A site for Gen-X men, by Gen-X men, about the stuff in life that really matters.
The Arrow Logo - SVG
Oh no!
It looks like you aren't logged in to the Arrow community. Log in to get the best user experience, save your favorite articles and quotes, and follow our authors.
Don't have an Online Account? 

How I Saved My Relationship With My Teen Daughter

We went from BFFs to worst enemies — until I did this

Father and teen daughter embracing on the beach
Getty Images

My daughter Julianna and I used to be mischief-makers.

Just a few years ago, we’d spend entire summer afternoons at the park, racing each other down the slide. In winter, we’d plunge sleds down icy mountaintops, bailing out, crashing into the bushes, laughing. We’d throw tortilla chips from restaurant windows, pelting random cars and strewing the parking lot with crumbs.

We could talk freely about everything from pop music to disgusting school cafeteria food. Even the occasional silences as I drove her to school each morning never bothered me. We never felt the need to be “on” with each other all the time.

And then Julianna turned 13. The adventures and hilarity fell away. Without warning, I transformed into the most annoying person she’d ever met. Everything I said or did became “cringe.” During our school commutes, the silences became sour.

Part of it was because of my daughter’s unpredictable moodiness. Julianna could go from easygoing to surly in a matter of seconds. But most of the problem was me. I wasn’t ready for the new normal, and my middle-aged brain was glitching. I didn’t need to be her best friend anymore. I know that fades with age. But still, I didn’t want to be a stranger.

I could have responded with anger, shutting her out the same way she’d shut me out. But I knew that wouldn’t get me anywhere. If we didn’t have anything in common anymore, I would find a different way in.

That way in was Sephora, a chain of high-end fragrance and cosmetics stores that young women love and old geezers like me can’t stand.

The first time I walked inside a Sephora with Julianna was in 2022. I wondered if the store’s ultra-bright lighting and ever-present mirrors were intended to play up customers’ insecurities. I wanted to know why my daughter, with her glowing skin and lustrous hair, would even want products that promised everything she already had.

“Why do you even like this place?” I asked her one day.

“Because it’s FUN!” she shouted back, rolling her eyes at me.

Her answer made no sense. How could a place that struck me as the antithesis of fun, a store that instilled angst, seem amusing and playful to her?

Still, I stuck with Sephora, shadowing her on subsequent visits as she walked through the aisles. I started to notice that she was fully engaged, taking her time, as if trying to figure out who she was, how she wanted to present herself, and how to be comfortable in her own skin.

As a 56-year-old, I could relate to those impulses. I was seeking to redefine myself at a time when my metabolism was slowing, my hairline was receding, and my ability to handle life’s stresses seemed to be waning.

She loved to test out combinations of aromas and shadings, seeking a balance. How much was too much? It was the seeking out, the trying, the sense of discovery that mattered more than the end results.

On a subsequent visit, I set aside all my preconceived notions, even allowing my daughter to attack with a $70 bottle of mysterious goo. Before I knew what was happening, Julianna was smearing the floral-smelling stuff all over my creased forehead.

“It’s anti-wrinkle serum,” she announced when I asked about the goo.

“Is it doing what it’s supposed to do?”

“No!” she said. “You still have wrinkles!”

Undeterred, my daughter lunged at me with an $80 tube of cream that was supposed to perk up the droopy flesh-bags beneath my eyes.

“So ... how do I look now?” I asked.

“Even worse!” she said, laughing.

The product’s shortcomings did not bother me. Julianna was sharing something that really mattered to her, while anointing me into the innermost sanctum of Sephora-dom.

She’s still an eye-rolling teenager who can barely tolerate my presence some of the time. But when she’s been dousing me with so much Sauvage cologne that I smell like a musk ox, it feels like I got my daughter back.

Follow Article Topics: Family-&-Fatherhood