special question. So, there I stood, eyes hopeful, and armpits sweaty. And finally, he asked me, "Does your dad know who I am?"
My dad is Chuck Kyle, the celebrated football and track coach at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland. To me, he's a silly, Phil Collins look-a-like who would dress our stuffed animals up in our pajamas. But to some guys, especially high school boys, he's a legend that should be feared and admired. So asking one of his daughters out to any function, well, that would be seen as a suicide mission.
And please don't get me wrong, I in no way blame my dad for my lack of dates to the Crocker Park Borders in the early 2000's. I mostly blame it on the fact that I looked like a fat Hanson brother who held on to a middle-part deep into the millennium. And thank god I did. I don't think there's a better way to spend your formative years than being hideous. All girls should grow up believing that, one day, they'll be on a Dr. Phil special called, "Woman So Obese and Alone, She Grew Into Her Couch." This helps immensely later on down the road when you learn that the magical phrase, "Unlimited Breadsticks" will eventually lead to "Heart Disease" and "Sadness." A personality forms and you're forced to rely on being witty, not pretty.
Therefore, I was completely prepared with an arsenal of ingenious replies to answer the only questions boys asked me.
"Does your dad ever talk about me?"
I would reply, "No, does your dad talk about me?"
They'd pause, puzzled. "Uh... no?"
"Oh, maybe he doesn't want you to know about us yet..." And I'd walk away with a smile.
Or I would say, "Yes! There's a room in our house where he's actually written your name thousands of times." I'd grab him by the shoulders and scream, "What does this mean, Tim?! What are you hiding?!"
Or they'd ask questions that sounded a little more desperate.
"Do you think if your dad knew I was talking to you, he'd be upset?"
It sounded like they either wanted my dad to be jealous or they had an extremely inflated ego and warped sense of their own reputation.
"Yeah, I think he's worried that when your mom picks you up in her '93 Chrysler Caravan, you'll really pressure me into getting into some trouble."
And at other times, they'd drop some profound high-school-boy knowledge for me to reflect on.
"It sucks that your dad had three daughters."
Um, not really, because I'm pretty sure he, at the very least, likes us?
I'd have to respond, "Yes, it's a complete tragedy." Or, "Yeah, but just two more surgeries and my gender reassignment will finally be complete!"
Sometimes they would realize I was joking and laugh. Other times, they'd give me a blank stare and just assume I'd be a man the next time they saw me.
But there was always a much broader question that would be asked. A question that I was asked by high school boys and many others. A question that prompted this article. "What is it like being Coach Kyle's daughter?"
To put it simply, it's one of the best things about my life. I am truly blessed to be part of an overwhelmingly talented, hysterical, and compassionate family. My dad is an unbelievably hard worker who can quote Shakespeare and also teach you the correct way to tackle a two-hundred-pound lineman (which I found very handy). He, along with my mom, showed us what a loving and fun marriage should be. He taught me to be the first on the dance floor and the last to leave. He taught me to thank people with your whole heart, to laugh, and to make others laugh. So, in a not so short answer, it's been everything for me.
Although, from time to time, I am still haunted by the flashbacks of me sitting alone in a prom dress at a slot machine at the Dave & Buster's after-prom party. All I needed was a lit cigarette and a Big Gulp, and I knew what my life was going to be in 50 years.
But now that high school is a distant memory, and I left my darling 440 area code for the City of Angels, I've left all those questions behind. But every time I see someone with an Indians baseball cap or someone with a disgruntled face, sporting a Browns jersey, I want to ask them a similar question, "Do you know Coach Kyle? He's my dad."
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