A chair. FATHER sits with a newspaper. Enter DAUGHTER.
FATHER: What do you want for your birthday?
DAUGHTER: A car.
FATHER: You can’t have a car.
DAUGHTER: That’s what I want.
FATHER: You can’t have it.
DAUGHTER: You asked me.
FATHER: What else do you want?
DAUGHTER: That’s all.
FATHER: You know I can’t afford that.
DAUGHTER: You asked what I wanted.
FATHER: How about a CD?
DAUGHTER: No thanks.
FATHER: You love CD’s. Just tell me what you want.
DAUGHTER: I don’t want you to get me a CD.
FATHER: You can pick out your own. I’ll get you a gift certificate.
DAUGHTER: Don’t want one.
FATHER: A gift card to Blockbuster?
FATHER: You love to rent movies.
DAUGHTER: Not anymore. Who wants to sit around here and watch a video.
FATHER: I’ll get you a gift certificate to Belk’s.
DAUGHTER: I despise Belk’s.
FATHER: Where would you like a gift certificate to?
DAUGHTER: I hate gift certificates.
FATHER: How about a phone card?
DAUGHTER: No. I hate those. Too much trouble.
FATHER: I’ve been thinking for a while that you could use a cell phone. It’s an expense I was putting off, but what the heck.
DAUGHTER: I’m not wild about ’em.
FATHER: You always want to borrow mine.
DAUGHTER: I’d probably lose it.
FATHER: You’ve never lost mine. Listen, this takes the fun out of it. I’ll get you something – maybe a cell phone – and we’ll call it a surprise.
DAUGHTER: Don’t get a stupid cell phone. I’ll throw it in a dumpster.
FATHER: Then money. I’ll give you some cash and we’ll both be happy.
DAUGHTER: Money is capitalist filth. Don’t want it.
FATHER lowers the newspaper.
FATHER: Dammit! You want a car. How do you think people buy those?
DAUGHTER: I dunno. How?
FATHER: With money! A lot of it.
DAUGHTER: Cars are useful.
FATHER: Cars are a pain in the ass.
DAUGHTER: I don’t think so.
FATHER: You’ve never had one. They’re dangerous. They break. They require constant maintenance. Gas. It’s a huge responsibility to own a car.
FATHER: I wish I could give you that.
DAUGHTER: Then give me one.
FATHER: Not a car. Responsibility.
DAUGHTER: I’ve already got it.
FATHER: That’s a crock.
DAUGHTER: I do.
FATHER: You don’t know what it is.
DAUGHTER: What is it?
FATHER: Tell you what it is?
DAUGHTER: Yeah. Explain it.
FATHER: Responsibility is…being…responsible. Having…being…able to respond.
DAUGHTER: I respond.
FATHER: Well, it’s more. It’s being re-spon-sive. It’s taking care of your own life. Being accountable. That’s it…accountable…for your life. Knowing that…what happens…you know…if it’s good…you take the credit. If it doesn’t turn out so well, it’s…
…your own fault!
Then you respond accordingly.
DAUGHTER: I’m responsible.
FATHER: You are not!
DAUGHTER: I am!
I should be an A student, right?
DAUGHTER: And I’m not. Right?
FATHER: Right. Exactly. You don’t work up to your potential. You aren’t responsible.
DAUGHTER: But I am. I know I’m a bad student. I choose to get B’s and C’s and D’s. I embrace them. I know the assignments and I respond accordingly. I’m even responsible for living with you, in this house, in this capitalistic, money-grubbing, time-impoverished society. If I wanted to, I could choose something different. I could…well…move somewhere – like the American Taliban did.
FATHER: The American Taliban!
DAUGHTER: Yeah, the American Taliban.
FATHER: My God! You call that responsible?
DAUGHTER: C’mon, Dad. I just want a car. I’ll pay the insurance.
DAUGHTER: I’ll get a job.
FATHER: When you get one, ask me again.
DAUGHTER: Then it’s a deal.
FATHER: No. Even if you pay the insurance, whose gonna pay for the car?
DAUGHTER: I couldn’t pay for that!
FATHER: Neither can I. I think we’re very generous with letting you use our cars.
DAUGHTER: It’s not like having your own.
FATHER: You’re insane.
DAUGHTER: You are! You could afford a car for me if you wanted to. We took that vacation.
FATHER: That was our vacation.
DAUGHTER: It cost as much as a car!
FATHER: It did not!
DAUGHTER: It cost as much as the kind of car I would get.
FATHER: You couldn’t get any car for that.
DAUGHTER: Dad, you wasted a lot of money on that vacation.
FATHER: We did not.
DAUGHTER: You did! Who needs to go deep sea fishing?
FATHER: It’s something I’ve always wanted to do!
DAUGHTER: You didn’t catch much.
FATHER: I wanted to try it! We work. We deserve a vacation! If I want to see what it’s like to go deep sea fishing – at my age – I deserve to be able to.
DAUGHTER: I deserve a car.
FATHER: You do not.
DAUGHTER: I hate those vacations!
FATHER: You do not. You love the beach.
DAUGHTER: I hate going to the beach with you! I hate you!
MOTHER: What’s going on in here?
FATHER: She hates vacations.
DAUGHTER: (to FATHER) And you.
MOTHER: That’s enough.
FATHER: She wants to be like the American Taliban.
DAUGHTER: Not be a Taliban, really. But I sort of admire that guy.
FATHER: How can you admire him!
DAUGHTER: He had a philosophy.
DAUGHTER: The Taliban philosophy.
FATHER: What’s that?
DAUGHTER: I don’t know. But he followed his heart. He deserves credit for that.
FATHER: Bullshit. He took up arms against his country.
MOTHER: I don’t think that was his original intent.
FATHER: Of course not. He went crazy.
MOTHER: Certainly. The young man has mental problems.
DAUGHTER: He was just a guy who wanted to explore the world. I think he sort of got kidnapped. Why is everyone who disagrees with you always crazy?
FATHER: They aren’t.
DAUGHTER: They are too!
FATHER: Not everybody. I’m talking about the American Taliban! He is crazy!
DAUGHTER: Have you been inside his head? You might be the one who’s crazy.
MOTHER: Stop it!
DAUGHTER: Mom, I need a car.
MOTHER: Ask your father.
DAUGHTER: That’s what I just did.
MOTHER: What did he say?
DAUGHTER: You heard him. He says the American Taliban is crazy. He offered to give me cash – because he’s a cold, numb, corporate-centered capitalist.
FATHER: I’m not corporate. I’m a social worker.
DAUGHTER: It’s your mindset. Your whole generation is materialistic.
FATHER: So is yours.
DAUGHTER: I’m not. I’m a socialist.
FATHER: I thought the same thing when I was your age.
DAUGHTER: You were right. What happened to you?
FATHER: I took on some responsibility. That’s what.
MOTHER: A car’s not a bad idea.
FATHER: We’re not getting her a car for her birthday. Hell, I suggested a cell phone. That’s generous.
MOTHER: Ooooo. A cell phone. That’s nice. You want that.
DAUGHTER: Mom, I want a car.
MOTHER: (to FATHER) Honey, it’s not a bad idea.
FATHER: We can’t afford that.
MOTHER: Maybe she could pay for it.
DAUGHTER: That’s what I was thinking.
MOTHER: She could get a loan.
FATHER: How would she pay it back?
MOTHER: She could get a job.
FATHER: Shouldn’t she have the job already?
MOTHER: Maybe she needs a little encouragement.
FATHER: Maybe so.
DAUGHTER: I’ll never get that around here.
MOTHER: Give her some.
MOTHER: It doesn’t cost anything. Just say something encouraging.
FATHER: Get a job.
DAUGHTER: That’s not encouragement!
FATHER: What am I supposed to do!
MOTHER: Make some suggestions.
FATHER: Get a job bagging groceries.
DAUGHTER: That’s the pits.
FATHER: Jobs are the pits.
DAUGHTER: I will never bag groceries.
FATHER: Get a job waiting tables. Give me your tips. When it adds up to four thousand dollars, we’ll go look at cars.
DAUGHTER: That won’t work.
FATHER: Why not?
DAUGHTER: It’ll take forever.
FATHER: Cars don’t grow on trees.
DAUGHTER: Two thousand.
FATHER: Okay. Two.
DAUGHTER: Five hundred.
FATHER: One thousand.
DAUGHTER: Seven fifty.
MOTHER: (to FATHER): Darling. You’re the one who made the suggestion.
DAUGHTER: Can I use my Bat Mitzvah money?
DAUGHTER: Why not?
MOTHER: Yeah. Why not?
FATHER: That’s college money.
DAUGHTER: If I have the car, I can drive to work and save money for college.
MOTHER: That’s a very responsible attitude.
FATHER: It is?
FATHER: But she’s never shown any sign of wanting to work. She’s never worked at all.
DAUGHTER: It’s time to begin.
MOTHER: See how responsible she is?
DAUGHTER: Can I still have the cell phone for my birthday?
MOTHER: That’s a great idea.
We don’t want her to be in her car without a cell phone.
FATHER: (resigned) Yeah. Good idea.
DAUGHTER: What about the cash?
FATHER: Those were alternate suggestions.
MOTHER: Let’s leave room for surprises. It’s her birthday.
As MOTHER and DAUGHTER exit, they whisper excitedly about their shopping plans. FATHER sits, defeated and distressed.
End of play
Notes about Dad:
He wants to get along with his daughter, and he wants her to grow up and assume responsibility — but not right away. Within a logical time frame.
In the opening exchange, he tries to remain calm, using reason and logic. His first mistake is losing his cool when she says, “Money is capitalist filth. Don’t want it.” He allows this to set him off. His second mistake is his reaction to her reference to the “American Taliban.” Perhaps this represents — to a parent — the ultimate in loss and disappointment and pain that an irresponsible child could potentially inflict. At this point, he comes down to her level and begins to argue with a teenager, acting like a teenager himself. She’s better at it because the conflict takes place on her level. Thus, the battle is really over and she has won. The rest is mopping up.
Notes about Daughter
She wants a car, but what she really wants is to become a responsible adult. The problem is, she wants to be an adult, and have what adults have, before — in the eyes of her father — she is doing the things that adults do. Also, she defines responsibility in a different way perhaps an equally legitimate view as her father’s. Although her methods are not necessarily mature — she’s disorganized, illogical, and testy — she does deserve a certain amount of credit for taking responsibility. She makes bad grades and embraces them. With her father, she sets a goal and works relentlessly to achieve it.
If she can get Dad to argue on her level, thereby taking him out of logic and into emotion — she wins. “Money is capitalist filth,” gets the ball rolling. The “American Taliban” remark is the turning point.
Notes about Mom
She wants Dad to be more understanding and let her grow. She wants the daughter to grow up, be nice, and have a car. Mostly, she wants them to get along so that she survives.