It's interesting to be the father of a young woman who is in college and dating. What's interesting is not the act of dating - I really don't want to think about the whole thing - but the realization that she's saying things about her boyfriend that her mother (and the unfortunate ladies I dated before meeting her) likely said about me. I get to hear them because I'm usually in the vicinity when she's talking to her mom about this stuff, and I get the call when her mom isn't available for some reason. Any port in a storm, right?
What that means is that I'm in the enviable position where I get to observe that confounding species, the dating woman, from a safe perspective. Kind of like watching a lion from a blind. Anyway, it occurred to me that while the advice she's getting from her mom is invaluable there's a certain perspective that only a dad can provide and it might be helpful to share. Without further ado here's some dating advice from a wizened, middle-aged dad who doesn't want to see anyone get hurt:
- Some guys just aren't domesticable so you need to figure out where your line is and when he crosses it you MUST be prepared to cut and run.
- Prioritize. You can't have it all so figure out what's important to you and look for that in whoever you're dating.
- If he's an ass to people he thinks aren't important, like waiters and desk clerks, then he'll probably be an ass to you some day. This really applies to everyone, not just guys you're dating.
- This one's important - if a guy treats you like crap when he's been drinking, even once, then you absolutely must dump his butt. If a guy lays a hand on you in any way without you wanting him to then you must not only dump him but get the authorities involved. Also, don't tell your dad until after the jerk has been locked up so your dad doesn't do something to get himself locked up.
- If a guy says he can't stand your friends then dump him immediately. One caveat: if he doesn't like one of your friends and that friend is kind of high maintenance then he might be doing you a favor. In all other cases he's likely an insecure, jealous jerk who wants you all to himself and that's not healthy for anyone.
- Don't think you can change his fundamental character. If he's not "nice"when you first meet him then he's not going to magically become nice just because you've cast your pretty eyes on him and granted him the favor of your company. Ain't gonna happen.
- Don't forget that you really are unreasonable sometimes and that your expectations can be out of whack. You're human, not perfect, and you shouldn't take it out on him when he points it out (at least the first time).
- Don't ask your dad for dating advice. Secretly he wants you single so he'll likely give you some really bad advice like, "Break up with him and enter a convent." Reserve dad for the important events like threatening to castrate your ex if he doesn't leave you alone.
- Listen to your mom or another older woman in your life if your mom isn't available. They've been training men for a long time so you might as well take advantage of their experience.
- Remember that whatever redeeming qualities your father might have it took the women in his life (mother, wife, sisters, aunts) a very long time to beat them into him. Unless you're dating a far older man - something I most definitely don't recommend since older, available men are usually that way for a reason - you'll have to live with the fact that you're in the man-training business for the rest of your life. Men don't come ready-made and we should all have "much assembly required" tattooed on our foreheads.
- Last point and it's the most important: your heart will be broken. Whether it's from a break up or from his insenstivity your heart WILL be broken. That's what happens when you open yourself completely to another human being. And that's okay because you'll recover and when you do you'll be far stronger and more prepared for running the marathon that is life.
- I lied. There's one more point: ice cream helps recover from heart break. Alot.
- I double-lied: Calling your mom helps too, and in a pinch you might be able to talk to dad AND he might be able to resist giving you advice for once.