Fathers, be good to your daughters (whether they like it or not)
I remember when I first heard this song; I was in a bar in downtown Washington, DC . Largely, the song went ignored, but I was stunned. My first thought was, “What a simple yet profound tune. Well done, John”. My next thought was, “What the heck music channel is on in this bar?” A few seconds after the song went off, a guy, who I considered a friend, walked over to our table. “I hate this song!”, he exclaimed with a disgusted look crossing his face. I looked up at him in a haze of confusion and perhaps to many Magic Hats. Did he just say he HATES this song? Doesn’t he HAVE a daughter?? What is going on here??? I tried not to let the shock register on my face as he sat down to join us for the rest of the evening.
Later on I got to thinking about fathers, daughters, and relationships. My father was SUPER involved in my dating life growing up. Like, REALLY. First of all, I was not allowed to go on any dates until I was 16. (Did I mention I didn’t turn 16 until my junior year in high school?!?!) Anything before that was referred to as a “group outing” and group outings required adult supervision. Needless to say, I did not go on a whole lot of dates between ages 14 and 15
Finally, when I turned 16, many more guys were willing to ask me out on dates. I’ll never forget my very first one. For the sake of the story, we’ll call him “that boy”. He invited me out to the movies and I happily accepted. When I got home, I excitedly told my Mom about my date. With a twinkle in her eye she asked me if I had told my father yet. “No ma’am” I muttered. I KNEW where this was going. I slowly walked upstairs to my Dad’s office and knocked on the door. When he told me to come in, my heart was pounding. I carefully explained that a nice young man that I met at my church youth group’s skating party had asked me on a date. With a twinkle is HIS eye, my father asked what time this young man was coming to pick me up. “Seven-thirty”, I replied, avoiding eye contact. “Tell him to come by at 7”, my dad said. “Yes sir”. I walked to my room to call “that boy”. I THOUGHT I knew where this was going…..but I had no idea.
Friday night rolled around and I was getting ready for my date. Around 6:51pm, “that boy” rang the doorbell and my father answered. I came downstairs while “that boy” was in the process of introducing himself to my Mom and Dad. I grabbed his arm and attempted to head toward the door when father stops us. “Son, can I see you for a moment?” he said. My heart sank. My mother said she needed to give me something so I go back upstairs with her. 20 minutes I came back downstairs and my father and “that boy” are coming out of the living room. “That boy” had the strangest look on his face, and I did my best to ignore it. I hustled him out the front door.
Once in the safety of his car, I ask “that boy” what he and my father talked about. “Nothing much” he said, casually, all the while keeping his eyes on the highway. “He’s lying….I know it”, I thought to myself. I tried to make small talk on the short ride to the movie theater, but I knew something had changed between me and “that boy”.
I can’t say I remember what movie we saw, or even if we liked it or not, but I do remember “that boy” sitting straight up in his seat and repeatedly asking me if i was okay or if I needed anything. Needless to say, it was a little awkward, and as SOON as the movie was over, we practically went warp speed back to my house. He walked me to my doorstep and said he would call me later. He shook my father’s hand, nodded and smiled at my mother and walked back to his car. I turned, shot my father a dirty look, and went upstairs. I just KNEW I would never hear from “that boy” again.
Early the next week, I got a phone call from “that boy”. He wanted to know if I wanted to go out to dinner on Friday night. I accepted and slowly hung up the phone, my mind reeling. I didn’t understand. I thought this dude never wanted to see me again! I thought my father had said something horrible to him and he was in the process of telling EVERY guy in the tri-state area not to ask me out because my dad was crrrrrazy. My mind had already conceived a crap ton of heinous scenarios that would render my high school dating experience over and done, but, clearly, none of these scenarios came to fruition. He had just asked me out on a second date.
I ended up dating that guy for a little while. Further into our relationship, I begged him to tell me what my father said to him that first night. Between pulling info from both him and my father, I can only surmise the conversation went something like this:
Dad: So, son, what are your intentions with my daughter?
That Boy: I uh, want to take her to a movie sir.
Dad: Okay then. You will be back here at 9:30. Not one minute later. Do you understand?
That Boy: Yes sir.
Dad: My daughters are princesses son. Princesses…and frogs just won’t do. Are you a frog, son?
That Boy: Um..uh, no sir. Not at all.
Dad: And there WILL be no sex. Nothing horizontal of any sort. Do you understand son?
That Boy: *stunned* Um..Yes sir…I mean, No sir…I mean…I understand sir.
Dad: Good good. So, what college are you looking to go to son?
That Boy: Well, um..I haven’t really thought about it yet, but there are a few on my list…..
I never got much more out of either of them, but when I asked “That Boy” what made him call me back, he said something that stays with me to this day. “I really liked you but, to be honest, I didn’t know how serious I really wanted to be. With your father talking like that, I had to decide, and decide quickly whether or not I liked you enough to go through that sort of interrogation. It made me respect you and your family a lot more. And I hope that if I have a daughter one day, I’ll do the same thing to the boys who ask her out.”
We had a good run, but “That boy” and I didn’t end up staying together. Although I had many other dates after him, my father continued to interrogate each and every new date I ever had in that exact manner, right up until I left for college. I was embarrassed for many years about the way my father “screened” my potential suitors, but now that I’m older, I’m so grateful that he did what he did. My father was doing what he was supposed to do. He was being a good father to his daughter, and being good to me included screening the men that I chose to spend my time with. And not every guy I wanted to go out with passed my father’s interrogation, either. He rejected quite a few of them. I may have been mad at the time, and I’m sure that I missed out on a lot of dates because of my father’s rules, but I’ll bet I missed out on a lot of guys dogging me and a lot of heartache, too. Being dogged, messed over and hurt can affect a woman in such a way that she can’t even be in a relationship with a man who really loves her, and that’s a sad reality. Sometimes I wonder what became of the little girl who’s father said that he hated this song……..
I know a girl
She puts the color inside of my world
But she’s just like a maze
Where all of the walls continually change
And I’ve done all I can
To stand on her steps with my heart in my hands
Now I’m starting to see
Maybe it’s got nothing to do with me
Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too ~ John Mayer