The newspaper editor seated next to me at a trendy Lahore restaurant spoke soberly about the pressures faced by the Pakistani media.
Despite the fact that Pakistan remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, it has a vibrant press, explained Kamal Siddiqi. He is the editor-in-chief of the Express Tribune, one of the country's largest English-language dailies.
But his demeanor changed when we discovered we both have daughters roughly the same age. In that perplexed way that middle-aged parents talk about their children's musical tastes, he mentioned that his 13-year-old is a fan of Fall Out Boy, an American pop-punk band.
My daughter loves Fall Out Boy, I informed him.
His girl also follows British YouTube stars Dan and Phil, he said, unsure of who exactly they were.
Mine is similarly obsessed. (Neither Siddiqi nor I have watched an episode yet, although we agreed that we fully intend to monitor what has our children so enraptured.)
It wasn't just the girls' shared pop cultural interests that amused us. It was their boundary-testing attitudes; their verbal sparring with siblings and parents; their common language of Tumblr and Instagram posts.
"I thought this was somewhat unique to American kids," I said to him.
"No, this is what she and all her friends talk about," he said.
The West has long exported its culture to the rest of the world. But the proliferation of social media has given rise to a more fluid exchange that goes beyond singing the same song lyrics and watching the same movies. The hyper-connected, post-millennial generation is part of a pan-digital culture. Of course, a secular American teen might have little in common with one being educated in a Pakistani madrassa. But one of Lahore's most conservative madrassas broadcasts its lessons via YouTube and fields "Ask an imam" questions online. Their audience is global.
Meanwhile, a teen punk in Pakistan is no less emo than her American counterpart.
I rattled off the names of a few other bands that Siddiqi's daughter might appreciate, having been educated on several occasions by my own 12-year-old. He texted his daughter in Karachi about his new musical finds, and she began quizzing him about songs, suspicious in the way teenagers are when their parents profess to liking anything cool. She stopped texting after a short exchange.
I empathized. I had been away from home on a journalism seminar for more than two weeks at this point, and I had sent my daughter lengthy texts to which I received short replies, if they were acknowledged at all.
One of my traveling companions, a young Huffington Post reporter, nodded sympathetically when I showed her the one-sided text conversations.
"It's like you're in a relationship with a bad boyfriend," she said.
It did feel like trying a bit too hard to get someone's attention. I shared the analogy with Siddiqi, who agreed that it was apt.
I wondered why I felt so giddy at the thought of parents across the globe suffering the same teenager-related angst. The American culture of modern parenting lays so much blame at the feet of parents: We are too permissive; we are too hovering; we are overly involved; we are too self-involved.
Mostly, we are guilt-ridden and time-starved.
Every aspect of parenting is picked apart and diagnosed as a symptom of any number of societal ills, from consumerism to narcissism to attention deficits.
No wonder it was such a relief to hear a Pakistani parent describe an adolescent who sounded so familiar.
Siddiqi's daughter called me to ask if I had really taken my daughter to a Fall Out Boy concert this summer. Yes, I told her, it's true.
"She's so lucky!" she shrieked.
I could not resist texting my daughter afterwards and sharing that tidbit.
"I know I have cool parents," she texted back, adding a sly smiley face emoji.
She must be missing me after all, I thought.
Siddiqi and I pledged to keep in touch after our meeting, which was ostensibly about the ways in which our professional worlds overlapped and diverged.
He and I became Facebook friends. We virtually introduced our daughters, who connected through Instagram.
The distance between Karachi and St. Louis: now a bit shorter.