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Likes and The Kind of Man I Am at the DMV Discussion Questions

Likes and The Kind of Man I Am at the DMV Discussion Questions


After reading “Likes” and “The Kind of Man I Am at the DMV,” please answer the following questions:

Regarding “Likes,”

1. Whose innocence is being lost in this story? Explain your answer.

2. Is this story more about the father or the daughter?

3. What is the role of social media in the story?

Regarding “The Kind of Man I Am at the DMV,”

1. How is androgyny dealt with in this poem? Do we find out whether the speaker is male or female? Why might this be relevant to the meaning of the poem?

2. How does the speaker feel about the little boy? About his mother? Explain your answer.

3. Would you classify the little boy’s reaction as innocent? How does his reaction differ from his mother’s?

The dad scrolled through his daughter’s Instagram account, looking for clues. The most recent post was a photograph of an ice-cream cone, extravagantly large, held up against a white wall by a disembodied hand. Peppermint stick, or strawberry. The mound was starting to melt, a trickle of it inching down the cone and drawing dangerously close to the thumb. His daughter’s.

The next photo was a closeup of a shopwindow. Inside the window glowed a pink neon sign spelling out the word “warm” in lowercase letters. The glowing word took up most of the frame: it was impossible to tell what sort of store it was.

Another closeup: an eraser-colored rose, its petals halfway unfurled.

A panorama: the sky at sunset.

A shot of her dog, Bob, curled up like a cinnamon bun on the pleated, peachy expanse of her bed.

And then an earlobe—was that what it was? Soft, rounded, partly in shadow.

He closed his eyes and put down the phone.

His daughter was nearly twelve, and difficult to talk to.


Normally she rode the bus home from school, but, now that she had to do physical therapy twice a week, he had been picking her up and taking her to the appointments. He felt responsible. These problems with her joints—runner’s knee, Achilles tendinitis—were undoubtedly a handicap she’d inherited from his gouty side of the family. In ballet class, she could no longer do grand pliés or go up to relevé. In the middle of the night, she would wake up in pain. He kept a tin of Tiger Balm on her nightstand so that she could find it easily in the dark.

The physical therapist was a young woman dressed as an older one, in ironed slacks and support shoes. She had a secretive smile and a stiff demeanor. The dad didn’t always feel comfortable asking her questions, but his daughter seemed to like her. “Hi, Ivy,” the therapist would murmur as they entered the office, her little smile widening, and the two of them would disappear into the equipment. From the waiting room, the dad could hear the whirr of the stationary bicycle and the sound of their voices, his silent companion from the car suddenly talkative. It made a kind of music, the wheel spinning and her talking.


Correction: his daughter wasn’t entirely silent in the car. She sang along to songs on the radio, songs patchy with blanked-out words that she made a point of mouthing but didn’t say aloud. A billboard might prompt her to ask a question like “Why is she drinking out of a paper bag?” Sometimes, gazing at her phone, she would let out a low, triumphant hiss. Yesssss! She’d got every answer right on the Kylie Jenner quiz. Received seventy-four likes on her ice-cream photo. Set a new personal record on her Snapchat streak with Talia. Other days her phone lay inert in her lap. Only last week she had asked, eyes brimming and fixed on the dashboard, “Dad, can I be homeschooled?” Undone, he’d answered, “Sure.”


After physical therapy, in the elevator heading down to the parking lot he gave her a squeeze and said, “You’re quite the conversationalist in there.” His daughter looked at him with alarm. Of course it hadn’t come out the way he’d wanted it to. “I’m glad,” he tried again, “that there’s an adult you enjoy talking to.” Which was true, although it sounded as if he meant the opposite. Even to his own ears he sounded sorry for himself. But his daughter, good for her, was not thinking about him or his feelings. She stared at the elevator doors. “You’re making me feel like I talk too much!” she whispered furiously, deep in her own embarrassment.


New Instagram post: a peeled-off pair of ballet tights, splayed on the white tiles of a bathroom floor.


Some days his daughter’s quietness in the car felt blank and mysterious; but some days it felt excruciatingly full, like an inflamed internal organ about to burst. On one such afternoon the dad said carefully, “I’m not going to look at you. I’m not going to say anything. I’m just going to keep my eyes on the road. I’m going to keep driving, and, when you’re ready, you say whatever you want.” After a moment of silence, she said, “I’m considering it.” And then, “Can I curse?” He nodded. She asked, “You won’t make any noises, or have any expressions at all on your face?” He nodded again. They drove for several more minutes. The effort was killing him. Also the dread. He wasn’t sure if he had the capacity to receive whatever feeling it was that she was full of. When they were only three blocks from the therapist’s office, she said to the windshield, “I have no friends.” As he eased into the parking lot, she said, “And don’t tell me, ‘But you were just at Annie’s house last Friday.’ I know that’s what you’re going to say. But you can’t make me feel better. People only hang out with me because there’s nobody else around. I’m not their friend.” She opened the car door slowly. “I’m their second choice.” She heaved her backpack off the floor while he stayed behind the wheel, noticing his breath and absorbing the punch in various parts of his body. Why hadn’t she cursed?


New post: a hamburger with lettuce and Thousand Island dressing, cut in half, cooked medium rare.


The physical therapist recommended a series of exercises to do at home. Some, like the calf raises, were straightforward, but others had names such as Clam. Studying the printout, with its unhelpful black-and-white drawings, the dad asked, “You understand what all of this means?” Fire Hydrant. Dipping Bird. Short Bridge. Clock. His daughter didn’t glance up from her phone: “Uh-huh.” He stuck the paper to the refrigerator with a magnet. It looked somewhat quaint there. All her handouts from school were now distributed digitally, for environmental reasons. “You know you’re supposed to be doing these every night?” No answer. Marooned on one side of the island, he wondered, not for the first time, if open concept was such a great thing after all. Was she in the kitchen talking with him, or was she in the family room, on the sofa with her phone? Unclear. Without untying the laces, she scraped off her sneakers, toe to heel. Two consecutive thunks. “Your progress depends on it. You know that, right?” Elegantly, she lifted her long legs up and out of sight. “Ivy?” She sank beneath the horizon of the sofa. “Hello?”


Guess what: her only homework was to watch TV. This was what his daughter announced when he picked her up from ballet class. In a series of texts, he and his wife agreed that they would order ramen and watch the Presidential debate as a family, and though it took them a while to get settled—the restaurant had sent only one spicy instead of two, and when they sat down on the sofa Bob kept jumping into their laps and had to be crated—once they finally organized themselves, with their drinks and their bowls and their napkins and their chopsticks, it felt warm and momentous being there together in front of the television. Dorothy muttered encouragement at the moderator. “Keep at him,” she said, bent over her noodles. “Keep the pressure on!” 


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