Friday afternoon I went to a happy hour with some folks from my company. They’re not people I work with every day, but they are definitely the cool kids of the office. You know, if it was high school they’d be sitting in the back of every bus, running every pep rally, and fighting each other every crown. That’s not to say that I wasn’t in the running for a few crowns in high school – I was in fact in Homecoming Court my junior year. Of course, that’s because there were only fourteen girls in my grade and if you were nominated for Homecoming Princess you couldn’t be Prom Princess. The three of us nominated were the three that had ditched the class meeting, since we clearly weren’t motivated enough to care about Prom Princess. I didn’t win, btw, Starla did. She was so cool…. she drove a topless Jeep and always had the best… um… stories. Yep, the best stories.
Getting invited to this happy hour was actually sort of a big deal for me – acceptance into the cool kids club bodes well for me both professionally and personally. I went, cracked the de rigueur PBR and dived into the conversation. Turns out that Matt 1 and Matt 2 both got engaged in the last couple of weeks. We loudly insist on hearing the engagement stories (sweet and not particularly original, both of them) and then it surfaces that they both asked the father of their now fiancées for permission prior to the proposal.
I oh-so-casually surveyed the other married men at the table. I wasn’t purposely excluding women, it’s just that all of us there were unmarried.
Side note: the cool kids club is all men. All the women who got a happy hour invite were unmarried. Huh.
Turns out, to a man, they asked for paternal blessings prior to popping the actual question.
I, less-casually-than-before-but-still-casually, asked if any of their wives had had an issue with that. Blank stares. Becoming slightly less casual all the time, I tried to explain that if someone were to propose to me and were to ask my father first, that would probably have an impact on my ability to answer ‘yes’ unreservedly. Blank stares.
I love my father. He’s a cool dude and when I do get married, I certainly hope that he and my husband get along. As a matter of fact, if he had some strong objection to someone I was dating, I would hear him out and weigh his contributions against my experiences.
But when do you ask for permission to do something that relates to another person? When you were little, you’d ask Timmy’s mom if he could come out and play. If you need someone in IT to drop everything and focus on a new project, you ask her manager. If someone is sick or unconscious and a decision needs to be made, you ask whoever he designated to make that decision.
In other words, you ask the person who is in charge. Do you see my problem?
My friends when pressed declared that it’s a sign of respect, and I have no doubt that they see it that way. I’m sure most fathers see it that way as well. If they’d asked both parents, I probably be objecting less strenuously – then at least they’d be quietly declaring that they didn’t see their girlfriend as someone independent, rather than that they think patriarchal approval is paramount.
These are smart, well-educated men. My industry does have an culture of ‘old boys club’ (as you can see by reading any other post categorized ‘work’), and this would probably be different if I’d asked a roomful of male teachers – if, you know, I could find one. Even in that case, though, I have no doubt that at least some men did this before they got married.
If your wife or girlfriend doesn’t mind and it makes you feel good, then by all means propose to her dad before you propose to her. Just please be aware that you’re perpetuating the idea that we as young women aren’t in charge of ourselves. You probably don’t still call Timmy’s mom when you want to head out to the bars, right?
Rant over. Needless to say, most of this went unspoken at the happy hour and has been banging around in my head all weekend. Ahhh – much better.
P.S. Dear Dad, if a boyfriend of mine ever comes to you asking for my hand in marriage, please tell him it’s my hand and he should be asking me, not you. Then smack him upside the head. Love, Emma