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Girl Talk: Going To Las Vegas For My 21st Birthday … With My Dad

When I was about 10 years old, my dad made me promise that—as soon as I turned 21—the two of us would go on a father/daughter trip to Las Vegas. The pact stipulated that it would be just him and me making our way to Sin City—it would not include any kind of boyfriend, or buddy, and certainly not my mother. At the time, 21 seemed like fiction to me. I was still figuring out multiplication tables and it was hard to think a decade ahead to a time when I would no longer be belabored by math and old enough to drink and gamble as well. But at the same time, even at 10, I understood my father was serious, and that a large amount of trust was being entwined in this promise.

My dad and I were a team, and our goal was to win money. In the end, we came out with 0 burning a hole in our pockets. But over the course of the five day trip, I realized that the Vegas Vow had actually been about something much bigger than that.

So the years went by and we both went through an intricate series of up and downs, but the Vegas Vow remained an unbreakable element through out it all. With every passing year, on my birthday, I had to vocally renew the promise to my dad. It seemed that had he some irrational fear that the moment I turned 21, I would be hit by the enormous urge—and uh, the money—to make a run for Vegas without him. To gamble and be gluttonous without his guidance.

The years until 21 turned into months. And soon it was time to take the promise into action. About three months before my birthday, my dad, step-mom and I started the Kitchen Table Casino. The KTC is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. The three of would spend hours at the kitchen table playing cards and making bets with plastic poker chips. An important clause of my Vegas Vow was that I would master the rules of playing blackjack. I was not going to be some kind of chump who raced to the table and started splitting 10s and hitting on 17. No! I was going to be my father’s mini maverick, a budding blackjack talent who would wow the dealers and clean house.

This trip wasn’t just about having fun and blowing money (surprisingly) but also setting a strong foundation for my future trips to Las Vegas.

Some of the rules to be respected were:

  • I would embrace blackjack as my game because it offers the lowest house advantage.
  • I would not be juvenile and get caught in the allure of slot machines, even if some only cost a penny and were kitten-themed.
  • I would not get embarrassingly drunk off the free drinks at the tables because it wasn’t only very unclassy but a surefire way to lose money fast.

I was given all the weapons to prepare me in the weeks counting down to the trip: a book on blackjack, a pocket blackjack machine, and multiple hours of KTC practice. My dad made a reservation for us all at the Palazzo.

And finally the time had come. After over a decade of waiting, I flew to Vegas with my dad and step-mom for my spring break.

It was amazing. My father and I did all the things that were already a natural part of our relationship. We did massive amounts of people watching, which was especially ripe on St. Patrick’s Day. The two of us got into giggling fits over small things that no one else found funny. We embarrassed my step-mom on several occasions. Also, while this was the first time my dad and I could drink together, alcohol didn’t dominate the activities or feel of the trip. (Remember the free drink rule!) My dad and I were a team, and our goal was to win money. In the end, we came out with $400 burning a hole in our pockets.

But over the course of the five-day trip, I realized that the Vegas Vow had actually been about something much bigger than that. On this trip, I found myself sharing parts of my life with my dad that I previously didn’t care to talk about. And I learned more about him, too.

Now that it is all over I can understand why this trip was so important to my dad. It was his way of ushering me into adulthood and testing how I handled some of its responsibilities. Could I manage money? Dedicate myself to learning the intricacies of something if I knew it would help me? Keep control of how I appear in public even with the temptation of free booze? Hopefully, for my dad, all these questions were answered with a “yes.” In the end, it was an unforgettable experience.

So thanks, Dad!

Photo: iStockphoto

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