October 16, 1998
A couple of weeks ago I ranted about things retro. This was, I admit, partly out of anger and a little fear. When I was a teenager, in the eighties, it was funny that the fifties and the sixties were making a comeback. When things from the seventies started showing up, it began to get annoying. When people started mining that vast cultural wasteland known as the eighties, when they started, in effect, talkin’ ’bout my generation, I got scared. I realized that my carefree youth, with its narrow leather ties, spiked hair, headbands, cut-up t-shirts, and completely synthetic music was behind me. And I was glad. When those things were brought back as part of the Better Living Through Nostalgia program, that was bad. But as as long as the eighties are coming back, why not bring back some of the more interesting inventions of that decade? I’m specifically thinking about paint guns, an invention which explains some of the fashions of the eighties.
I only had the joy of participating in one paint gun fight. Well, it wasn’t really a fight. A friend of mine had one paint gun. (It was a stroke of marketing genius to make paint guns too expensive for the average teenager to afford more than one. This created small arms races in suburban neighborhoods that took our mind off the big arms races going on at the time) From a distance of sixty feet, he aimed at my leg, and fired it at me. An object about the size and hardness of a marble knocked me to the ground. I was not, as I’d been led to believe would happen, splattered with a really cool shade of fluorescent green. Wow! Those really were the good old days.
Enjoy this week’s non-retro offering.
When I was in high school I used to be terrified of my girlfriend’s father, who I believe suspected me of wanting to place my hands on his daughter’s chest. He would open the door and immediately affect a good-naturedly murderous expression, holding out a handshake that, when gripped, felt like it could squeeze carbon into diamonds.
Now, years later, it is my turn to be the dad. Remembering how unfairly persecuted I felt when I would pick up my dates, I do my best to make my daughter’s suitors feel even worse. My motto: wilt them in the living room and they’ll stay wilted all night.
"So," I’ll call out jovially. "I see you have your nose pierced. Is that because you’re stupid, or did you merely want to APPEAR stupid?"
As a dad, I have some basic rules, which I have carved into two stone tablets that I have on display in my living room.
Rule One: If you pull into my driveway and honk you’d better be delivering a package, because you’re sure as heck not picking anything up.
Rule Two: You do not touch my daughter in front of me. You may glance at her, so long as you do not peer at anything below her neck. If you cannot keep your eyes or hands off of my daughter’s body, I will remove them.
Rule Three: I am aware that it is considered fashionable for boys of your age to wear their trousers so loosely that they appear to be falling off their hips. Please don’t take this as an insult, but you and all of your friends are complete idiots. Still, I want to be fair and open minded about this issue, so I propose this compromise: You may come to the door with your underwear showing and your pants ten sizes too big, and I will not object. However, In order to assure that your clothes do not, in fact, come off during the course of your date with my daughter, I will take my electric staple gun and fasten your trousers securely in place around your waist.
Rule Four: I’m sure you’ve been told that in today’s world, sex without utilizing a "barrier method" of some kind can kill you. Let me elaborate: when it comes to sex, I am the barrier, and I WILL kill you.
Rule Five: In order for us to get to know each other, we should talk about sports, politics, and other issues of the day. Please do not do this. The only information I require from you is an indication of when you expect to have my daughter safely back at my house, and the only word I need from you on this subject is "early."
Rule Six: I have no doubt you are a popular fellow, with many opportunities to date other girls. This is fine with me as long as it is okay with my daughter. Otherwise, once you have gone out with my little girl, you will continue to date no one but her until she is finished with you. If you make her cry, I will make YOU cry.
Rule Seven: As you stand in my front hallway, waiting for my daughter to appear, and more than an hour goes by, do not sigh and fidget. If you want to be on time for the movie, you should not be dating. My daughter is putting on her makeup, a process which can take longer than painting the Golden Gate Bridge. Instead of just standing there, why don’t you do something useful, like changing the oil in my car?
Rule Eight: The following places are not appropriate for a date with my daughter: Places where there are beds, sofas, or anything softer than a wooden stool. Places where there are no parents, policemen, or nuns within eyesight. Places where there is darkness. Places where there is dancing, holding hands, or happiness. Places where the ambient temperature is warm enough to induce my daughter to wear shorts, tank tops, midriff T-shirts, or anything other than overalls, a sweater, and a goose down parka zipped up to her throat. Movies with a strong romantic or sexual theme are to be avoided; movies which feature chainsaws are okay. Hockey games are okay.
My daughter claims it embarrasses her to come downstairs and find me attempting to get her date to recite these eight simple rules from memory. I’d be embarrassed too–there are only eight of them, for crying out loud! And, for the record, I did NOT suggest to one of these cretins that I’d have these rules tattooed on his arm if he couldn’t remember them. (I checked into it and the cost is prohibitive.) I merely told him that I thought writing the rules on his arm with a ball point might be inadequate–ink washes off–and that my wood burning set was probably a better alternative.
One time, when my wife caught me having one of my daughter’s would-be suitors practice pulling into the driveway, get out of the car, and go up to knock on the front door (he had violated rule number one, so I figured he needed to run through the drill a few dozen times) she asked me why I was being so hard on the boy. "Don’t you remember being that age?" she challenged.
Of course I remember. Why do you think I came up with the eight simple rules?