For her twelfth birthday I took her to dinner at the Waldorf Astoria.
She was dressed as if she arrived from the past in a plum lace dress, a velvet cape and a silk top hat. I wore the black suit I kept around for funerals and court. We dined inside the hotel at Peacock Alley, a storied bistro named for a mirrored promenade between the original Waldorf and Astoria Hotels where women of another era would strut their feathers on a Sunday afternoon. We were certainly strutting our feathers.
Everything about that night was made special by design, and over a rich dessert made from three kinds of ice cream I broached the tender subject:
“Okay. Let me ask you a question. Do I smoke pot?”
“Duh!” she snarked, scarfing the s’cream without missing a beat.
“Actually, I don’t,” I gently replied.
She looked up from her dessert puzzled and said “¿Por que?” I should mention she doesn’t speak French.
“I stopped smoking marijuana on your birthday, and I’m not going to smoke it for the foreseeable future.”
“Why not?” She was genuinely perplexed.
“Because I want to show you that smoking marijuana is not important. Understand me, kid, I’m very lucky. What I do for a living is important. Fighting for your rights is important. Making sure sick people get medicine is important. Standing up for something you believe in is very important,” I told my twelve year old.
“But smoking marijuana is not important. There are plenty of fine, noble, admirable people who have never smoked pot and never will. Smoking pot,” I admitted, “is not for everyone.
“You know I don’t think kids should smoke pot, and you know why, right?”
She nodded. We had already had that conversation. This was a deeper dive.
“Has anyone ever offered you marijuana?”
“Well, someday soon that’s going to change. Somebody is going to offer you marijuana, and when that happens I won’t be there. When that happens…” – I paused – “I want you say ‘No.’ Do you understand?”
“I don’t want you to think that what I do for a living means that you have my tacit approval to smoke marijuana when it’s offered. You don’t. I don’t think it’s for kids.”
Then I told her what I wasn’t talking about.
“It’s not because I think there’s anything wrong with it. There isn’t. It’s not because I don’t like it anymore. I do. Smoking marijuana has been a very positive experience for me and for a lot of other people, but that’s not true for everyone. And I’m not stopping because I’m afraid of getting arrested. It’s a little too late for that.”
She smiled. “Yeah.”
“It’s not because I got tired of it or because I started getting paranoid or because I can’t afford it. A lot of people stop for those reasons and others, but that not why I’m stopping.
“I’m no longer smoking marijuana simply because I want to give you an example of not smoking marijuana. It’s not for kids, and it’s not a big deal one-way or the other. I want to show you that. As long as you don’t smoke marijuana, I won’t smoke marijuana. Marijuana’s not important. You’re important.”
She said nothing.
“Dylan, look at me.”
She stopped eating her ice cream, put down her spoon and met my eyes.
“I don’t care about marijuana. I don’t care about High Times. I don’t care what other people think, and I don’t care about the law. I care about you. Nothing is as important to me as you. Do you understand?”
“Yep,” she said blithely, picked up her spoon and went back to devouring her dessert. I watched her for a few moments, not quite a young woman but clearly more than a child.
“You don’t care about any of this, do you?”
“Not really,” she quipped, scraping the bottom of the bowl.
“Good. That’s just what I want to hear.”