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.