The museum on a Sunday is mostly dads and their dad-smitten daughters. Dad is a smart guy, he knows all the culture things and all the snickery city jokes. Daughter does well in school, dresses like a grad student, has a crush on Ira Glass. Gets into trouble, yeah, but it’s smart-kid trouble. An edgy essay, some black and white photography that maybe the art teacher isn’t quite ready for.
Mom likes art fine but doesn’t quite get-get art in the same way that Dad does. Dad has some artist friends-of-friends, Dad attended a gallery opening in the 1980s that Debbie Harry was at. Dad dabbled. Dad has books you are not allowed to touch because they’re fragile or important or expensive or pornographic in ways that might not be art in the way a teenage daughter understands art.
Dad isn’t in a hurry, Dad doesn’t follow you around the galleries like Mom does. Dad spends twenty minutes looking at one thing because that thing is very moving or fascinating or troubling to Dad. Dad sometimes peeks over your shoulder and tells you an interesting fact about the thing you are looking at. Mom is lost in a gallery and needs you to guide her. She nervously tells you things that the placards say and you’ve already read the placards and the placards are so pedestrian anyway, Mom.
Dad says you can pick one book from the bookstore. It has to be a book, not a piece of crap. It’s understood that you’re not supposed to pick the most expensive book, that’s obvious. Dad is going to judge you a little by your selection. Jasper Johns? Well, okay. If that’s what you’re interested in, okay. Dad flips through an art magazine and says that it used to be better. You note this, and you repeat it to a boy you like when your art class goes on a field trip. A momma’s boy, he is wrenched by the neg, and his hotness for you redoubles.