It’s the week before Valentine’s Day, and you have permission to do some romantic housecleaning during Dump Your Significant Jerk Week.
Yep. It’s an actual event, but don’t look for a Hallmark card to celebrate. You’ll have to improvise. Some people honor the week by torching their ex’s CD collection or clothing. I advise against doing this, particularly if they’re still in it.
There are plenty of tips on HOW to dump, Paul Simon gave us at least 50 ways. And the calendar tells you WHEN. But it’s up to you to figure out the WHY.
This can be a tricky problem, especially when you’re asked to weigh in with advice. I’m father of four children, three of them daughters. And more than once I’ve been asked the question all parents dread.
“What do you think of my boyfriend?”
This is a dangerous subject. There’s no right answer. My usual response goes something like this. “As long as you love him, and he treats you with respect, then what difference does it make what anyone else thinks?”
But I lie, and my daughters know it. It’s just a ritual that we go through. I have definite opinions on boyfriends, past, present, potential and pathological. Like most Dads, I view young men who show up here with deep and entirely reasonable suspicion.
EDITORAL NOTE: My wife STRONGLY suggested, in the interests of my health, I admit these suspicions don’t apply our kids’ present significant others.
OK, but the road to our current state of “decent-otherhood” has been littered with romantic road-kill. MY mother once told my sister: “Before you meet your Prince Charming, you’re going to kiss a few toads.”
This, then, is a column about toads, not the slimy ones in a pond, but the two-legged kind that crawl onto your front porch. It’s based on my experience as a father, the brother of a kid-sister, and the friend of other fathers-with-daughters.
My advice is intended for Dads with girls too young to be dating, and that would include all daughters under age 30.
Here’s some common but worrisome situations about the toad. Score these on a scale of 1-10. Total score of more than zero—the toad should go back to the pond.
- The toad shows up not to visit with your daughter, but to watch a football game on your big screen TV.
- Your daughter suddenly feels that she is unattractive because of remarks made by the toad.
- You daughter needs to borrow money because she wants to go out on a date, but her toad doesn’t’ have a job and can’t afford it.
- Your daughter needs to borrow your van because her new toad’s rock band needs to perform, and his “ride” was just towed.
- You overhear your daughter talking to a friend about her toad, and hear the phrase “he only acts that way when he’s drunk.”
- Your daughter asks you at what point a toad would be considered a stalker.
- Or my personal favorite… your daughter has been dating the new toad in her life for several weeks, but doesn’t think you’re ready to meet him yet until you get a refill on your blood pressure medicine.
So… you have your suspicions, and chances are they’ll be confirmed when you have “the conversation.” This is the age-old moment in father/toad interaction wherein you try to convey your likeability while at the same time letting the fellow know you’ll rip off every appendage he has if he hurts your baby. I learned how to do this by watching the Godfather Part II.
During the talk, of course, my wife is trying to keep me in check with pithy observations like: “Don’t snarl,” and “Quit polishing the butter knives in front of Justin.”
The strange thing about all this is that I’d always heard girls go for men who remind them of their fathers, that whole Electra thing. But this theory has several flaws. First, I bathe. Only kidding, my daughter’s toads all bathe. I’m just not sure what they used as a solvent. Water? Gasoline? Kool Aid?
Oh, I’ve just been informed that he was wearing “Axe body spray” and a tie-dye shirt.
Dating misbehavior is, of course, an age-old problem. Each generation must set a bad example for the one that follows. Case in point, the story of how my parents met and dated.
Mom met Dad when she was a car hop at a drive-in. But she got his full attention when she skated up to his hot rod, tripped and dumped mashed potatoes and gravy onto him and his date. He later returned to the burger joint and asked her out
Then he stood her up.
No one had EVER stood up my Mom. Furious, she returned the favor by standing him up THREE TIMES IN A ROW. The third time my mother pulled this stunt, she invited my father to pick her up at her sister’s place. Then, Mom hid in the closet, so she could hear my father’s reaction when she blew him off. My aunt felt sorry for Dad—she had a soft spot for servicemen—and invited him in. Dad spent much of the evening chatting with my Aunt and her husband while Mom stood and sweltered.
The lesson here is that sometimes there are TWO toads on the lily pad.
But back to the question: “SHOULD I DUMP HIM?”
My thoughts are, usually, if you have to ask the answer is “YES.” But I know better than to say this because, despite what Paul Simon says, breakups are tricky. What should you say when asked?
Nothing is usually a good choice. Or you could be like, ah, my “friend.” He was eavesdropping, hearing his daughter cry, and heard her say “she hadn’t seen it coming.” Dad rushed to comfort her, telling his girl that the toad was a scumsucking slimeball and she was better off without time.
It was then that Daddy learned his daughter was crying over… a speeding ticket.
Daughter dried her eyes and asked: “Is THAT what you think about Kevin?”
So you can’t criticize boyfriends until they’re clearly out of the picture, and they have a way of hopping back into the scene, again and again, like the undead in a zombie movie.
The best advice I can give is for you to do what my wife does when dealing with the boyfriend issue.
Get a big dog.
That’s the best solution. Have it waiting at the door when young men stumble in, and let the pooch do an extensive body probe. Our front-door security is Lucy. She gives toads the full treatment—looking, licking and smelling.
I never stop her.
And if she approves—then the guy’s probably OK. But if not, if Lucy growls, or the guy does something mean to her… Well, then, he’s got to answer to a force far more powerful that my fake Don Coreleone….
So all you amorous tadpoles, a word to the wise. You may put one by Dad. But if have princely hopes for a Valentines’ Day kiss… You’d better get along with Lucy.
Robb has enjoyed writing and performing since he was a child, and many of his earliest performances earned him a special recognition-reserved seating in the principal’s office at Highland Elementary. Since then, in addition to his weekly column on A News Cafe – “Or So it Seems™” – Robb has written news and features for The Bakersfield Californian, appeared on stage as an opening stand-up act in Reno, and his writing has been published in the Funny Times. His short stories have won honorable mention national competition. His screenplay, “One Little Indian,” Was a top-ten finalist in the Writer’s Digest competition. Robb presently lives, writes and teaches in Shasta County.