Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
PROTECTING MY LITTLE GIRL
Whatever you do, don’t let my daughter see this column. I can’t let her know my strategy. She thinks I hate her boyfriend, and we must not let her discover that I actually like him. That will ruin everything.
Being the father of a seventeen-year-old girl is tough business nowadays. In the 19th century it was simple. By the time a young girl was seventeen, she was already married and the mother of two or three kids. If I had been a 19th century father, my only job at this point would have been to spoil my grandchildren (and feed the cows and milk the chickens, or whatever they did back then to make a living).
But we’re living in the 21st century now. My jobs are much different. I have to create quarterly budgets and analyze sales reports (or whatever it is I do to make a living today—I’m not quite sure). My other important job is to make sure my daughter and her boyfriend don’t think they’re living in the 19th century, if you get my drift.
As part of the strategy to keep them from getting too comfortable together, I act like I hate him. My wife claims this will backfire and only “drive her into his arms,” producing the tragic Romeo and Juliet effect. My wife was an English major so she actually read Romeo and Juliet, whereas I was a business major, which means I actually read Sports Illustrated.
However, I heard about Romeo and Juliet once, and I know it is indeed a tragedy. It’s a story about two young sweethearts who get a lot of grief from their parents and end up doing something foolish: they drop out of school and get an apartment together in Yonkers, but she has to quit her job at McDonald’s when she gets pregnant and then they have financial problems and the last straw is when the cable TV gets disconnected and he leaves her and joins the Air Force and she is forced to go back home to her parents and—here’s the tragic part—her parents end up raising the baby while she enrolls in night classes at the community college.
So I realize I might be driving her into his arms with my plan, but it’s a risk I have to take. After all, I’m not trying to affect her behavior. She’s a Dunn, and the Dunn family motto is: “We can resist anything except temptation.” Nothing I do will impact her decisions.
No, I’m trying to affect his behavior. Every time he has romantic feelings toward my daughter, I want a specific image to pop into his head. When the rest of the world looks at me, they see a bespectacled, receding hairlined, donut-addicted mid-level manager. But when he so much as puts an arm around my daughter, I want him to envision a steroid-pumped Rambo, bandoliers of ammo strapped across his chest, an M-60 machine gun in one hand and a grenade launcher in the other, and the guttural voice of Sylvester Stallone saying, “Hey yo. Move dat arm or you’ll lose it.”
I’m not openly hostile to the young lad, of course. We have cordial discussions. But I’ll occasionally weave into the conversation a subtle reminder that he should always treat my daughter with respect. For example, a few weeks ago we were watching a football game on TV. He said, “It’s third-and-short. Do you think they’ll run a play-action pass, Mr. Dunn?” I replied, “I don’t know. But I do know that a hollow-point .357 magnum round will leave an exit wound the size of a silver dollar. Did you know that?” See what I mean? Very subtle.
My wife is trying to get me to lighten up whenever my daughter’s boyfriend is in our house. She’ll say things like, “Bill, don’t get so upset,” or, “Bill, why don’t you smile once in a while?” or, “Bill, do you have to clean your guns at the dinner table?”
I’m not too sure what to do at this point. My in-laws dropped by the other day and I explained my strategy to my father-in-law. He shook his head and said, “No, Bill, don’t do that. You’ll drive away the good ones and your daughter will end up marrying a loser.”
“Really?” I said.
“Trust me,” he replied. “I know from experience.”
“Thanks for the advice,” I said. “I really apprec— Hey! Wait a minute!”
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