tampabay.com

Let her decide whether to consult dad about proposal

By CAROLYN HAX
Published March 17, 2007


Q: I am planning to propose to my girlfriend. Tradition has it that the male ask the female's father for his blessing. But I wonder if there is some exemption to this "rule." Her dad is, for lack of a better word, an idiot. He argues and gets into major verbal fights with my girlfriend's family constantly. I am very uncomfortable during these blowouts. Even my girlfriend doesn't like him most of the time.

Should I still get his blessing? Would it be appropriate to ask her mom, or maybe her older sister, whom I have much better relationships with? Should I just not ask?

A: Don't ask anyone anything unless you and she have been thoroughly open - and openly thorough - with each other about the implications of her volatile home. First things first.

As for the blessing, tradition is tradition because society says it's so. Our society has had much to say recently about one man asking another man to hand over a woman, and not much of it printable.

Except this: Her life, her call.

You know her, I hope, well enough to know what she'd want. It's her relationship with her father/mother/sister, as well as with her culture and with tradition in general, that will make the difference between a gesture that's sincerely moving or seriously weird.

Of course, if she admits her relationship with her dad is miserable but would like you to do the permission dance with him anyway - for auld lang syne, for family peace or just for the camera - then do it.

Without her wishes to justify it, though, you would not only be giving a gratuitous nod to the paternalistic bad old days, but also performing a ritual of respect for a man you just called a malodorous body part. In the interest of sparing the world even one needless slap to the forehead, please feel empowered to take a pass.

Good intentions

Q: I am one of the few single people in my group of friends, and during a weekend away together the topic of conversation became my dating life. I'm not dating anyone right now because the person who has every attribute I'm looking for except the "liking me back" one isn't interested in me. Mr. Doesn't Like Me Back was a silent witness to this conversation, in case it wasn't awkward enough. Anyway, the friends asked me what I was looking for and were keen to set me up with someone, but I came off as a really indecisive weirdo because I was afraid to tell them that I'm looking for someone like him. Should I have been boldly honest, or does that only happen in movies?

A: That only happens in movies, as does the surrounding of single people pack- like and demanding to suck their souls dry of every last intimate secret. At least that's what I thought.

It's easy to get rattled when caring friends go cannibal, which might be why you thought, "Maybe now Mr. DLMB will notice me!" instead of throwing your friends a stick and telling them to go chew on that instead. (Or, if stickless, crying, "I am not an animal!" and hoping at least one friend is a cineast with a conscience.) If it happens again, though, you're ready.

Write "Tell Me About It," c/o Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

Washington Post Writers Group