The Crazy Dad Routine
December 2, 2010 8:07 PM   Subscribe

"I believe in my .45, my shovel and the fact that nobody will ever miss you." — the dad in Clueless to the boyfriend. I'm looking for things to say to my daughters would-be suitors to make them to believe that I might just be crazy enough to deliver them a serious beat-down should they disrespect or treat my daughter poorly. Any other scenes in movies or books that I can reference for my "crazy dad" routine?
posted by pmaxwell to Human Relations (95 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
I know you said movies or books, but what about Cleaning This Gun, a hilarious song about one father's quest to do just what you're doing here.
posted by Night_owl at 8:12 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Please don't do this. My dad was like this and all it meant is that they will what they will do anyway, and she'll hide it and won't share anything with you. If anything, the bond with the boyfriend will be strengthened and you'll become the enemy. It will be your relationship that suffers. My poor first boyfriend. I still cringe when I think of how my dad treated him. If you've raised her right, trust her judgement. My apologies for not answering your question.
posted by Jubey at 8:15 PM on December 2, 2010 [192 favorites]

not from a movie, but a suggestion nonetheless - i dated a fair number of strapping, large men in my teens and my father said to a few of them "all men are the same height flat on their back." my stepmom was known to say things like "you can make the toughest meat into the most delicious stew."
posted by nadawi at 8:16 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's a pretty good scene in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", where the brother says he knows people who will make him disappear, or something like that. He says it a few times, it's a running gag up until the wedding.
posted by Melismata at 8:17 PM on December 2, 2010

You might get more lasting effect with a speech about how you taught your daughters to stand up for themselves and they don't need a man to defend their "honor"? and that they're better shots/flamethrowers/tank operators than you even saw when you were in the shit, but, whoa, dude, even crazier than what you saw, the horror...
posted by mimi at 8:17 PM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

There are indirect ways to do this that involve body language, and eye contact that communicate that something very valuable is being protected. These are much more effective than some coarse threat of violence, having met a few fathers.

If your daughter is bringing home someone that is too obtuse to pick up on some not-so-subtle body language, your problems go beyond something that a reference to a gun would help.
posted by 517 at 8:18 PM on December 2, 2010

"I know people. No matter where you go, somebody I know will see you."

"If you lay an inappropriate hand on my daughter she will pick up the heaviest thing she can find and lay you out. When you come to there will be at least five of the biggest guys you've ever seen standing over you with guns."

"I know how to kill. With my hands... or whatever they happen to be holding."

These are actual statements made by my father. Being ex military and giving the stink eye helped with the crazy.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:20 PM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seconding Jubey and other folks who say to talk to your daughters.

Focus on raising your daughters to be strong women who know their boundaries and will put their foot down and DTMFA if a man disrespects them. Let them know that you will always be there for them. If you really want to do the whole crazy dad thing, what about during a conversation about dating/self-respect/boundaries in general, saying something like "and if some scumbucket ever messes you around and you need me to grab my shotgun and go ball huntin', I'll be right there."

I don't know what people actually say in these scenarios, my dad always got along with my boyfriends. I think it's much easier to see how your daughter's boyfriends are treating her if they actually don't mind being around you every once in a while.
posted by SugarAndSass at 8:25 PM on December 2, 2010 [17 favorites]

If your looking to drive off all the normal boyfriends, this plan will work perfectly. Try to be skinning a possum at the dinner table.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:25 PM on December 2, 2010 [18 favorites]

Gotta agree that this is one of those things that is probably more effective as a tv/movie trope than something that people should do in real life. (Here's Tom Wilson's stand-up bit on it though, if you want a laugh)
posted by oh yeah! at 8:26 PM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

I come from a family of large and loud Italians. Every one of my boyfriends met the family with a handshake, a dead stare in the eyes and something along the lines of, "If you hurt my daughter/sister, I'll kill you. {grin}"

That said, I tend to side with Jubey's opinion on this kind of behavior. The only guys it really works on are the nice guys that you want your daughter to date. The bad boys will be bad boys no matter what.
posted by geeky at 8:27 PM on December 2, 2010

Just to clarify, when I said "what about doing the whole crazy dad thing during a conversation about dating," I meant in a conversation with your daughter, not her boyfriend. That way, the daughter knows you've got her back if she needs you, but she's not embarrassed in front of her boyfriend for her father's ridiculous threat.
posted by SugarAndSass at 8:30 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Given that a lot of people seem to think it's kind of a dick move, you might take a slightly different track. Sit down with the kid, tell him to relax. Ask him what he likes about your daughter, and be open and honest with him, and tell him what about your daughter makes her so special to you. That way, you have a common ground. Then you explain that you have full confidence in the young man, and know that he would, just like you, never let anything bad happen to your daughter. You're transferring the onus of being the protector to the guy. If you do it right, (without being an ass, if possible) you'll get the kid to understand how much your daughter means to other people aside from him, and that she's not just the object of his wayward teen desires, but an actual, wonderful person who is deeply valued by others.

Also, point out that your daughter has taken self defense classes, and that she doesn't really need you to be giving this speech. If she hasn't taken self defense classes, well, dad, why not?
posted by Ghidorah at 8:30 PM on December 2, 2010 [18 favorites]

Mod note: folks - while it's okay to question the premise of the OPs question, it might be better to just MeMail the non-anonymous OP than derailing this question entirely. Please consider doing that, thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:31 PM on December 2, 2010

How old is your daughter?

Because I have to say, as a woman who is her father's only daughter, this media trope has always rung false to me.

Your best bet is to have a good rapport with your daughter, trust her to make her own choices and come to you/listen to your advice as needed.

If she's dating seriously enough for this sort of thing to be a concern, she needs your trust, respect, and guidance. Not threats. Or worse, for my father to go behind my back and start threatening my boyfriend.
posted by Sara C. at 8:35 PM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Haha I changed the subject of that second paragraph and now it sounds creepy.
posted by Sara C. at 8:35 PM on December 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Any guy who would care about threats from you isn't going to give your daughter any problems anyway, with or without threats from Dad. And a guy who would give your daughter problems isn't going to care what her father says.

However - if you feel you must threaten him, then don't bother with words. Just have the beam from your laser rifle scope hit the guy in the chest as he approaches your front door.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:35 PM on December 2, 2010

There was a girl I spent a lot of time with in high school. On one occasion I showed up at her house early and she was not home from some engagement yet. Her father invited me into the backyard to have a beer with him. As we sat there, he asked me about my plans for the future. I told him I was planning to go to university despite having no money and not having good enough grades to get a scholarship. I was planning to go on the back of some pretty heavy loans, probably from the government. He asked me what my plan was for repaying those loans. I observed that I was pretty sure Venezuela didn't extradite people on the basis of debt.

"That's interesting," he said. "Because I have this recurring dream that sort of relates to that. It comes around tax season, usually. I dream that I'm up in a clock tower with a high powered rifle and spread out below me is a never ending crowd of twenty-somethings who have defaulted on their student loans."

I took a sip of my beer and said nothing.

"Actually," he said. "It's kind of similar to this other dream I have about boys who date my daughters."

I was terrified, but I didn't stay away from his daughter. Incidentally, she doesn't speak to him any more.
posted by 256 at 8:37 PM on December 2, 2010 [23 favorites]

N'thing Jubey's point that this will make your daughter less safe because she'll keep you in the dark far more often, and to a greater extent. But if you insist, maybe something like this wouldn't singe the bridge as much:

"You have my number. If there is any trouble, call me and I'll take care of it for you. No questions asked.
If there is any trouble and you don't call me, then you've doubled your trouble 'cos I won't take well to that, and I'll take care of it like any other trouble; swiftly and permanently."

If someone dropped something like that .45 line on me, I would know right away they were full of it (believing that "nobody will ever miss you"?! Like boys don't have their own parents?).

Effectively admitting to someone that you're bluffing is the opposite of being threatening or crazy. It's more likely to be interpreted as a sign of weakness or powerlessness. Keep it legit.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:41 PM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

authority is not based on power (fear or raw strength), but rather on integrity.

Bwaahaahaahaaaa. *wipes tear* No, really, that was beautiful.

"I will be watching you and if I find that you are trying to corrupt my first born child, I will bring you down, baby. I will bring you down to Chinatown." --Jack Byrnes, Meet the Fockers.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:49 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dammit - the Parents, not the sequel.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:50 PM on December 2, 2010

This is a terrible idea in general, but doing it with movie quotes adds a whole extra level of terrible. Someday your daughter or her boyfriend is going to realize that you are trying to intimidate them with, say, a quote from a Jane Austen adaptation done as an 80s high school romantic comedy and it will probably end up having the opposite of the intended effect. At least don't come off as somebody who is so inherently non-intimidating that he had to learn a routine from a movie.

PS Aiming a laser sight on your gun at someone as suggested above (not sure if the suggestion is serious) could constitute assault with a deadly weapon. I would recommend you avoid intimidation techniques that might end up with you convicted of any felonies.
posted by phoenixy at 9:03 PM on December 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

(Oops, I got the release date of Clueless wrong. 90s romantic comedy. Point still stands.)
posted by phoenixy at 9:05 PM on December 2, 2010

This isn't from a book or movie, but...

My stepdad used to mention that he grew up in Hill End, and he'd entertain my potential boyfriend with stories about his childhood. Then he'd mention that there are a lot of mine shafts there, it would be easy to drop a body down one and it would never be seen again.

And I found that the serious potential boyfriends behaved, after hearing that. The non-serious ones... gone like Road Runner.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 9:06 PM on December 2, 2010

"Just to make sure you make it home before curfew, I'm going to give you this antique watch to carry. This watch has been accurately telling time for the past 70 years. If you're late, you weren't using the watch as the fine craftsman that made it intended. If the watch comes back broken, or if it is lost, it will be because you didn't care enough about something that I hold dear to keep it safe. Have a good time tonight."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:19 PM on December 2, 2010 [24 favorites]

Uncle Buck.

Enough said.
posted by LyndsayMW at 9:20 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Gonna kill ya. Gonna skin ya. Gonna take your shin bone and turn it into a pencil box."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:20 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I always felt that action speaks louder than words and silence is the real scary part for most people. When I meet the young gentlemen who date my daughter, I look them in the eye, shake their hand firmly but not aggressively, hold it for a few beats too long and say simply, "Hello, I am August West, Stevie's dad. How are you?" (Most of the guys she dates now meet her as Stephanie and saying Stevie throws them for a loop for a few seconds. She likes either one.) Whatever their response, I wait a few beats longer than a normal conversation and ask them questions about themselves. "What are you majoring in?" "What are your plans for the summer?" etc. It makes them accountable. When I get to know them better, I engage them. "Do you want to watch the Ranger game while we wait?" type of thing. I always believe that people will treat you better if they know you and you know them. Anonymity leads to false assumptions and distrust.

I have a friend whose FIL to be said to him when he asked for his daughter's hand in marriage or his blessing or something said, "Sure, go ahead. If she is anything like her mom, you're screwed."
posted by AugustWest at 9:24 PM on December 2, 2010 [18 favorites]

I knew a father, a grizzly-bear of a man, who would have his daughter and her date stand before him in the living room, then he'd ask the boy, "Show me where you think you can touch my daughter."
posted by trinity8-director at 9:25 PM on December 2, 2010 [17 favorites]

come on people, if your not going to answer the question then don't post.

The first time I met my girlfriends father he didn't say very much at all, just always spoke seriously, deliberately, and slowly. When we were introduced he looked me dead in the eye and shook my hand, firmly but not as to cause pain, and never blinking or looking away. That was enough for me, I knew he meant business.

Barring that, the next best thing to cleaning your .45 is cleaning your big chrome .44 mag ;)
posted by token-ring at 9:28 PM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

As the only child of two "hands-off" parents, I think it's great that you're actively involved in your daughter's life. That said, I would focus more on teaching your daughter that she's a strong woman who deserves to be treated with respect. That way, you're giving her the tools and support she needs to learn to take care of herself, rather than solely relying on her date to walk the straight and narrow.

If you still want to pursue this idea, I'd go with August West and token-ring's suggestion of "actions speak louder than words." I understand the appeal of the "protective father," but I think your point will be taken more seriously if you avoid the over-the-top dramatics.
posted by lucysparrow at 9:38 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had some dads try this when I was young. It was so not-scary that it was comical. They thought they were being all tough and scary, and I'd be all "oh of course Mr So-and-so" and then go on to paw their daughter who was loving being rebellious.

The really scary ones were the ones who did what AugustWest describes, who talked calmly and made a connection, and who made me feel like they knew me as a person. That's scary, not reciting movie lines and cleaning guns. (Like, I don't have guns of my own, or watch movies? Really?)
posted by Forktine at 9:45 PM on December 2, 2010 [9 favorites]

A real life account.

I would visit an older coworker's place and witnessed the introduction of several of his oldest daughter's new boyfriends. There would be a happy introduction, small talk for a minute or two, and then his daughter would go downstairs to get her stuff.

Dad would jump into action. "Oh, oh, oh! Let me show you something!" He'd bounce excitedly to the closet, grab his compound bow, run to the living room and throw open the casement window. He'd draw the bow and sink an arrow into a telephone pole way down the street, next to a half dozen older arrows. It had to be a hundred yards away. He'd turn to the kid and say "Nice grouping, huh? The best part about these arrows is you can't hear 'em coming."

I don't know how it affected the kid's relationship but I did see one of the kids come back a few weeks later with his buddy to show him the arrows 15' up on that pole. It was pretty cool; almost bought myself a bow....;-)

Of course the daughter was unmarried, living at home, with her child at 19 so there are probably better avenues to persue...
posted by Barnsie at 10:00 PM on December 2, 2010 [7 favorites]

When I was a teenager, girls' dads would say stuff like that to me sometimes.

It never worked. It probably only made things worse. And this was original material, not lines from popular movies.

That said, maybe you could threaten to feed him to your pigs. It probably doesn't really matter whether you have pigs or not.
posted by box at 10:03 PM on December 2, 2010

If You Ever Do Anything To Hurt Her. Note the description of the trope as "The one true manly way to concede defeat for the girl's heart." Not the image you imagined you'll be projecting.

Nthing the agreement that this is a bad idea and will be awkward and ineffective, anyway.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:47 PM on December 2, 2010

"I have a lose/lose question for you... are you carrying a condom?"
posted by Jacqueline at 11:04 PM on December 2, 2010 [44 favorites]

My dad's always been fun to bring boys home to meet, but it's because he looks intimidating as hell - big bushy beard, usually unruly hair, big glasses, big gut, typically in a collar shirt, suspenders and jeans. And his personality is rather intense, the most significant part. He likes to talk to them, ask them about themselves, what they do, what they have planned for the future, etc. He's a storyteller, talks on and on if you let him. Fun to make them go sit with Dad while I help cook dinner. If they get rattled by talking to dad, or complain about him, that's a bad sign in my books.
posted by lizbunny at 11:15 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I always envisioned myself standing on the porch a large mustard stain on my t-shirt and waving my fists in about while yelling "You are not going out with my daughter"

Then as her latest suitor pulls away from the curb my daughter would lean her head out of the passenger window her voice just audible above the squealing tires and say "I love you too daddy"
posted by pianomover at 11:40 PM on December 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Well, this didn't happen when I was a teenager, so its kind of different, but maybe relevant: when I was recently visiting my GF's family (we both live far from them), her dad took the time to teach me how to reload my own ammo in his basement, took me out to the range to shoot a few of his various handguns, and then spent an afternoon walking around a gun show, eating hotdogs and BSing with other hunters. Later in the week we spent an evening with friends outside a cabin her parents had rented for a couple of nights, drinking wine, shooting cups of water and marshmallows on the fence with a BB gun from the patio, and eating venison chili.

I'm not saying it has to be guns - it could be fishing or car engines or a room renovation or whatever the dad happens to be into / busy with at the moment. Consider taking the kid under your wing and building a relationship with him - maybe imparting some skill or knowledge he might benefit from. What better than a potential son-in-law that actually wants to be around the family rather than dragging your daughter away from it? I can't wait til I can hang out with my GF's dad again, I'm hoping he can take me elk-hunting, something I've never done.
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:20 AM on December 3, 2010 [6 favorites]

(Sorry, meant to include this bit by way of actually answering the question more directly: the gun part kind of did the opposite for me - here was a dad who entirely had the power to kill me if I hurt his daughter, but who was a strong enough father that he knew he didn't need to exercise that power. It spoke more to me of confidence that he had done all he could to be a good dad and that he trusted me to do all I could to be a good BF, rather than of fear that the same wasn't true.)
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:23 AM on December 3, 2010

Ha! One of my friend's would ask his daughter, "Just what are your intentions with this young man?" A nice twist, I thought.
posted by katiecat at 2:00 AM on December 3, 2010 [17 favorites]

My first serious girlfriend when I was 17 turned to me the second or third time I'd met her dad and said 'Dad likes you, I can tell.'

'Oh?' I said, 'How can you tell?'

'The last time I brought a boy back to the house, he walked in, said nothing, picked an apple out of the fruit bowl and cracked it in half with his bicep. He's talking to you.'

Her dad was a big, gruff, shaven-headed man who fixed fire engines for a living. I was glad he didn't do the apple thing with me.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:02 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I first met a specific girlfriend's father he happened to be cleaning his hunting rifle in the lounge. Of course he had no idea I was coming by, so it wasn't deliberate, he'd just been hunting, but it always stuck with me as a pretty funny situation - somewhat cliche.

As for the main point - I've only got boys so far (although could have a girl by this time next year), so I've not really thought about this, but I can never imagine even feeling that this sort of thing might be actually useful or necessary in reality.
posted by sycophant at 2:11 AM on December 3, 2010

pmaxwell, this is the number one thing that will protect your daughter from being hurt by jerks: your daughter having a LOT of practice successfully standing up for herself in all kinds of situations, backed up *in the background* by you. Also: your daughter growing up feeling respected (including and especially by you), and therefore *expecting* to be respected.

If you raise her to be the passive damsel protected by the big bad assertive macho man, well, she's going to wind up being passive in general to big bad assertive macho men. Not just to you.

That said ... movie quotes and empty threats don't intimidate anyone. Especially not testosterone fueled teenage boys who are overconfident anyway.

I think the only way to get a true reputation as a crazy dad that will actually scare teenage boys, is to actually do some pretty insane things. I seriously believe that you will have to be, at minimum, arrested for violently shooting at something (pick something inanimate), and word of that will have to get out around the town. I am dead serious. Otherwise it will be nothing but a big joke.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:16 AM on December 3, 2010 [14 favorites]

my dad once tried this a long time ago - he showed a boyfriend of mine his sword collection, and then asked "so are your intentions with my daughter honourable?" The effect was sort of spoiled, though, because in the awkward silence following it, everyone heard me mutter "god I hope not"
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:31 AM on December 3, 2010 [69 favorites]

Also, if you mention anything about murder, that right there is going to make it clear that you're bullshitting. People who are actually capable of murder and actually boast about that fact have been on that life track for a long time and live lives where that is evident, not quiet family lives in the suburbs or whatever.

To make it believable try to get closer to something you *would* actually do. Think of the most heinous thing you've ever done to get revenge on someone in your life. You could get away with threatening maybe like a notch or two above that. Like if you destroyed someone's bike when you were 14 as revenge on another 14 year old, maybe you could get away with threatening to destroy someone's car.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:33 AM on December 3, 2010

You know, perhaps the craziest thing my dad did was to invite my boyfriends over to watch a game of football together. I was there, too, but the rest of the family was sent to the mall for the afternoon. My father was a perfect gentleman, and so were my boyfriends who endured this.

Funny thing is that no one in my family, nor any of my boyfriends, actually liked football. This had the great effect of showing that my father cared about his daughter's life, wanted to be appropriately involved, and sent that message to my boyfriends.

Actions can speak louder than words. If you can come up with some slightly-outside-of-everyones'-comfort-zone-but-non-threatening activity to engage the boyfriend with, that might send the message with no threats. Offer to take them to a just-too-fancy restaurant, or spend an afternoon making dinner with him and your daughter for the rest of the family.

If he declines, it's pretty telling.
posted by metarkest at 2:46 AM on December 3, 2010 [10 favorites]

My da did this - talked about nailing guys to boards, beating guys up, threatened a few. I simply stopped bringing boys (or men) home. It was excruciatingly embarrassing for everyone and achieved nothing because his threats of violence were aimed at me as much as the guy - I was a willing participant, not a doll. The guys either didn't take it seriously or used it to their advantage (like I'd tell da anything if I thought it'd lead to assault and battery) . I took it seriously and hid everything because I did want that on my conscience.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:32 AM on December 3, 2010 [11 favorites]

From a woman who did no longer have such a dad when the dating times came: what you want here is your daughter who knows 100% sure that you will protect her (and be a better, stronger, and scarier person than the boyfriend's father, should a situation arise). That's enough. She will communicate that to the beaus - most probably by her confidence, not by retelling your words. And oh, I'm envious. The daughters who say their strong fathers made relationships more difficult have no idea of what it is to know that should you become accidentally pregnant, it would most probably be boyfriend's dad putting her into a car and driving to an abortion clinic. Men's nature-given, subconscious fears of not going unpunished actually drive them to be civil to women.
posted by Jurate at 4:28 AM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

I hate to add to the non-answer pile-on, but this kind of attitude from dads screams to me "I own my daughter's sexuality." Creepy as fuck.

Instead of trying to intimidate the guys, tell your daughter that you trust her, that you want her to be able to tell you anything, that she deserves dates who will treat her well and respect her choices and opinions, that if she ever encounters one who doesn't she should let someone know, and that you hope you'll be that someone.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:40 AM on December 3, 2010 [32 favorites]

I agree that you shouldn't do this. That said, this scene in Bad Boys 2 did make me laugh.
posted by Jorus at 5:22 AM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Didn't read all of the comments so not sure this has been mentioned...Anyway, my dad did not say or do anything overtly threatening, but almost every guy my sister or I dated commented on my dad's very firm handshake. It was short of bone-crushing but definitely made an impression.

That said, don't do this either.
posted by murrey at 5:44 AM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Billy Gibbons plays a version of himself as Angela's father in Bones. He doesn't say much, he just looks menacing. And one of Angela's exes wakes up in the desert with a tattoo of her face.

I think it does have more to do with bearing and non-verbal cues. If you have to say something, maybe to your daughter: "Just remember what I told you, sweetie. Twist and pull."
posted by motsque at 6:34 AM on December 3, 2010

I am not going to to join the pile-on. But my old boss used to do something different and a little more crafty than be the scary father.

From a young age, every couple of weeks he would buy his daughter flowers. Nothing crazy, maybe a bunch like you see for a couple of dollars at the petrol station. His reasoning was that once she reached dating age, guys would have to work that little bit harder to impress her.

"Yeah nice flowers, my dad buys them for me all the time".

She is still a little too young to see whether it has worked, but I can see his reasoning.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 6:48 AM on December 3, 2010 [16 favorites]

Nthing that you should not do the "threatening father" thing. My dad did this, as did the dads of several of my other friends, and the only thing it succeeded in doing in any of these cases was causing a rift between father and daughter.

There are some really good ideas here about constructive things you can do to show your daughter (and her boyfriends) that you care about her and are actively involved in her life. Do that instead. Your daughter will be stronger, and more importantly, she'll feel that she can come to you for help if and when she needs it.
posted by SymphonyNumberNine at 6:53 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Because you are confident and able to discuss sensitive subjects without fear, you have the opportunity to have a talk with young men about how to be a good man. "Guy, my daughter has been raised with respect and honesty. I expect you to treat her with respect and honesty. Respect her safety, and your own, by driving sober and sensibly, and by not using a mobile phone when driving. Treat her with respect, and see that others do, too. That's what it means to be a real man."

After that, you can add one of the comments along the lines of how much you love your daughter, and will make his life a living hell is he disrespects her, but it's not necessary. Lots of young men don't have a full time Dad at home, have not had a man talk to them about respect. You can give them a terrific gift.

There's a lot of good advice upthread. It would have been terrific if my Dad had spent a little time with guys who came to pick me up. And take care of yourself, best gift you can give her is being around to to meet your grandkids.
posted by theora55 at 6:54 AM on December 3, 2010 [6 favorites]

Offer to take them to a just-too-fancy restaurant,

This is pretty much what my now-father-in-law did. It was made very clear, very early, that dating (and later marrying) his daughter meant having a relationship with him. That first dinner out with him was genuinely terrifying -- I was on the spot, under intense scrutiny, and it was just the first of many such evenings. It was all totally friendly, and because of this we are now very good friends. It meant that he knew me as a person, and vice versa, rather than just hearing about each other via the daughter/girlfriend.

So if I ever have a daughter, I will do the same thing. You want to date her? Sure, but you are also going to have dinners with me, and we are going to go hiking or take a road-trip or whatever, just the two of us. I'm going to trust her to choose good partners, and I'm going to demonstrate that respect by getting to know them as people. Anyone can fake being a good person for a few minutes of saying hi in the living room; not many people can maintain a pretense over sustained and repeated interactions.
posted by Forktine at 7:13 AM on December 3, 2010 [15 favorites]

The first time I ever brought Long-Ago Boyfriend to the parental house, there was my dad, coming down the driveway with a shotgun in one hand and a flamethrower in the other. Dad gave us a cheerful wave and then went off to use these items in some project. (We lived in a very rural area and there were probably some very valid projects that required a shotgun and a flamethrower.) Long-Ago Boyfriend parked the car pensively. "I suppose you're wondering what my dad plans to do with that shotgun and flamethrower," I said. "I was," said Long-Ago Boyfriend, "But I didn't think it was polite to ask." Anyway, Long-Ago Boyfriend always had a lot of respect for my dad and really liked and admired him - but I don't think that first impression really affected anything one way or another!
posted by Wylie Kyoto at 7:34 AM on December 3, 2010

I am not sure if this is a good idea but will leave it at that and answer the question.

A friend of mine is a heavily tattooed ex-marine who still works out daily and works as a security guard at a nuclear installation. When his daughter was dating he would be cleaning a gun or two when the would-be suitor showed up, shake their hand very firmly, and say "I've got two words for you: only daughter". She's married now to a guy who seems pretty nice, so I guess he didn't scare everyone off.
posted by TedW at 7:43 AM on December 3, 2010

I agree with Jubey, but at the same time something popped in my head a friend used in a different situation that still sticks with me sometimes as a standard "guy puffing up" type thing (granted, I find it kinda eye-roll-y, but). As a kid in a crazy corporal punishment-allowed school the principal said something to him about caning him or something, and his response was "you'll do it once." As in, then he'd hit back and that would be the end of it. So some form of that, like, you hurt my daughter and well, you'll do it once.

But again, this does kinda all make my eyes roll granted.
posted by ifjuly at 7:57 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ugh, as a former teenage girl, don't do this. My high school boyfriend was a dolt. At the time, I didn't see that, but my father was polite, respectful of the relationship, and trusted me. We broke up when I went to college, with no lasting damage to me or my relationship with my dad. When I became an adult and realized what a dumbass he'd been, we laughed about it.

My current boyfriend of 5+ years is the guy I will marry. He is polite, smart, kind, and treats me with all kinds of respect. My dad adores him, he loves my dad, and they email each other all the time about college football. Want this kind of relationship with your daughter's future husband? Don't pull this shit now. Respect that your daughter is growing up and bound to make mistakes. If you've raised her right, they'll be inconsequential ones you can giggle about later.

Be a role model for the kind of guy you want her to end up with. You may not think they're connected, but they are.
posted by superfluousm at 8:26 AM on December 3, 2010 [9 favorites]

"You make her cry...and I'll make you cry".
posted by rocket88 at 9:15 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Doing this is actually setting your daughter back and teaching her that she should have a man to protect her (because of course shes totally helpless). Instead of setting back feminism 50 years, why do you try to model the behavior you want for the boyfirend to have. Invite him to dinner at your house and talk (like how real people talk, not how movies talk) about interests. It's ok to mention how much you love your daughter / how proud of her you are, but don't try to make him squirm like you're some tough guy (if my dad ever did this, I would have called his bluff because he raised a strong, confident daughter and trusted me to stand up for myself).

In fact, the most threatening thing my dad ever said to my boyfriends was, "Before you do something that might piss her off, be prepared to deal with her.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:19 AM on December 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

My dad is a total sweetie who always made my boyfriends feel like a part of the family. They would always comment that "Wow, your dad is so nice!" and I would reply "Yeah, he is. Do yourself a huge favour and DO NOT EVER make him angry." Seemed much more effective than some "Git yer paws offa my daughter" alpha male bullshit.
posted by futureisunwritten at 9:20 AM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

On my very first real pick-me-up-at-the-door date - I was a high school freshman going to a school dance with a senior, set up by my senior cousin - my step-father sat in the front room and cleaned his shot gun. Now you have to understand, my step-dad is awesome, generally very quiet, not at all physically intimidating (especially to the giant football player standing at the door) and, in his defense, hunting season was approaching. He was very polite to my date, sending us off with a smile and a wave. The guy was polite and pleasant, and never asked me out again. So, don't do that. Also, my mom apparently chewed my step-dad out hard when she discovered what he'd been up to.

It's funny because it's not always dads/step-dads who think this is the way to be. When my daughter was born, a very close male friend took one look her and said "any guy who wants to date her is going to have to walk past me standing on your front step with my cricket bat." Sweet, but dude. It's still a running joke, but I won't let it happen.

There's a lot of good advice her on how to really handle your daughter dating, and I want to keep it in mind going forward. We haven't had to go there yet, because our daughter is only 7, and also not allowed to date until she's 35 (joke!). I hope we'll go down the road of teaching her about her own self-worth, and empowering her to not only take care of herself but trust us enough to come to us should there be a problem, even at 2 a.m. We'll also be teaching our son to not be a douche, but that's another conversation.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 9:27 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by mlis at 9:28 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I knew a father, a grizzly-bear of a man, who would have his daughter and her date stand before him in the living room, then he'd ask the boy, "Show me where you think you can touch my daughter."

You then look the father straight in the eye and say "Anywhere she wants me to".

Yeah, adding to the pile on. This really should be about the daughter. Empower her to apply a knee to the dangly bits if things get out of line and you won't need to be the bad-ass dad.

Finally, nothing works in real life the way it works in movies.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:32 AM on December 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

There is this old online joke that deals with this crazy dad routine:

Ten Simple Rules for Dating My Daughter
Rule One:
If you pull into my driveway and honk you'd better be delivering a package, because you're sure not picking anything up.

Rule Two:
You do not touch my daughter in front of me. You may glance at her, so long as you do not peer at anything below her neck. If you cannot keep your eyes or hands off of my daughter's body, I will remove them.

Rule Three:
I am aware that it is considered fashionable for boys of your age to wear their trousers so loosely that they appear to be falling off their hips. Please don't take this as an insult, but you and all of your friends are complete idiots. Still, I want to be fair and open minded about this issue, so I propose his compromise: You may come to the door with your underwear showing and your pants ten sizes too big, and I will not object. However, in order to ensure that your clothes do not, in fact, come off during the course of your date with my daughter, I will take my electric nail gun and fasten your trousers securely in place to your waist.

Rule Four:
I'm sure you've been told that in today's world, sex without utilizing a "barrier method" of some kind can kill you. Let me elaborate, when it comes to sex, I am the barrier, and I will kill you.

Rule Five:
It is usually understood that in order for us to get to know each other, we should talk about sports, politics, and other issues of the day. Please do not do this. The only information I require from you is an indication of when you expect to have my daughter safely back at my house, and the only word I need from you on this subject is "early."

Rule Six:
I have no doubt you are a popular fellow, with many opportunities to date other girls. This is fine with me as long as it is okay with my daughter. Otherwise, once you have gone out with my little girl, you will continue to date no one but her until she is finished with you. If you make her cry, I will make you cry.

Rule Seven:
As you stand in my front hallway, waiting for my daughter to appear, and more than an hour goes by, do not sigh and fidget. If you want to be on time for the movie, you should not be dating. My daughter is putting on her makeup, a process that can take longer than painting the Golden Gate Bridge. Instead of just standing there, why don't you do something useful, like changing the oil in my car?

Rule Eight:
The following places are not appropriate for a date with my daughter: Places where there are beds, sofas, or anything softer than a wooden stool. Places where there are no parents, policemen, or nuns within eyesight. Places where there is darkness. Places where there is dancing, holding hands, or happiness. Places where the ambient temperature is warm enough to induce my daughter to wear shorts, tank tops, midriff T-shirts, or anything other than overalls, a sweater, and a goose down parka - zipped up to her throat. Movies with a strong romantic or sexual theme are to be avoided; movies which features chain saws are okay. Hockey games are okay. Old folks homes are better.

Rule Nine:
Do not lie to me. I may appear to be a potbellied, balding, middle-aged, dimwitted has-been. But on issues relating to my daughter, I am the all-knowing, merciless god of your universe. If I ask you where you are going and with whom, you have one chance to tell me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I have a shotgun, a shovel, and five acres behind the house. Do not trifle with me.

Rule Ten:
Be afraid. Be very afraid. It takes very little for me to mistake the sound of your car in the driveway for a chopper coming in over a rice paddy near Hanoi. When my Agent Orange starts acting up, the voices in my head frequently tell me to clean the guns as I wait for you to bring my daughter home. As soon as you pull into the driveway you should exit your car with both hands in plain sight. Speak the perimeter password, announce in a clear voice that you have brought my daughter home safely and early, then return to your car - there is no need for you to come inside. The camouflaged face at the window is mine.
posted by dealing away at 9:38 AM on December 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

So, this old girlfriend of mine, years ago, was home from college. We were staying at her dad's place, and he was out for most of the evening. I got a little too high and drunk and had to crash there (which I wasn't exactly broken up about).

Around two in the morning, I go down to get a drink of water. I'm standing at the sink, the house is totally dark, and I hear something behind me. I turn around, and there's her dad, Chuck, just standing there buck-ass naked, staring at me.

I give him an, "Uh, hi…" and start to leave and he just kinda snaps awake and says, "What? Huh" and just keeps standing there until I back out of the room.

I'm not sure it had all that much effect on how I treated his daughter (I was already a pretty good boyfriend, if I do say so myself), but if you want a way to freak out any dude your daughter is with, it's a solid, tested method.
posted by klangklangston at 9:46 AM on December 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

"hi, how are you? <> excellent. It's very nice to meet you. Please be home by XX, does that seem ok with the plans you've made for this evening? <> excellent, thank you. couple of quick things: 1. Please treat my daughter with respect. 2. my daughter and I are close and if she is unhappy with your behavior she will tell me. 3. I'm not afraid to go back to prison"

also, i really really like the watch idea from above (giving him an antique watch for the evening....)

full disclosure: i have two baby daughters and fear the day they meet my young doppleganger. a lot.
posted by chasles at 9:49 AM on December 3, 2010

Hi, actual crazy dad survivor here.

My dad had a poker party assembled when my sister's date showed to pick her up. He invited the young man to meet all his friends and then said, "We just wanted to make sure you were white."

Another time, he found out my sister (now living 2000 miles away) was dating a firefighter. She was dumb enough to tell dad his name, and since dad really DOES know people who know people, within minutes he had someone call the firehouse while dude was working and warn him that he'd better take particularly good care of this girl, because she was being watched out for. Less than a half hour after sister got off the phone with dad, new boyfriend called and said they should stop seeing each other.
posted by hermitosis at 9:59 AM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

There was a good scene in a recent Castle episode where he shows up at home with a gun and catches his daughter kissing her new boyfriend. Fairly awesome - and a good way to make him associate kissing your daughter with imminent death

I like Ghidorah's suggestion; if you are just doing this one time for fun, though, I don't see the harm - as long as you aren’t' crazy dad Every Time you see these guys.

On the other hand, my dad was crazy dad all the time with my boyfriends. I turned out alright. Cautionary tale: The first one I held onto for a year longer than I would have otherwise just to prove a point, and eventually got my dad to give me a car in exchange for breaking the relationship off (not too sure, still, what my dad was so upset about - dude was a high school mathlete and a pretty alright guy)...
posted by Acer_saccharum at 10:04 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

My dad does the Crazy Dad routine, and the end result has been my dates feeling the need to choose between my happiness and my parents'. I don't like dating people who actually want to follow the restrictions because I'm in my 20's and it's ridiculous, but Crazy Dad will attempt to make our lives hell if we don't. The end result is me dating people who don't mind sneaking around, which I doubt is the result you're going for.

YMMV if your daughter isn't my age, but just in case she is.
posted by Autumn at 10:19 AM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

I didn't have a dad aroind while growing up. He kust swanned in for holidays. So it was my mom who met all the guys.

Before we'd leave she would ask, "Could you leave me your home number and your parents' names, please?" If the guy balked I generally didn't go. If he did she'd ask, "Do they know who you're out with, in case I call to say hi?"

It showed us the quality of the boy, and let Mom feel out the parents. Mom also let the guy know she was very involved with my life.

Best of all? No empty threats.
posted by FunkyHelix at 10:22 AM on December 3, 2010 [16 favorites]

Mod note: since this is now in MeTa can you please address non-answers to the MeTa thread and do not put them here? Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:27 AM on December 3, 2010

Alright, so in high school I went out with one of my sister's friends my senior year. I'd been friends with her anyway, had driven her home because we both did fall sports, and already knew her father, and that he used to be a cop. When I went to pick her up for our first actual date there was the usual chatting and then two things when she went back to get something.

1 - Why is your shirt tucked in? We already know each other and you don't need to try to impress me.

2 - If for some reason I'm wrong about you, I'll just talk to your mother. She can get away with a lot more than I can when it comes to you.

Didn't really effect the relationship at all. But it was a good threatening in a non threatening way for him to let me know that I better not do anything stupid.
posted by theichibun at 11:01 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

My wacky hippie parents didn't do everything right, but they raised kids who didn't do bullshit like break curfew, lie about drinking, get pressured into sex, etc. They didn't do it by authoritarian threat displays, though. They did it by being... weird. And putting the burden of decision-making back on us. Which we hated, but which is ultra-effective.

"What time do you think a fair curfew is?"

"Do you think you're ready to have sex?"

"Drinking is a normal part of growing up. PS, weed is fine, but here are some awful bad-trip stories."

"Sex is part of life. Enjoy your blossoming womanhood! Anything you want to do with your body that feels good is okay!"

So effective at preventing teen sex, you guys. Phew.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 11:14 AM on December 3, 2010 [25 favorites]

My whole extended family is crazy protective. Even my 4'11" grandmother. My father actually is crazy, in a diagnosable and "would probably blow up your house if you hurt me enough" way. Consequently I don't actually tell him about anything bad that happens to me that can be traced to a person. However, he's never been anything but polite and friendly to me and my sister's boyfriends. I've always taken this as a sign of respect for me, that unless I've told him otherwise he trusts me to pick well. Also it's not possessive, which is creepy.

My uncle takes a different approach and does do the more threatening dad thing. I can't remember the story exactly but there was something about shaking one guy's hand while in his pickup truck, and starting to drive away less and less slowly while not letting go and lecturing on the importance of being good to his daughter. The guy was suitably frightened. Then again, my uncle would actually hurt you. However, and I think this is key, he's otherwise very welcoming and kind - he's not going to hate you just for dating his daughter, but only if you hurt her. As a result he's had good, enjoyable relationships with her boyfriends as far as I know.
posted by sepviva at 11:57 AM on December 3, 2010

A lot of my friends with daughters will casually mention to the young suitors that they're close friends with a professional undertaker who has access to grave-digging equipment and a cremation chamber. All of you may freely make this claim as well.
posted by ColdChef at 12:05 PM on December 3, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'm not a fan of the scary dad act. It never worked on me, and unless the young man is a moron, it's not likely to increase his respect for you or your daughter. You are far better off just asking your daughter to assure you that this young man actually deserves to date her, and then trusting that your daughter has whatever values you've been trying to teach her since she was born.

It would also be wise not to pretend your daughter won't have sex until you're ready to deal with it; make sure she has access to effective birth control.

This way, when said young man disappears or suffers a tragic encounter with powertools and wood-chipper, etc., there will be no record of you threatening him or acting in an unstable or suspicious manner whatsoever. Capisce?
posted by Hylas at 12:27 PM on December 3, 2010

I had a weird reverse of this situation in high school. I went to pick up a girl for a date but she was very late getting ready so I talked to her mom for an hour or so. We hit it off like we were old friends. At the end of the hour she said "If only you were 20 years older...". For a 16 year old boy with very little life experience, there's really no way to answer that.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:31 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think the best thing to say to convince your daughters' suitors that you are a watchful and loving parent who supports his daughter in standing up for herself and making firm boundaries is something along the lines of "I just want you to know that we've raised our daughters to stand up for themselves and not take any crap from anyone, and that we're here for them 100% to support that."

Because quoting lines from movies isn't generally a particularly effective way to communicate important information.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:39 PM on December 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

Just make it clear that your daughter is part of your family (she is, isn't she?), that you're close (you are, aren't you?), that her friends are part of your extended family (they are, aren't they?) and so he's going to be part of your extended family if he's going to hang around. That makes some guys nervous, and other guys happy, and if you're already walking the walk in this department, your daughter's likely to choose guys who are happy about being somewhat involved in your family life.

In short, don't be a threat. Be a feature.
posted by davejay at 12:53 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

and if you're walking the walk here, odds are she'll be the one that tells him this stuff, not you, and you'll just hear about it when she brings him by.
posted by davejay at 12:54 PM on December 3, 2010

My step-father was casting bullets on our front porch one day when a young man came to see me. My step-father didn't know that I had plans for the night. He was was a gunsmith and avid hunter so guns and bullets were always around when he was there. Before the young man was allowed to knock on the door, my step-father asked him "Boy? Do you know what I'm doing here?" Poor guy said "Yes, sir." My step-father replied with "Good. You'll have her home on time, won't you?" Not only was I home early, the guy never returned and said that my step-father was rude. Mom and I were pretty pissed about the exchange. My step-father was never allowed to cast bullets on the porch again or speak to any guy I dated.
posted by onhazier at 1:06 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

You don't talk to the boys, you talk to your daughter: "are you taking sensible precautions?" Is what you ask. Anything else and you're fooling yourself.
(Of course, it's always more fun to rehearse a few scraps of powerful rhetoric while fooling oneself than to act meekly and boringly realistic, and also, my approach does not match your headline, but still.)
[As a result of the tactic outlined above, if someone would treat my daughter badly, I am sure I'd be the first to know. Crazy dads routinely burn a lot of bridges]
posted by Namlit at 2:50 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

It may have been said upthread, but if you go through with this you might want to put a bit of thought into more clearly defining what exactly constitutes "disrespecting" or "treating your daughter poorly".

We could probably all agree that the shit should hit the fan if he rapes or beats her - although that'd be a matter for the police & not vigilante action.

But what if he just breaks up with her & breaks her heart? That happens all the time, and the kids are only young, so she's likely to have a few broken hearts (and also break a few herself). Should her boyfriends lie awake at night in fear of retribution? Because I think that would be an unfair kind of threat to imply, especially towards young guys just in the process of working dating out for themselves. Relationships can be rocky; deal with it, and let your daughter grow from the experience.

In between, and what I think you're implying, is sexual behaviour. If they have consenting sex, well, that's their prerogative. If he pressures her a bit? She should already know that it's OK to say no. If she gets pregnant? It takes two to tango, and she should already be clued up on that, anyway.

It just sounds to me like there are a whole raft of different kinds of behaviours that could fall under the umbrella of "treating her badly" and it would be wise for you to make it clear exactly what kinds of things you'd be protective about, what things your daughter should handle for herself, and what actions would get the authorities involved.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:06 PM on December 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

I liked Robert Schimmel's take on this topic. (NSFW).
posted by fuse theorem at 7:42 PM on December 3, 2010

On a date with my girlfriend (now wife), we lost track of time and were running 10 minutes late or so. We raced home in my father's Chevrolet Suburban and to my (but not hers) extreme relief her stepfather wasn't home. I dropped her off, and left. On the way out of her neighborhood her step-father tried to run me off the road in a Chevy S-10. I swerved to avoid him. Following that incident he promised to castrate, kill and "bash his fucking head in."

Now he calls me son and we joke about it.

(nthing don't do this and trust in and communicate with your daughter)
posted by ish__ at 8:24 PM on December 3, 2010

From The Wire:

Did he have hands? Did he have a face? Then it wasn't us.

Then you have to laugh.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:50 PM on December 3, 2010

My grandfather and my uncle both showed my father their gun collections when my mom brought him home.

They did this because it was Vermont and they were hunters. It was not a threat.

It is, however, a hilarious story to hear from your city-boy father's perspective.
posted by maryr at 10:55 PM on December 3, 2010

If you're going to do this, a handshake and a 'Nice to meet you' as they're leaving will work (of course you've already done this when you first meet him.) Keep hold of the handshake, look at him, smile and say 'Treat her right, OK?' Laugh it off like you're just being a protective dad and you're good to go. You can say a lot of stuff as long as you say it right and your intentions are good. Or say something like 'Be careful with her please, I've kind of got used to having her around.' Being light-hearted is the key.
posted by mudkicker at 3:57 PM on December 4, 2010

I once stayed for a weekend at the family of a girl I liked. We kicked around, playing games with various family members, listening to "rain, rain, rain" in endless loops (that time), and being generally polite to each other and quite shy. Come Sunday, I was offered to stay at home with their dog (or what it was), while they went to their (Catholic) Church service, but I insisted to come along out of sheer interest.
Well, it was interesting, or so I found. No matter: back at home, her dad turned to me and asked "well, have you become all holy now?" This demonstration of how little he took me seriously worked better than any threat possibly could have done. I withdrew myself from their influence shortly thereafter.
posted by Namlit at 5:16 PM on December 4, 2010

Oh, I can say this: it's reasonable and appropriate for you to ask your kids for a name, address and telephone number of someone who's taking you out, because you might not come back (not just foul play; car accidents happen, after all) and knowing the personal information of the responsible party is one of those things you'd wish you had in retrospect otherwise. Assure your child that's the only reason you're taking it.

But (and this is what makes it relevant to your question) suggest that your kid let their date know you've got that information. Teenagers and young adults (and, arguably, older adults too) often feel a bit more observed if they know that their personal information is known to the guardians of the people they're with.
posted by davejay at 1:22 PM on December 6, 2010

The whole trope is embarrassing and doesn't have the intended effect. Furthermore, it reinforces the idea of your daughter as your property, that you're entrusting to another male for a short while. Ick. I agree with others that engaging the young man is much more likely to pay off for you - your daughter will be delighted that you trust her enough to make her own choices, and that you show someone she is interested in/cares about respect. Kids are desperate for respect at that age.
posted by agregoli at 5:01 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

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