(Or at least avoid a beating)
Are you an Old School dad?
Do you have a daughter of dating age?
Have you ever wanted to say to your daughter, “Where did you find this putz?”
Then this post is for you!
Happy Fathers Day, Big Guy!!
This post is also for the young men who will date the daughter of an Old School dad.
Heed these warnings and it might transform you from putz to prince.
Disclaimer: I’m taking a little literary license in this post by writing as if all of these situations happened to me and my daughter. Most I’ve heard about from other dads. Only a few are mine. But by writing all of them in the first person it does two things: gives my daughter and her dates a little anonymity and gives me the fun of ranting in the first person.
These aren’t all the Old School Rules we could discuss, but they are enough for this Father’s Day.
#1 Take off your cap in my house
This is far from the most grievous violation of Old School protocol, but it may be the most common.
When you come in my house, take off your hat.
When you sit down at my supper table, take off your hat.
When you sit down to eat, take off your hat.
You may not understand why it bothers me.
All your friends wear their ball caps inside, right?
You may think, “What’s the big deal?”
Here’s the big deal. You are taking out my daughter. You are visiting my home. That makes it incumbent upon you to follow my rules no matter how arbitrary you may think they are. In the summer time I frequently wear khaki shorts. But if was in a country or culture that thought this was inappropriate or even offensive, I wouldn’t wear them no matter how arbitrary I thought their rule was.
And I do realize this “thing” with ball caps indoors (held by Old School Dads everywhere) is indeed arbitrary. But I also realize you choosing to acquiesce to my arbitrarily held views is a matter of your choice and therefor not arbitrary. You choosing to respect my wishes is a reflection of how much you respect me and my daughter. With that in mind, I’ll give you an opportunity to choose.
When a young man dating my daughter came in my house for the first time he was wearing a ball cap. I smiled, shook his hand and said, “Hi, son. Let me hang up your hat for you.”
Not having a dense skull full of mush, he immediately got the point, handed me his cap and replied, “Sure, sir. Thanks.”
I think I had to do this once, maybe twice, more. After that every time he came in my home or sat at my table he took off his cap. It soon got to the point where we joked about it. Good kid.
My daughter. My rules.
#1.5 Unless you’re a catcher…
… when you’re outdoors and you wear a ball cap, wear it with the brim in front.
#2 Be a vertebrate
The last thing an Old School dad wants his daughter dating is the glad-handing Eddie Haskell type. The next to the last thing is a spineless kid with no energy. Shake my hand. Look me in the eye. Smile. If you like my daughter, odds are you’ll like at least some of me! Don’t act afraid. This is bad for two reasons. One, I have to admit it does make me a little suspicious. Two, if you really are this wimpy, my daughter is going leave you in the dust. Cowboy up, son.
#3 I don’t want my daughter seeing your boxers
and I don’t want to see them either.
The family and I took a rare trip to the mall a few months back. It was a Friday night so that meant wall to wall teenagers.
When did “hanging out at the mall” come to be considered an actual date?
Hugh Beaumont, we need you now!
I saw a group of police officers working security at the mall and walked up to them. “Excuse me officers, I was wondering, do you know if there’s a store in the mall that sells suspenders because these teenage boys could use a few pairs.”
The officers laughed pretty hard and graciously commiserated and one replied, “Yeah, I’ve noticed the same thing myself. Things sure have changed.” We chatted a few moments and my family and I went back to shopping.
My daughter hasn’t lived at home for a few years so I admit I have mercifully let my awareness of teen boy fashion slip away. If you’re a member of the let the world see the top of your boxers club, you will never have an Old School dad’s respect.
#4 Don’t try to impress me with $200 sunglasses
So this boy says to me, “Do you drive a lot for work? Are you on the road a lot?”
I reply, “Some months of the year, yes, I am. Why?”
“Do you wear sunglasses?”
I answer, “No.”
He says, pointing to the sunglasses perched on his head, “You might want to get a pair of these.They have the highest polarization of any pair out there…
He actually paused for a moment at this point to allow me to be impressed.
“Usually they cost $200. But I only paid $100.”
I think, “I already know your money is tight and you’re looking for another job (which I respect) and you paid ONE HUNDRED BUCKS FOR A PAIR OF SUNGLASSES???!”
Understand, if a man is making sufficient scratch to have a $100 sunglasses budget, spend away. However his young fellow was holding down a job that he had to work sixty plus hours a week to pay his bills, get out of debt and had little more to spend. He’s not spending the day on the couch playing World of Warcraft. Now the fact he works that much is worth an enormous amount of Old School dad points. This tells me he definitely has some Old School in him, most likely from his Old School dad. But spending a c-note on sunglasses? Son, I mean this both literally and metaphorically: you are better than that.
While this point #4 may seem to be laden with sarcasm, deep down is it’s laden with concern.
#5 Don’t sit down too soon at the supper table
I liked it when my daughter’s dates came over the house for supper. For that matter, I like it when any of my kids’ friends come over if for no other selfish reason than the smokin’ hot wife usually bumps up her culinary skills a notch (which are already world class) and so I get to benefit with an even tastier supper.
Like most Old School dads I have my usual spot at the table. When I see a young man sit at that spot I’m not offended. “Disappointed” would be a better word. My house isn’t a restaurant. It’s my home. For a young man to assume to grab a seat at the head of the table or perhaps not to look towards my wife or me and ask, “Where would you like me to sit?” well, it’s not so much offensive as it is inappropriate and very telling. Like many things in social interaction, it’s tough to verbalize why it’s wrong or inappropriate. It just is. But in case you’re in doubt, these feelings go back at least 2,000 years…
Luke 14:7-11 (ESV) 7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them,
8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him,
9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place.
10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you.
11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
#7 Compliment my wife’s cooking
Actually, this is one thing all the boys have done. But I figure I’d put in at least one no-brainer item. Kind of like the 400 points you get on the SAT just for spelling your name right.
#8 Be punctual in arriving and especially in returning
Punctuality is simply another expression of respect. Lateness, even by a few minutes, is disrespectful. Are there exceptions? Yes, but they require a phone call. By the way, while arriving back home on time applies to both of you, leaving for the date on time is only a requirement of men. After you arrive (on time, of course) and my daughter is still not ready, you will sit and chat with me while I clean my revolver.
#9 I will judge you by your friends
If your friends stop by with you, that’s fine. Just keep in mind, I will make evaluations about you based on them. If they seem like a bunch of stand up guys, your rep is magnified. If they act like a bunch of slackers, your rep is diminished.
#10 Don’t lie because my wife will google your first grade teacher’s maiden name
Welcome to the 21st century, pal. If the Old School mom or dad get any kind of bad vibe from you and it’s justified, you will be called on the carpet and possibly rolled up in it.
#11 Be the King of the Living Room
Thank you, Jerry McGuire
In the movie Jerry Maguire, Jerry (Tom Cruise) is a sports agent. When discussing how he wins over the parents of the athletes he’d like to sign, he replies, “I’m king of the living room.” If you want to score some points, don’t treat Old School dad and mom like they are obstacles. Treat them like they are people who would like to root for you IF you earn their respect.
Of course, even the most straight up guys can mess this up. I have a good friend who is a professional magician. Like many professional magicians, he does a “watch steal” routine as part of his performances. As its name would imply, this is a performance piece where you take someone’s watch off her wrist without her knowing it. In his twenties my friend picked up a girl for a date and was chatting with the family in the living room. It came up he was a magician and was asked to do a few tricks. He took the mom’s watch without her knowing it and returned it two minutes later. The mom was blown away.
He leaves with the girl on the date. A few days later he’s talking to the girl and she says,
“I had a great time but my dad was really weirded out that you could
take things off a person’s body without them knowing it.”
#12 Don’t honk
I’ve never seen this one myself, but I’ve heard of guys doing it. Instead of coming to the door to pick up his date he honk his car horn. Honking is for geese, not guys that want to date my daughter. Remember, when most Old School dads see geese they reach for their shotgun.
#13 Pass the peephole test
Look at how you’re dressed. The general impression you give. The way you stand. If I were to look at you through the peephole of my front door door would I think:
- The pizza guy needs a wardrobe update and, worse yet, he forgot the pizza in his car. Darn, I’m hungry.
- Is it Halloween already? And why is this trick-or-treater dressed like Carl from Aquateen Hungerforce?
- Who’s this well-dressed young man?
#14 When you call for my daughter and I answer, don’t dis’ me.
My house phone rings.
Old School Dad: Hello, Old School residence.
Young boy: Yeah, is Chelsea there?
Old School Dad: Click.
OK, that isn’t how the conversation actually ends, at least not outside my head. What usually happens is I end up asking a few questions like, “WHO ARE YOU, SON??” before I answer any of his questions.
Here’s how the exchange should have gone.
Old School Dad: Hello, Old School residence.
Young man: Hi, Mr. Old School. I’m John Calvin. I’m at Smallville High School with your daughter, Chelsea. How are you, sir?
Old School Dad: (Smiling, because he’s on the phone with a young man who in five seconds has shown him somethin’.) I’m fine son. Thanks for asking. And how are you?
Young man: Fine, sir. Thank you. May I speak with Chelsea.
Dang! Just typing that exchange puts a grin on my face.
Old School Dad: Hold a moment. I’ll see if she’s available.
I am an Old School Dad. I go by many names. Daddy. Dad. Fathersaurus. Giver of hugs. Papa Bear. The Attakalator. One name I don’t have? Receptionist. When you call my home, don’t treat me like one.
#15 And one more thing
This brief message needs no added explanation. Don’t let my ambiguous attribution lead you into thinking this line is something I’ve fabricated for laughs. No. It is the real Old School deal. It was used by an acquaintance of mine, Frankie, a proud Italian American father. Although indulging in stereotypes can be dangerous, Frankie himself would tell you this line is most effect when delivered by a loving Italian father. Further, Frankie would tell you it’s best when delivered by him.
“I hope you and my daughter have a nice evening. Just remember whatever you do to my daughter, I’m going to do to you…”
Why is this stuff so important
for Old School dads & the young men dating their daughters?
These Old School Rules are important because I love my daughter and I want her treated with respect. That’s the obvious reason. Let me give you the less obvious reason.
Despite the crusty, snarky, sarcastic exterior of this blog post, these Old School Rules are important because I genuinely care about these young men.
One day when I was seventeen years old I was walking into worship services. I was talking with a lady in her forties. It was winter and the path we were walking was a little icy and treacherous. An older gentleman in sixties came up from behind and said to me, “Son, when a gentleman walks with a lady on treacherous ground, he should offer her his arm.”
And so I did and she took my arm and everybody walked without hitting the ice. I learned two lessons that day. The first was about protecting a lady. The second was about schooling younger men. The older man wasn’t stern or demeaning. To put in theatrical terms, his subtext was “I know you’re good guy, but you’re a young good guy. Here’s something all good guys need to know.” It’s what I have in mind when I say to a young man, “Hi, son. Let me hang up your hat for you.”
The walk on the ice happened over thirty years ago. I still remember all the names and exactly where I was when it happened. This brief interaction became a long standing personal benchmark for me. Do I always measure up to it? Frankly and ashamedly, no. But I hope this post, especially this paragraph, does measure up to it. I hope the young guys reading this can cut through “you will sit and chat with me while I clean my revolver” jokes to see there are some very important Old School Rules here.
We Old School dads won’t be around forever. While we are here we must stand firm. We must realize the Old School Rules are right. This doesn’t give us the right to lord it over the young man who date our daughters. It gives us the responsibility to share the Old Schools Rules with them and make certain our precious daughters are treated according to Old School Rules.
Keep it Old School.
The Old Man