DAD STORIES... memories of a man who got it right
So, you want to date my daughter?
Dad endured my dating years with a lot of teasing and feigned disinterest. He wasn’t one to invade my private world and I wasn’t much for opening up my heart to all his engineer logic.
Boys were definitely not a topic of frequent discussion when Dad was around- those midnight talks were reserved for Mom’s understanding ears. Dad was just too logical for things like boy-crushes and romance. Not exactly my go-to guy when it came to dating advice.
That was an era in girl-history when we actually dated. As in going on dates.
Usually by Monday or Tuesday night a guy would call a girl on the phone (no texting!), hum and ha and make awkward conversation, and eventually get around to asking her out on a date for Friday night. And girls were pretty much obligated to say yes- unless the guy was a creep of course, in which case we made up excuses and hoped he’d turn to greener pastures.
I dated a lot- we all did. We didn’t “hang out” back then, we dated. Friends dated. We went bowling or miniature golfing or to a movie or out to dinner.
And there were rules for all this dating, unwritten rules that everyone knew. For instance, no girl with any sort of self-respect would kiss a guy on the first date. That would have labeled her as easy. A guy had to earn the right for that peck at the front door.
Another rule had to do with all this dating of friends. If you didn’t like a guy “that way”, you absolutely could not “lead him on” by going out with him more than 3 times. Three dates was the absolute limit.
Poor guys, that was a lot of out of pocket expense to figure out she wasn’t about to fall in love with him.
Of course, like all girls of every generation, we wanted more than anything for a guy to declare himself right up front and let us either fall into his open arms or tell him to take a hike.
But I never, ever discussed these things with Dad.
Of course not, that would have been embarrassing.
And my dad was particularly embarrassing. He had these requirements, you see, that none of my friends’ dads had.
When a guy came to pick me up, he had to come in and meet my dad. Not at the front step or in the entryway—nope, all the way in.
I remember many a poor guy sitting on the edge of the green plaid couch, nervously answering questions about education and jobs and what-are-you-doing-with-your-life topics most 17 year olds are pretty much clueless to answer.
Dad seemed to relish their discomfort.
With me darting him dirty looks, Dad would eventually stand up and escort us to the front door, asking what this poor sweaty guy’s plans for the evening entailed. Then he’d pause, do some engineer-like calculations in his head, and tell the by now thoroughly intimidated fellow what time he expected him to bring me home.
I was sure Dad was wrecking my chances of anyone ever falling in love with me. Word had to be getting around about the Great Inquisition from Diane’s ferocious father.
But all my whining didn’t faze Dad. He wouldn’t even argue with me— and neither would he budge.
Looking back now I see that Dad was protecting me. Naïve and vulnerable and sometimes just plain stupid, I had no idea what was going on in those guy’s minds. I was clueless about hormones and sweat glands and what boys talked about in the locker room.
But Dad wasn’t, and he wasn’t about to let his little girl be pawed in the back seat of a car. Dad was protecting me, radiating a message that every one of those guys understood fully. DON’T MESS WITH MY DAUGHTER!
And they didn’t. They didn’t dare.
Because of Dad.
When eventually the man I would one day marry asked me out, it was a whole different scenario.
Phil wanted to meet my dad. He stepped right into our cozy family room, settled himself on that same plaid couch, and launched in to his own inquisition.
Where do you work? (G.E.) What do you do? (Nuclear engineer) Where did you go to school for that? (Oregon State) On and on the questions rolled until I was sure Phil would rather stay right there and talk to Dad all night.
Eventually we all walked to the front door, where Dad let us both know in no uncertain terms that 11 o’clock would give us plenty of time to get to know each other.
That date opened a whole new world to me.
Instead of having to carry the conversation and squirming in the silent stretches, I was carried along into the back and forth of two people with something to say. This guy knew how to talk! For the first time ever I began to contemplate the idea of the rest of my life.
All too soon Dad’s curfew was approaching and we were still talking. We’d stopped at a restaurant for some dessert and the clock was inching towards eleven. I started getting nervous. Real nervous. This was a man I was talking to, not one of the sweet boys I spent most of my time with. How would it look if I had to call home to appeal to my daddy to stay out later?
I was sure I would die from the embarrassment of it!
Before I had a chance to figure it out, Phil glanced at his watch and asked if I ought to call home. Of course Dad said, Yes, finish your dessert, and of course we did.
And I didn’t die right on the spot, in fact, less than a year later my dad proudly walked me down the aisle and gave me to that man. And he gave me some advice that day too… but that’s another story for another day.
Dad and I never really did talk about all my angst over his rules for dating. He never explained to me why… or how he felt about it… or tried to get me to agree. We didn’t talk about stuff like that and I didn’t have any choice in the matter anyway.
Dad was dad and I was expected to do what he said. Period.
But now I think I know— Dad was protecting me.
Protecting his simple hearted daughter from dangers he was well aware of. Dangers that could have ruined my happiness, my wholeness, my future. Dangers that could have dashed every dream and left me wounded and weak.
Dad wasn’t about to let that happen on his watch.
Sometimes young women ask me if my dad and I were close… and I look at them and wonder what in the world they mean.
Close? To Dad? Close to the guard at the door? Close to the man who set curfews and left the porch light on and never told me why?
Yes. We were very close. Connected down deep.
But not in the way they mean, that idea just doesn’t jive with my picture of my dad. We never talked for hours on end, I never told him who I liked or what I hoped. We were close because Dad stood guard over me until he knew I was safe.
And then he let me go.
From my heart,
Five things dad did right:
- He protected me
- He was invulnerable to emotional drama
- He didn’t try to be my best friend
- he guarded my purity
- He stood his ground even at the risk of my feelings towards him