I knew he knew of me. That was about it.
We had never spoken and I was nervous. I lived in Spain at the time, and his daughter lived in Nicaragua. He lived in North Carolina. It was late and I was the only one still awake in my house.
His phone number was dialed into Skype on my computer, the Asheville area code in front. I had already made plans to see his daughter soon, but I wanted to talk to her father first.
I had never done this before, nor had I known another man to do this before, and her dad and I had never spoken before so I was nervous.
From the very conception of this idea, I was second guessing myself.
It’s probably unnecessary to ask the father for his blessing to date his daughter, and it’s certainly not expected. It seems silly. It’s old-fashioned, but like, really old-fashioned. Like Pride and Prejudice and The Patriot old-fashioned.
But then I see numbers.
I see the numbers of young women between 16 and 24, the most likely to experience intimate partner violence — triple the national average. I see that 1/3 of American women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives.
That’s a lot of daddy’s little girls getting beat up.
But the numbers don’t really matter by themselves. What matters is what they mean to me.
To me, I wonder what the numbers would look like if the men who inflicted those violent crimes would have spoken with her father first. I wonder if they would have seen her as a little girl, hair curly and cheeks pudgy —
Innocent and carefree, and the most adored thing in the world to one man.
I wonder how those men would have treated those women if they had seen her as her father sees her — beautifully naïve to men that don’t desire the very best for her.
I wonder if he would have protected her instead of hurt her, cherished her instead of used her, if he felt about her like her father felt.
So I stayed on the line.
He answered the phone and I spoke through my computer screen.
For a few minutes, we spoke of small things, the formal introduction, the how are things. I was anxious and couldn’t hold it in. So without warning or build-up I blurted it out –
“I called because I wanted to ask your blessing to date your daughter.”
Pause. Silence. Dead air.
Without so much as a passing response to what I said, he began talking again. (It wasn’t until later I realized he wasn’t avoiding me. My request startled him.)
He told me some general fatherly advice and we finished talking.
I closed my computer.
Silence, again. For several minutes, I sat in front of my closed computer and in my confusion. I had not received his blessing, but I wasn’t denied his blessing, either. It was late, and there was no point worrying about it, so I went to bed.
I’m reading Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation.
Brokaw said he wrote the book to honor those born in The Great Depression who fought and died to save the world. In the beginning, he quotes Franklin Roosevelt.
“This generation has a rendezvous with destiny.”
It makes me wonder what people will say about my generation.
So far, we’ve even been called The Worst Generation, which if you ask me is an unfair assessment, but it does make me wonder — what is our legacy?
I look to the generation of fathers and grandfathers who have forged before us and, although they are not perfect either, I see the legacy they are leaving. They are mentors and coaches and men who often practice honor over desire, choose sacrifice and not entitlement and instead of wanting what is best for themselves, know they’re at their best when serving.
So to be old-fashioned. Like, really old-fashioned? For me, it is an honor.
That is the reason I had to make the call.
I know this choice isn’t right for every man, in every circumstance (after all, not all fathers love their daughters the way they should). But for me, this was a choice I decided to make as a way to live out my own journey toward integrity and honor.
The reason I chose to awkwardly ask for a blessing, just to go on a date with this man’s daughter, was because I had hurt father’s daughters before.
I had broken fathers’ daughters’ hearts.
I had played the flirting game, with no intentions of anything more. I had mistreated and talked down to them.
And something changed inside of me when I started to see this woman the way her father sees her, the way her earthly father sees her and the way her Heavenly Father sees her. My choices started to matter a little more.
So honoring him, for me, was about honoring her, honoring the connection she had with him. And when I did that, I stood up a little straighter, felt a little more like a man.
The gender role is not greater for a father than a mother. That’s not why I asked her dad for permission. It was simply about one man looking another man in the eyes, and the heart — a man who happened to be a good, seasoned and trustworthy protector — and asking him to show me the way.
How do I cherish her like you did?
The next day, I still wasn’t sure how to take the conversation from the night before until I opened my inbox. I had one new e-mail.
“To answer your request directly: you have my blessing in dating my daughter. She is God’s blessing to us. Treasure her. I look forward to meeting you.”
Eight months later, I asked if I could speak to him again.
This time, I received the blessing to marry her.
Have you or someone you know pursued dating in a counter-cultural way?
Kellen Gorbett is a magazine writer, storyteller and blogger. His stories and articles have been published in magazines both nationally and overseas, and he continues to write stories of his own experiences in South America, Africa, Southeast Asia and Europe. He has spent time writing and serving others in over a dozen nations, and has lived in Nashville, Tenn., where he grew up, as well as Spain, Nicaragua and Kaua’i. His personal blog focuses on calling a generation out of their comfortable life and into the greatness for which they were created. He writes at kellengorbett.com.
Photo credit: mrsraggle