LEBANON — As Valentine’s Day approaches, fathers and daughters are dressing up and bonding at community dances offered throughout the Upper Valley.
But one mother said the traditional father-daughter dance is no fun for non-traditional families. She said its exclusionary to bar mothers and sons who also want to celebrate the holiday on a dance floor.
“In this day and age, it’s not like your gender should define what type of parent you really are,” said Jennifer Meade, who was asked to leave a dance organized by the Carter Community Building Association this weekend.
“I don’t understand why I have to be a dad to celebrate Valentine’s Day with my kids,” Meade said.
The CCBA has held its father-daughter dance for roughly 20 years.
“We’ve always been about community,” said CCBA Executive Director Shelby Day on Monday. “We’ve never been about disregarding anyone’s feelings about anything.”
The organization is planning a mother-son dance this spring and a family dance in the fall.
Meade said she ran afoul of the CCBA while attending its “daddy daughter dance” on Saturday with her 7-year-old son, 5-year-old daughter and boyfriend.
A staff member accepted $30 for the two couples, Meade said. But nearly 20 minutes into the event, she and her son were asked to leave.
At the time, Meade was sitting on the bleachers watching her kids play with a basketball.
Rather than split up the family, they chose to go home.
“It’s not like anyone was uncomfortable that I was there,” she said. “I wasn’t taking away from anyone’s experience being there.”
But Day defended the father-daughter dance as a tradition that allows fathers, uncles and grandfathers bonding time they might not normally get.
Mothers are usually invited in to take pictures, but can then go down to the Witherell Recreation Center’s game room, or participate in other actives there, she said.
“(Meade) was not kicked out. She was encouraged to remain in the building and to hang out in our game room downstairs,” Day said. “It’s a father-daughter dance. That is what this (event) is about.”
Day said that staff sell tickets to many people, who often are buying for their husbands or male family members to attend with daughters, and they make it clear that women aren’t invited to stay the whole time.
Other communities have struggled with whether to keep father-daughter dances or open them up to everyone.
Grantham’s annual father-daughter event began to see dwindling attendance, according to Jamielynn Garland, who coordinates activities for the town.
This year, the town switched to a family dance.
Garland said the decision also was based on worries that mothers and sons were being excluded.
“I think in society now, you need to have (open dances),” she said. “You have to be open to everybody, and it’s not new. We’ve always had these dynamics in families.”
Even if a mother or son attempted to attend the old dance, Garland said they wouldn’t have been turned away.
The CCBA said it will continue its father-daughter dance next year.
Tim Camerato can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3223.