Dad's rules not related to logic
June 23, 2002

You could almost hear the cinematic theme music during the  "Apocalypse Now" style interrogation. "Your intentions with my  daughter?" my suspicious father would inquire. His parental job  was to ward off any potential dates I might have during my high  school years.

Yes, it's got to be difficult raising a daughter, just to  release her into the arms of a strange man.

As long as he has been my father, Daddy-O has set forth some  interesting parameters. His rules rarely made much sense to me,  since they were riddled with contradictions. Odd stipulations  included the fact that I could wear makeup, but I had to keep  regulation-short, unpainted fingernails.

And as a young adult (with supervision), I could sip  champagne at our hot-air balloon landing parties. But when I asked  what the drinking age was during a Florida vacation, he informed  in a Monty Python deadpan that for me it was 35. (Florida law  stated 18 in those days.)

My dates didn't escape Dad's dating requirements, either. Any  potential suitors had to follow the "no visible tattoos or  piercings" rule (no biggie back then). And a car transporting a  boy older than me was completely off-limits. Dad once nixed a date  I had with a high school senior, explaining that he was once a  senior with a car.

I couldn't argue with him then. But now, I can question my  dad's dating rules with adult logic. Recently, he re-explained the  following precedents for me:

"Rule No 1: The rules do not have to make sense to you. And  rule No. 2: If there are any questions, refer back to rule No. 1."

Yep, that's my dad.

From a kid's perspective, Dad can seem like an overjudgmental  adult. He enforces completely capricious rules, like daylight  curfews. But from a father's point of view with his only daughter,  it's an instinctive need to protect his prodigy from harm. To  his friends, my dad's a respectable guy, gregariously fun and  adventurous. His daredevil hobbies include: formation flying,  hot-air ballooning, remote-area scuba diving, jumping out of  perfectly good airplanes with a parachute, and motorcycle riding  (with short hair this time).

I see my dad as "respectable" too. But in my eyes, he's also  a serious, ultraconservative, starched-shirt wearing, stressed-out  workaholic, who is playfully married to his numerous technological  gadgets and toys. He's only 20 years my senior, but acts much  older. Occasionally, I get to see him in his fun mode, too.

When I asked him about this difference between how he is  with his friends and how he is with me, he replied it was because  "he's the parent." I told him that at my age, he could quit  worrying. But that's not going to happen. Contrary to that elusive  "right answer" parental handbook, the concern for a child extends  way beyond an obligatory 18 years.

I thought the daughter dating regulations might lighten up  as I advanced from my teen years to my college years. They didn't.

One of my favorite comical "dad rulings" from this time was  when I brought my only real college boyfriend home with me. We  were assigned separate rooms. Apparently, it was OK to sleep  together at school, but not under Dad's roof. Heck, I even had to  sleep on the couch! (Actually a better deal, since the cable TV  system was there.)

If I were a son, I'll bet my dad's dating advice would be  different. For instance, I wanted to repeat his infamous romantic  college stunt 20 years later, since I went to the same school.  When I asked him for helpful tips to scale the 300-foot-high radio  tower to hang a banner for my boyfriend ( as he did for my mom),  he simply warned, "You can't. They electrified the tower." OK,  Dad, was that before or after they put in a shark-infested moat?

As bad as I thought I had it, I'm thankful I wasn't my aunt.  Why would she ever need birth control when she had five older  brothers - led by my dad - for a protective barrier method? The  boys would sit her poor carrion of a date on the couch, circle him  like vultures, and then barrage him with questions.

  "Did she have many second dates?" I asked my dad. "Not any  of the ones we got through with," he retorted. "If they could have  gotten out of the house without her, they would have."

My dad had a soft side in the midst of his restrictions.  Maybe because his rules to keep boys at bay rarely needed  enforcing. Though people don't believe me now, I asked out two  guys to every dance in high school. I was constantly rejected  (which later helped build a thick skin for my creative career  choices). I went to maybe three dances in four years.

Being a guy, Dad tried his best to duct-tape my young  wounded heart. In a pathetically sweet gesture to cheer me up, he  would always offer to take me to the dance (like the dads in the  1950s).

"Thanks, Dad, but no," I'd sigh, since I was already feeling  geeky enough. Instead, he consoled me with ordering a pizza and  renting movies. That became a beloved tradition for the missed  festivities.

Those movie nights are probably why I'm the only female in  the family who can engrossingly sit through his  testosterone-driven high-tech home theater demonstrations. But  since I'm a girl, he still won't let me near the remote.