FREE FALLING

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BOB WOELK
I recently stumbled across this e-mail as I was looking for something else. Now that I have a daughter who is at “that age,” I looked at “Wanna Date My Daughter???” in a different light than I did when this was sent to me back in 1998. Amazingly, it still applies. Here is the text, with a few alterations:

When I was in high school, I used to be terrified of my girlfriend’s father, who I believed suspected me of wanting to place my hands on his daughter’s chest. He would open the door and immediately affect my good-naturedly murderous expression, holding out a handshake that, when gripped, felt like it could squeeze carbon into diamonds.

Now, years later, it is my turn to be the dad. Remembering how unfairly persecuted I felt when I would pick up my dates, I do my best to make my daughter’s suitors feel even worse.

“So,” I call out jovially, “I see you have your nose pierced. Is that because you’re stupid, or did you merely want to appear stupid?”

As a dad, I have some basic rules, which I have carved into two stone tablets on display in my living room.

— Rule 1: If you pull into my driveway and honk, you’d better be delivering a package because you sure as heck aren’t picking anything up.

— Rule 2: You do not touch my daughter in front of me. You may glance at her, so long as you do not peer at anything below her neck. If you cannot keep your eyes or hands off my daughter, I will remove them at the elbows.

— Rule 3: I am aware that it is considered fashionable for boys of your age to wear their trousers so loosely that they appear to be falling off their hips. Please do not take this as an insult, but you and all of your friends are complete idiots.

Still, I want to be fair and open minded about this issue, so I propose this compromise: You may come to the door with your underwear showing and your pants 10 sizes too big, and I will not object.

However, in order to assure that your jeans do not, in fact, fall down during the time you are with my daughter, I will take my electric staple gun and fasten your trousers securely in place around your waist.

— Rule 4: In order for us to get to know each other, we should talk about sports, politics and other issues of the day. Please do not do this. The only information I require from you is an indication of when you will have my daughter safely back at my house, and the only word I need from you on the subject is “early.”

— Rule 5: I have no doubt you are a popular fellow, with many opportunities to date other girls. This is fine with me, as long as it is OK with my daughter. Otherwise, once you have gone out with my little girl, you will continue to date no one but her until she is finished with you. If you make her cry, I will make you cry.

— Rule 6: As you stand in my front hallway, waiting for my daughter to appear, and more than an hour goes by, do not sigh and fidget. If you want to be on time for the movie, you should not be dating. Instead of just standing there, why don’t you do something useful, like change the oil in my car?

— Rule 7: The following places are not appropriate for a date with my daughter: Places where there are beds, sofas or anything softer than a wooden stool. Places where there are no parents, policemen or nuns within eyesight. Places where there is darkness. Places where the ambient temperature is warm enough to induce my daughter to wear shorts, a tank top, a midriff T-shirt or anything other than overalls, a sweater and a goose down parka zipped up to her chin. Movies with a strong romantic theme are to be avoided; movies which feature chainsaws are OK. Hockey games are OK.

My daughter claims it embarrasses her to come downstairs and find me attempting to get her date to recite these simple rules from memory. I’d be embarrassed too. There are only seven of them, for crying out loud.

I did not suggest to one of these guys that I’d have these rules tattooed on his arm if he couldn’t remember them. (I checked, and the cost is too prohibitive.) I merely told him that I thought writing the rules on his arm with a ball-point pen might be inadequate-ink washes off-and that my wood-burning set was probably a better alternative.

My wife once asked me why I am so hard on these boys. “Don’t you remember being that age,” she asked.

Of course I remember. Why does she think I came up with these simple rules?

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