It is not important for my girlfriend’s father to like me; we are all far too concerned in this modern age with being “liked.” There is no virtue in the pursuit of instant, superficial approval. Her father and I aren’t peers, or buddies, and we’re not dating. I’m the dude who’s nailing his little princess, and our entire relationship is based on one thing and one thing only — that I’m making his daughter happy. One of the ways a man makes his beloved happy is by meeting her dad, something no man likes to do. These meetings are like high-level diplomatic negotiations between nations, rife with courtliness, subtext, and menace. We meet the father not because we want to, but because it makes you happy. And that’s all he wants to know.
”It’s an ancient ritual actually, stretching back to Sparta, where warrior fathers forced their daughters’ beaus to fight wolves with wooden spoons. This standoff between men has always been, is now, and always will be. I imagine if I have a daughter one day, I will undoubtedly have to meet young Hannah Solo DeVore’s new boyfriend. Did you know that men can communicate an amazing amount of information via handshake? Some handshakes say, “Hey! I don’t really want to meet you,” and some say, “I can take you down.” And still others say, “I like beer, you like beer; therefore, I like you!”
I’ve actually experienced this rite of passage firsthand. I once met a boy my niece brought home when she was a teenager. The kid swaggered in wearing a rakish smirk and proceeded to try and “charm” my older brother, a former Marine. Never try and “charm” a former Marine, especially if he is responsible for half the chromosomes of the woman you’re dating. What makes your girlfriend laugh and swoon won’t make her father do likewise. It’s easy to forget that her old man “charmed” her mother once upon a time, and he is all too familiar with standard douchebag procedure. There are few original tricks to get into a woman’s pants out there; dads are familiar with them all. And they do not like to be reminded of the dirty little ways they use to hoodwink ladies into revealing their fleshy unmentionables. Granted, the guy was just a snot-faced teenager, but that didn’t stop my brother from putting an icy hand on his shoulder and telling him that while 11 p.m. was curfew, 11 p.m. was actually past curfew. I got a taste of the territorial rage; I stood behind my brother, wearing a grim Skeletor face, and had only one thought, “Don’t worry, bro, I’ll dig the shallow grave.”
Over the years, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about meeting the dad. First, as I mentioned earlier, is never hornswoggle a hornswoggler. Remember that there are three men all men despise: suck-ups, used car salesmen, and card cheats. Don’t be any of these.
Secondly, if you’re out to eat, never order the most expensive item; then humbly and graciously, thank him after the meal. If you’re eating at her parents’ house, it is important to eat everything her mother prepares, even if it’s a culinary horror show. I was once presented with a dish of creamed onions, which looked and tasted like poltergeist vomit. I helped myself to seconds. A subset of this rule is: If you’re staying over at her parents’ house, resist all temptation to defile your girlfriend in her childhood bed. I don’t care if you remove the springs and duct tape your mouths shut, Dad will know.
Thirdly, offer respect without any expectation of receiving it back. Sometimes in life, a man has to swallow his pride and smile while doing it. Lastly, and, most importantly, hug your girlfriend if she’s had a bad day, know how she likes her pizza, and encourage her dreams, no matter what they are.
I’ve done this dance with many fathers and I can’t say whether or not any of them really liked me. The truth is, I don’t really care. We have only one thing in common: the heart of the same woman. There is one father I particularly, begrudgingly liked. I went to Thanksgiving dinner at my girlfriend’s parents’ house in upstate New York. He resembled one of the giant stone heads on Easter Island, only less cheery. His handshake communicated a single word, “Punk.” He was an arch-conservative, the sort of guy who thought John Wayne was just a little bit too much of a communist. Now, I’m no spiral-dancing hippie; I’m a proper Texas liberal. I believe in gay rights and gun rights; gays should be able to experience the joys of divorce like everyone else, and be heavily armed while doing it. But, over the course of dinner, he regaled me with his political beliefs. Baited me, actually. And he had fun doing it. I listened, nodded, and asked him questions as a way to keep him talking. When he’d ask me what I thought, I’d reply diplomatically, “I’m afraid I don’t know enough.” This would make him smile, as he knew I was a political junkie.
Later, after dinner, he offered me a drink.
I declined with a civil, “No sir.”
“Don’t call me ‘sir,’ he said.
“Sorry. It was basically beaten into me as a kid by my folks.”
“I take it you don’t agree with my politics.”
I paused, and then responded, “I was raised never to discuss politics or religion in bars, on public transportation, or at dinner tables. Down south, it’s the easiest way not to get shot.”
He snorted, “Do you like football?”
“Not really. It’s just a bunch of meatballs in leotards interrupting my enjoyment of commercials. But I like Broadway musicals.”
“My wife took me to Phantom of the Opera. It wasn’t bad.”