Published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel under the pen name, Elizabeth Rose. Chris is known as “Jason” in the I Heart stories.
Mom, dad, my boyfriend Jason and I sat around a table on the back porch of my parent’s house eating Lowcountry boil.
For those who don’t know, Lowcountry Boil is a South Carolina staple of local shrimp, Andouille sausage, sweet corn cut in two-inch in cobs, and red potatoes boiled in Old Bay seasoning eaten best when drained and dumped on a table covered in newspaper.
Most Southerners would choose to eat this over a five-star restaurant meal any day.
Another tradition in the South, and perhaps elsewhere, it is customary for a father to ask the gentleman your dating of his intentions. And, this being Jason’s second visit to my family’s home, the question was well overdue.
Though it can be viewed as a bit invasive to some, to others it’s a right of passage and respectfully old-fashioned.
My Santa Barbara born-and-bred boyfriend had never been asked this question let alone knew fathers still inquired.
Fortunately in the car earlier that day, I told Jason this moment would come.
I was met with a, “What? That’s weird,” in which I responded defensively, “It’s weird that you think it’s weird! It’s the gentlemanly thing to do.”
Our East versus West coast differences became apparent and I could tell his laid-back California vibe was a little shaken by my family’s civility.
So I let down my defenses, leaned over and kissed him saying,
“Welcome to the South, babe. Just be honest. You’ll do fine.”
Time To Man Up
As we picked through the last of the shrimp, mom refilled our glasses with sweet tea, remedying the spicy Old Bay seasoning from our lips.
My dad decided it was time to heat things up even more.
“So, Jason. What are your intentions with my daughter?”
“You know I have to ask, son,” dad said.
“This is my oldest daughter we’re talking about.”
On a side note, the relationship with my father has always had an edge.
Our similar personalities mean we tend to butt heads and at times we’ve struggled to have a good relationship.
But to his credit, he’s always been attentive, engaged, and mostly supportive of my life choices.
Although we may get into insignificant arguments now and then, no matter what I love my dad.
And to him, I will always be his little girl.
“Well, sir,” Jason said, choosing his words carefully.
“I love your daughter and respect her very much. We’ve discussed marriage. We are very serious about our relationship.”
Dad reached for his glass and took a swig of tea, keeping his eyes fixed on Jason.
I glanced at mom and she smiled back, nodding in approval.
“And I know you both are concerned about our sailing trip,” Jason said, his words trailing off, turning his attention to my mom.
“Yes, that definitely concerns us a lot,” mom said.
“Well, I promise our safety and happiness is first. If we find it is too dangerous or sailing doesn’t fit our lifestyle, then we will do something else. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do my whole life and I am thankful I’ve found Elizabeth and she wants to go on this adventure with me.”
Breathing A Little Easier
The conversation continued through dessert with more questions about how we’ve managed to live together on the sailboat for the past nine months, what our next five years look like, and a few funny stories of my dad and mom when they first got married.
After the last slice of key lime pie was served, my mom looked over at Jason and said, “You know, I feel a lot better now that we’ve talked. I can see that you both are happy together and I really like you, Jason. No, I take that back. I love you.”
She leaned over and squeezed his arm and Jason returned the gesture.
My dad reached out and shook his hand. Jason turned to me with a big smile on his face and leaned back in his chair, beaming with pride.
As Jason and I washed the dishes, I noticed his demeanor had changed.
He seemed more confident as if “manning up” to my father about our relationship had made him more of a man.
Hearing him talk about our future with my family made me more comfortable in our relationship.
I felt more valued by my partner, my family, and in a way myself, too.