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Archive for Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Fathers live out fantasy on TV

August 20, 2002

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There are three things most fathers want to be in life.

(1) Great providers.

(2) Heroes to their children.

(3) Mean S.O.B.'s in front of anyone who wants to date our daughters.

If forced to pick just one, we'd go with the third. The problem is that we can't, or our daughters would get mad at us. Which is why I like NBC's new reality show called "Meet My Folks."

It lets fathers do what our daughters would never allow: grill their prospective dates.

The show is built around three suitors spending a weekend at the daughter's home while the father puts them through tests to decide which will be allowed to go on a vacation with her. The mother is present too, but she usually just sits there sympathetically while the dad interrogates the guys. Apparently, scaring prospective dates is a father thing.

The daughters usually don't have much to say, either, except to occasionally confide to the cameras that they don't like the parents' final choice. But that's tough, they have to live with it.

That's why I like this show. I think the last time parents got to pick their daughters' dates was in the old country. Actually, they got to pick the person their children would marry. When I was 20ish, I considered such matchmaking absurd. Now that I'm a father, it makes great sense.

But the closest we come to it in modern society seems to be NBC's "Meet My Folks." They even let the father subject these guys to a lie-detector test, asking such things as, "Did you cheat on your college boards?" Or, "Did you ever sleep with the mother of one of your ex-girlfriends?"

The questions aren't random the producers dig up dirt on the suitors and feed the parents "gotcha" questions. When someone lies, the polygraph operator slyly gives the parents a thumb's down.

The fathers play their roles with glee. This is because it's such a change from our usual role in life, which is to be told, upon taking our daughters to the mall, to stay on a different floor so they won't suffer the embarrassment of running into us with their friends.

I was at first curious at how docile the mothers were on this show. It must be about gender. If "Meet My Folks" ever did a switch and let parents pick among three girl suitors for a son, the mother would probably do the grilling no doubt with cattiness. Whether they admit it or not, moms, I think, like to be the main female in their sons' lives, and don't have an easy time being bumped aside.

Fathers have a different instinct. It's all about protectiveness. That's why they like meanly cross-examining these guys. In their eyes, the best kind of suitor operates on fear.

A few years ago, I learned this when I wrote a column on a great concept I'd come across "An Application for Permission to Date My Daughter." It was sent around on the Internet, presumably because real fathers wouldn't have the gumption to have boys fill out such a thing, but it was fun to think about it.

It began by asking for the basics, including name, IQ and Boy Scout rank. It then laid out 10 questions, including:

"Do you have a tattoo, earring or nose ring? (If yes, leave premises.)"

And: "In 50 words or less, what does 'late' mean to you?"

It ended with: "Please allow four to six years for processing."

I proposed a few questions of my own, such as:

"My most important goal is to get: (A) Drunk. (B) Chicks. (C) A Harley. (D) Vested.

Also: "The definition of 'stoned' is: (A) The only way to spend Saturday nights. (B) Just the punishment America needs to combat the scourge of adultery.

Many fathers sent me their own suggestions, my favorite being one who said the ideal "Application to Date My Daughter" would include only one question: "Would your body be identifiable through dental records?"

Anyway, it's nice to fantasize about such behavior.

Or watch it on TV.

But to actually act on it?

Our daughters would get too mad at us.




Mark Patinkin's e-mail address is mpatinkin@projo.com

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