Jewish World Review Oct. 12, 2001 / 25 Tishrei, 5762

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

A Parent's Guide to Dating -- MY philosophy on when children should start dating is the same as my philosophy on when children should be allowed to stop napping - not until they're 21 or leave home, whichever comes first.

Like all responsible parents with two teenage daughters, we're looking for ways to get to know the young men interested in dating our girls. Yes, we're talking about that awkward time when a fellow strides to the door and introduces himself to Mom and Pop. We invite him into the house, give him the visual once over, engage in awkward chit chat and search for some subtle way to relay to the boy a palpable fear beyond Hitchcock's North by Northwest but just short of bonafide shock.

My husband says leaving Bibles on every counter and table top in the house is a bit heavy handed. He also made me change the voice-mail recording on the phone that said, "Leave a message, we can't talk right now. We've taken the family to the fairgrounds for the Gun and Knife Show."

I know he's right about trying to find middle ground, but a mother doesn't let go easily. Hey, he's not exactly Mr. Calm with the Bushnell binoculars and the Max Million QBeam searchlight parked by the front window.

Hitting our stride with the dating phenomena is a complex process that we're still fine tuning. Clearly, the most sensible approach is to conduct an assessment based on a point scale. We meet young men at the front door with a clipboard, No. 2 pencil and list of 7 simple yes-no questions.

  • Do you have an earring?

  • Do you have a nose ring?

  • Do you have a belly button ring?

  • Do you have a tattoo?

  • Did it take you more than three attempts to get your driver's license?

  • Do you now, or would you ever, think that purple is a becoming hair color?

  • Do you believe passing the GED is the same as passing the SAT?

Boys would score one point for every question answered yes. A score of 5 or more means "Please leave, you're scaring the neighbors." A score between 1 and 4 means "Come back when the holes have grown shut and the laser treatments have worked their magic." A score of 0 means "Come on in and we'll see how you fare at Level 2."

Level 2 involves innocent, casual conversation that begins by offering the poor nervous chap something cool to drink. "Can we get you a beverage? Soda pop? Ice water? Cold beer?"

If the kid even LOOKS like he thinks number three is a possibility, he's history.

If he passes the beverage question, we ask about school. "Who is the principal of your school anyway?"

If he hesitates and stammers, this is a good sign. If the principal's name rolls off his tongue, he can describe the principal's office furniture in detail and recite the suspension policy from memory, this is a bad sign. He must flee the premises running.

The final round of "Yes, You May Date My Daughter" is nothing more than word definition.

"Young man, how do you define the word curfew?"

In the event we and the boy don't see eye-to-eye on curfew, we tell him, "Sorry, but it looks like it's going to be a short date. Time's up."

Next week: Why you should never have let your teenage son graduate from a Big Wheels to a car, and why it is probably too late to do much about it now.

JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here.

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08/31/01: Scholarship search an education
08/24/01: The test for parents
08/17/01: Immodest proposals
08/10/01: Trying to R-r-r-re-re-relax
08/03/01: It may be shabby and chic, but it ain't cheap
07/20/01: Bride showered with sage advice
07/13/01: Baby Bear Finds Driving "Just Right"
07/06/01: Pale at the Thought of Bronze
06/29/01: A Dog's Best Friend
06/22/01: Rethinking fatherhood
06/14/01 Don't forget to lock the door
06/07/01 How grandma punishes her kids
06/01/01 Hearing voices
05/25/01 Cyborgs for Better or Worse
05/18/01 The death of Common Sense

© 2001, Lori Borgman