Saturday, March 31, 2012

Permission to Date My Daughter

Now I’m not saying the “Permission to Date My Daughter” form a friend recently posted on my Facebook wall isn’t funny – because it is.  But here’s the thing.

A good friend of mine who also has a beautiful daughter probably somewhere in age between my two treasures recently posted the thought

“Please God blind the eyes of those high school boys today. May they not see Tori's beauty like we do.”

Now as the dad of two beautiful girls, and having been a teenage / high-school boy, I totally get this.  But my response to her post was not some tongue in cheek throwaway line. – but a deep, heartfelt and genuine desire.

“Maybe they should see her as you do - that might be a fundamental change for good?”

And I really believe and yearn for this.  I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for it to happen – after all, hormones are a tricky thing and when so many messages teenage boys and those of us of the same species but of more years get in the press, TV entertainment, movies, music videos and so on lean toward making women objects of sexual desire, you realize that this requires a huge shift in our culture.  But could it happen.  I guess I like to look for the good in people, so I would like to start from the point of view that it could.

I don’t have a lot of answers, but here are some selfish reasons for why a change of this nature would be great.

I am proud of the young women my daughters are becoming.  They are largely confident in who they are and generally are not afraid to be who they are.  Their strength of character humbles me.  This has been true of my eldest for a good many years, but the younger quieter one is starting to blossom and the same strength of character is evident.  And of course I am biased but they are not just beautiful people in who they are; they are attractively beautiful as well.

So why the heck should they have to dress like someone from Little House on the Prairie to not be seen and objectified by boys or men in a lascivious or somehow degrading way?  I really don’t have a good answer for that.  I mean when I was a teenager come university student, my mother’s main concern was whether I had bathed – not what I was wearing – and I think my dad just hoped I’d be wearing shoes (yes some fashion faux pas go back a ways).  We seem to pay a lot more attention to what girls are wearing and what that says about them than we do to boys.  How we (both sexes) look certainly tends to create a filter in how we are heard, but I think those filters are very different also for boys and girls.

I’m not saying I don’t think perhaps some girls behave in overly sexualized ways – after all, going back to what the boys are seeing in various media forms, the girls are seeing the same stuff, and they have hormones too.  Now I’m claiming here to understand the mind of teenage girls - trying to coach them at field hockey for 20+ years and now having a house full of them has taught me I do NOT.  But something is driving that behavior also – hormones, the images that become soaked into their brains – maybe they are just looking for attention and there is a long list of reasons – many starting with fathers as to why that might be.  So how you want to look is one thing – how you look coupled with how you choose to act could see two girls who are dressed somewhat the same at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to who they are and what message they are sending.  But even then, even if a girl is behaving inappropriately, where does that make it right for boys to respond inappropriately.

I also don’t want my daughters to have to apply different filters to what they believe and say.  This is not intended to be in any way political, but the recent ridiculous carrying on by Rush Limbaugh over a courageous young lady talking about birth control is perhaps a recent and telling example of the double standards that exist between boys and girls – and it doesn’t stop when the grow up to become men and women.  If a boy talks about birth control, he is probably doing what boys do, but thank goodness he is being responsible about it???  But a girl who says something on the subject is potentially a “slut”.  This is completely unacceptable.  There have been other recent lower profile events that have really jumped at me also with female writers and pastors whose message is questioned not for what it is saying but because a woman is saying it.  I would hope such cowardly attacks would not deter my girls from speaking out on something that was important to them, but the reality is even if it does not affect them, it will affect some.

At the end of the day, my daughters have to be responsible for their own choices and I want them to feel like they are free to make whatever choices seem right to them.  I can’t lock them away and guard the door with a gun – and I won’t.  Nor can I hover over them physically at all times to protect them from harm.  I want them to be women of integrity and character.  I want them to be strong enough in them own beliefs and convictions to stand up, make a difference in this world, and be noticed and valued for who they are and what they do, not just what they look like.

But I also know that no matter what befalls them, whether because of poor behavior of others or their own poor choices, that there is always a safe place at home – that no matter what they have done or has been done to them, they are loved unconditionally and I will be a source of comfort.  No ifs, ands or buts – UNCONDITIONALLY.  

I can’t remember the source on this article, but it was interesting that it popped up somewhere in the middle of the three weeks or so I’ve been mulling these thoughts.  Titled “The War On Women Begins With Girls” the link is:

The article talks about a number of important elements, but perhaps this one jumped out at me:

“Listening paves the way for girls to discover what they want to say and the inner strength to say it.”

I don’t know that I always listen – or truly hear what my daughters are trying to say to me, but I try.  Sometimes it will be something profound, and others will just be “daddy I’m hurting and I need you to know that and be there for me”.  What is important is that they should never be afraid to speak because I won’t listen, or will only hear what I want to hear and rush to judgment.

But those are my issues.  If you want permission to date my daughters, you don’t need to fill out a form.  You don’t really even need my approval.  And here’s why.  If you are not a young man with character and integrity, my daughters have enough of both and enough confidence in who they are to see right through you.  If you are not going to value, respect and listen to them as equals, you will pretty soon find yourself looking for someone else to date.  I have absolute confidence that if you wouldn’t get my approval, you won’t get theirs either.  They will make good choices most of the time, and if they don’t, they will figure it out pretty quick and do something about it.  What I will be is there for them through the good times and the bad.

Update: August 2012
Wow - tough yet comforting to read this again - maybe I should read again most of what I write - but I'm happy with this.  I'm especially comforted that what I said of my girls is not only still true, but even more so, especially with the older one now off "on her own" at college.  But I didn't come here to tell you that - I came to share some other links courtesy of a post on FaceBook today that attracted some other dads to share what they have written on related subjects.

I met Kevin at a gathering of church misfits almost two years ago.  This is the first but certainly not the last blog of his I will read.  I guess I never thought of myself as a feminist, but I'm not afraid of the idea either...

Feminist Dad