The Call

November 30, 2009

My daughter called late tonight to tearfully and joyfully announce that she is engaged. My wife and I were so relieved. We’d known for a month of M’s intentions to propose, and we felt unsteady holding on to that big, wiggly secret. Now that the secret is out, and the ring is on her finger, I want to talk about it.

I’ve done my best to avoid M. I didn’t want him getting cozy with the family. So that meant he was not welcome on family outings or to Sunday dinners. There were rules to obey: he could not be my friend on Facebook or even rake the leaves in my yard, no matter how strong the temptation. He would do none of these things until they were married.

Many people got the absurd impression that I did not like M. Wrong. I liked him fine, from a distance. After he moved out of state and their relationship continued, I liked that he would rent a car when he visited instead of asking my daughter to pick him up at the airport. When my daughter would go to Texas to see him, I liked that he put her up in a hotel, and I liked, as my daughter puts it, that her debit card collects dust when she’s with him.  

As things between my daughter and M got more serious, I reluctantly agreed to meet him, somewhere neutral, which happened to be Mi Ranchito—I recommend the taquitos . I don’t remember much about our conversation. What I do remember is my daughter was completely at ease with him in our presence and that he reached for the check. I paid, but he offered, and that was enough for me.

That was during Valentine’s weekend. We’d meet again at my home on Christmas, which was the longest hour of my life. How do you welcome someone into your home without making them feel welcomed? For one, you don’t get them a Christmas gift, but you do let them watch you open yours.

OK, so if I approve of M, why am I so standoffish? Easy. I don’t want my daughter to feel like she would disappoint us by breaking up with M. If she feels the slightest inclination to end this relationship with M, I don’t want to be a part of her second thoughts. For me, it’s not about the bonding; it’s all about the breakup. The more he becomes a member of the family, then the more people he has to break up with, and that’s pressure.  I want my daughter to have an emergency exit out of this relationship, if or when she needs one. And I figure if it takes me, my wife and my other daughter to court M and approve and cement their relationship, then they don’t have much of a relationship to begin with. In my world, that makes a lot of sense. In M’s world, that makes him nervous. Around me.

That’s what he told my wife when he made “the call.”

“I’m really nervous to talk to your husband,” he told her, which is ridiculous because I’m really quite harmless.

She said, “Whatever you do, just don’t ask for her hand in marriage. If you simply state your intentions, you will do fine.”

I don’t know what the big deal is. One day I casually mentioned to my daughter that if M asked me for her hand in marriage, the answer would be NO. “This is your decision, not mine,” I told her. “But if you’re going to leave it up to me to decide, then the answer is NO. Besides, what does he think? Does he think I own you? Are you my property to give away? Are you going to ask his parents for his hand in marriage? Why are you my property but he’s not his parents’ property? No one thinks he needs permission from his parents. Why should it be any different for you?” One casual conversation and the whole world thinks they have to walk on tiptoes around me.

Anyway, “the call” marked our third conversation ever. His words were, “I wanted to let you know that I love your daughter, and I’ve purchased a ring, and I intend to ask her to marry me.”

Well, I approve. If anyone asks.