There are lots of ways to host a child’s suitor. I’m trying to figure out which of them suits me.
Usually, the Mason-Dixon Line serves as more than an historical marker for me. I think of it as a contemporary cultural divide: they like Sweet Tea, we like it straight; they favor rocking chairs, we sit on Adirondacks; they eat grits, we grit our teeth.
But every now and then, I recognize the Deep South gets a few things right. Take hospitality. No. Let me be more specific. Consider a gentleman caller.
That’s what’s about to happen at our house. In a few days time, we’ll be playing host to our college-aged daughter’s out-of-town beau. This visit has thrown me into a tizzy.
First of all, there’s the easy stuff, like maniacally getting the house ready so that he sees us in our natural habitat of photo-ready decorating merged with surgical standards of cleanliness and order. That’s a given.
The other first, which was really the first first, is the sleeping arrangements. I’m a thoroughly modern mother, which means that Winchester (not his real name but one I’m rather fond of using when referring to the young suitor) will not be literally locked in the turret room. But he will be quartered in the guest room in the attic, which means two things in our one-hundred and twenty-five year old house. Simply put, he may perish from the heat, and, should he elect to descend from his garret down to the floors reached by the air conditioning, or any other source of comfort, he must use the loudly creaking staircase. Did I mention that I’m a light sleeper?
But who really cares about all of these sleeping arrangements when what is really important is setting the right tone for welcoming a young suitor to the family?
My brother, who married a girl from the Deep South, tells the story of how welcoming his father-in-law to be was when they first met. Steven describes walking up to the house and seeing George sitting on the porch with a shotgun across his lap. “Son,” George said, “I’d like to know your intentions with my daughter.”
George wasn’t one for idle chitchat.
There’s that south-of-the-Mason-Dixon Line approach I like so much. They’ve got porches. They’ve got patriarchs with deep, Southern drawls that magnify their directness. And then there’s the shotgun.
I don’t have a shotgun. To date I’ve been firmly opposed to any type of firearm in the house. But then again, I’ve never hosted a visiting boyfriend. For the first time I think I can appreciate the efficacy of George’s prop.
I do have the front porch, however, and I can be direct. Instead of greeting Winchester with, well, a Winchester, I was thinking of lifting the “Application to Date My Daughter” file from my Dad’s tennis buddy, Dave Martin. Martin has five daughters. Before meeting any of their potential suitors, Martin asks the young gentlemen to fill out a full-page questionnaire.
In the spirit of great writers, I refuse to lift Martin’s application completely. Rather, I’m using it as a template, making tiny modifications as I see fit. That way, along with this gentle nod to him as my inspiration, I get to claim it. Plagiarism be damned.
Sal’s* Application for Permission to Date My Daughter
- Date of birth______
- Boy Scout Rank_________
- Do you bike or at least watch The Tour de France?_______
- Do you own a van? __A truck with oversized tires?__ A waterbed?___
- (if YES to any part of number 7, discontinue application and leave immediately)
- In fifty words or less, what does “LATE” mean to you?_______
- In fifty words or less, what does “DON’T TOUCH MY DAUGHTER” mean to you?________________
- In fifty words or less, what does “NOT IN MY PARENTS’ HOUSE” mean to you?______
- Who was your mohel?_____
- Fill in the blanks:
- A woman’s place is in the ______
- The one thing I hope this application does not ask me about is__________
- My greatest fear is_____________
- When I initially meet a girl the thing I notice first about her is_______ (Note: If the answer to this question begins with “T” or “A”, discontinue and leave. Keeping your head lowered and running in a serpentine fashion is recommended.)
- What do you want to be IF you grow up?________
- Are you good to your mother?________
I swear that all information supplied above is true and correct to the best of my knowledge under penalty of death or, worse, Sal’s wrath.
Note to applicant: Upon successful review of this questionnaire, it will be my pleasure to offer you a cool beverage and invite you to stay at my lovely home. You will still be under complete scrutiny, but that will only last as long as there is breath in my body. Welcome to my own brand of Northern hospitality.
*Thanks to Dave Martin for his inspired original application. To date, only one of his four daughters is married. His son-in-law’s successful application has been kept on file for verification purposes as well as future review options.