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Happy Birthday, Dad!

Dad with me, circa 1983.

In honor of his birthday, I'm reprinting the below column, which I wrote in honor of my Dad on Father's Day 2006.  Happy Birthday Dad!  I love you.

JUNE 19, 2006

My father is not big or tall. He does not own shotguns. And he has never threatened to murder any of my boyfriends with his bare hands.

He doesn’t need bare hands – he’s a lawyer.  He cross-examines them to death.

Most past beaus haven’t survived his withering interrogatives.

There was Greg, who often reeked of cannabis: “You do realize that pot is illegal in this country, correct?”  There was Jeff, who didn’t believe in going to class: “Would you say failing out of college indicates you don’t take your studies very seriously?”   There was James, who was superbly talented at drinking copious amounts of vodka: “How many alcoholic beverages, on average, do you consume in a given week?”

There was Dan, who nearly had a heart attack every time my father would interrupt one of our interminable high school make out sessions by pounding on my bedroom door and bellowing, “Are you studying physics? Just remember the first law: Bodies in Motion Stay in Motion!”  I’m still mortified.

Even The Current Boyfriend had a rough start.  After interrogating Boyfriend about his “intentions,” my dad pounced: “I understand you’re ‘divorced’ – would you happen to have a copy of the documentation? And exactly how old are you again?”

I’ve always told my boyfriends to “just be themselves” when they meet my dad.  I’ve always been a moron.

My new plan is this: No more being yourselves, unless “yourselves” is perfect.  Instead, all boyfriends who interact with my paternal unit will have to adhere to the following – let’s just call them Thirteen Simple Rules So My Dad Won’t Refuse to Pay for the Wedding. (Or have you arrested.)

1) My father will ask you many questions.  You will look him in the eye when you answer, and you will ENUNCIATE.  Under no circumstances will you check your Blackberry during the conversation.

2) You will not attempt to touch, kiss or partially disrobe me within three miles of my father.  You will not slap any body part of mine unless it is my hand and I have initiated a high-five.  Most importantly, you are not interested in cohabitation or sex until marriage, and even then, only to procreate.  You love me only for my mind.  My body?  What body??

3) Whether or not you believe in God, you will not begin a debate on the merits of atheism or staunchly declare, “You know, Marx settled this question a long time ago.” You will go to church with my father and you will sing along with the hymns. If you’re Jewish, you will pretend that you considered your bar mitzvah a spiritual experience and not the most efficient way for a 13-year-old to separate his relatives from their cash.

4) Speaking of cash, upon seeing my father’s house/car/boat/lawn mower, you will not say “that is money.”  You will refrain from ruminating aloud about your Kanye West-induced fear of golddiggers.  And you will never, ever use the word “pimp,” or debate how hard it is to be one.  Instead, you will set your car radio to NPR and hum Beethoven’s Fifth.

5) When my father asks you about your college education, you will not look confused and say “Huh?”

6) You will eschew all frivolous and/or hedonistic activities, preferring yard work, vigorous exercise and paying bills promptly and in full.

7) You will brag about working 167-hour weeks to save for the expensive college educations of your unborn children.  You will find a way to work the terms “personal responsibility,” “family values” and “401k” into as many conversations as possible.  You will name-check your health insurance provider ("Whoops, just broke my leg.  Good thing I have a low deductible with Blue Cross!").

8) You will profess a great interest in attending law school, even if you are currently a model slash waiter who (until five minutes ago) thought that the LSAT stood for “Last Saturday.”

9) You will not admit to any “youthful indiscretions.”  You never had a youth, or if you did, it was spent reading ponderous books about Thomas Jefferson, working part-time jobs that taught you “the value of a dollar,” and discouraging girls from going wild.

10) You will bring my father a nice bottle of wine, but profess not to drink, “except for the occasional glass of red at dinner.”  You have never heard of keg stands and you do not know what “boot and rally” means.

11) You will google David McCullough and reference him repeatedly.  “According to David McCullough,” you’ll say, and then you’ll make something up. If you’re challenged, you’ll reply sagely, “Well, look at chapter 18 of ‘1776.’”  No one will bother.

12) Under no circumstances will you admit to any of the following: pedicures, strip clubs, credit card debt, binge drinking, threesomes, comprehensive knowledge of unemployment benefits, comprehensive knowledge of drug trafficking laws, road rage, not voting, voting for a Democrat, and exceptional familiarity with internet porn.

13) You will not repeatedly mumble, “This is just like ‘Meet the Fockers.’”

If all else fails, think “What Would Colin Farrell Do?” … then make the opposite decision.