MAN OF THE HOUSE BY CHRIS ERSKINE

She's sweet 16 and smart as a whip. Ouch.

"Ice cube?" I ask.

"No, Dad, it's a trombone," she says.

I suspect she is smarter than me — thank God — and better looking. But now she's funnier too, and I won't put up with that, I just won't. She can have all the other stuff — the hair that shimmers like wet paint, the good grades, the charisma, the friends — but I get dibs on wit and deprecation. Ouch, there she goes again with some one-liner. Sixteen one-liners. I blame her mother.

It's just not fair. If she gets to be 16, why doesn't everybody get to be 16? Why couldn't the whole world be 16 for just one day? Maybe then I could understand her and her wise-guy friends.

Maybe I'd understand those text messages she likes to send, a form of communication just slightly less useful for me than the Pony Express. I am as adept at text messaging as I am at plucking a banjo. Just to give you an idea, I tap out the letters one at a time, with my index finger and sometimes my nose.

My teenage daughter, meanwhile, can do virtually anything with a cellphone. In five seconds, she could type in "War and Peace." In 10 seconds, she could design a nuclear reactor with just her thumbs.

"Yo D, wuz up?" she text messages me at work.

"Why aren't you in class?" I reply.

"I am," she says.

Ugh. She's 16, all right.

At 16, she's reading "The Catcher in the Rye" for English class and wondering what all the fuss is. She knows lots of Holdens. Teen angst? Big deal, dude. Whatever.

At 16, she gets most of her news from shiny magazines that reek of perfume and cover the heck out of senior prom. Her favorite journalist is Bill Maher.

"He's funny."

"Like me?"

"Who are you again?"

"Your dad."

"Oh. That's funny," she says.

Yep, the little girl is 16. It happened in a hiccup, a heartbeat, the blink of an eye. I feel like the odd duck in her life, the piece that doesn't fit. Like when Baryshnikov showed up on "Sex and the City," so out of place he seemed an apparition.

But I won't let her intimidate me, I won't. After all, 16 is only 8 twice over. Or 4 times 4.

She's 16 and I remember when she just turned 4. Like it was yesterday.


Chris Erskine can be reached at chris.erskine@latimes.com. For more columns, see latimes.com/erskine.

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