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All I Want for Christmas (Is for Your Dad to Like Me)

I have a few standing theories, some of which can weather even the most critical of analyses. For instance, try to poke holes in my longheld belief that an expert becomes 33% more credible if he or she has a British accent, or that women who are named after a season or month of the year are generally fun to be around. You can’t. It’s impossible.

Another theory that I’ve been kicking around for a good while goes like this: it is the divine right of any father with a daughter to casually torment any romantic suitor who has designs on his princess. This isn’t to be done in a malevolent manner; rather, with a few moments of precise and mercenary disrespect, a father can both assert his place at the head of the table while also checking his would-be son-in-law for signs of a functioning backbone.

For example, when I first started dating the woman who’d eventually be forced to tolerate my beard shavings in the sink, all that was really known of me was that I was a musician and writer. So, when I attended her father’s corporate Packer tailgate a few weeks into our nascent courtship, I was introduced to her dad’s boss, who undressed me thusly: “Oh, so you’re Tyler. Mark has mentioned you. I hear you sing songs and write poems.” It was absolutely savage, and I immediately liked her dad twice as much.

Reaching deeper into my trunk of romantic miscellany, there’s an encounter that both pains and pleases me to recount whenever possible. When I was 15, I began what I consider to be my first “real” relationship, in that I wasn’t terrified of physical contact and that my parents enforced the “Lights On, Door Open” rule with a level of severity that fell somewhere between “militant” and “not unlike the warden at Shawshank Prison.”

Yet, for whatever discomfort she and I might have endured under my parents’ roof, visits to my girlfriend’s house were another story altogether. Her parents -- and her father in particular, who happened to also be my orthodontist -- absolutely hated me. For reasons that weren’t totally clear (but likely had something to do with our bending of the “no dating before 16” mandate), their outright loathing for me burned with the heat of a thousand suns.

Over time, her mother’s disdain for me softened slightly, leading her father to double down on his. This was always a source of comedy for all involved: my girlfriend and her sisters loved ribbing me about his almost admirable degree of contempt, which he wasted exactly zero effort disguising.

It finally came to a head on the night of our Christmas date, which included an Applebee’s table for two and front-row seats to a Sawyer Brown concert at the Bismarck Civic Center, since that’s the sort of fancypants I was and still am. When I dutifully dropped her off several minutes before curfew, her mother greeted me with a plate of Christmas goodies, complete with decorative cellophane and those cookies with the kisses in the middle. Admiring this thoughtful little olive branch, I expressed my gratitude and extended my warmest holiday sentiments.

Just as I turned to leave and tap my heels to the newfound approval of our romance, her father emerged from his lounger, wearing a Hefner-esque robe and holding a plate of his own. He then approached the plate of goodies I was cradling, lifted the decorative cellophane, and swept a goodly portion of my cookies onto his own plate. After replacing the cellophane to its secure position around the edges of my now-trembling plate, he returned to the lounger from whence he came, never saying a word. I could actually feel the blood draining from my face, and my soul spent a brief spell in the pocket of his kimono.

Yet, my relationship with him improved drastically after that absolute scorching in his entryway. Order had been restored, my respect had been demanded and delivered, and all were happy to move on.

So, to all the dads of daughters out there: consider using the formality of the holidays to give a brutal brushback to any pimpleface who might be trying to earn a spot on your Christmas card. It’s your right to do so. And, to any still-unborn fella who might someday meet any hypothetical daughter that I may someday have, I’ve just gotta ask: So, you sing songs and write poems, do you?

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