Having a teenage daughter is a bit like living in the middle of a zombie movie. There will be a knock on the door, and when you open it you'll find standing there a smelly, unwashed, slack-faced male wearing ill-fitting clothes and wanting to take your daughter on a date. When she appears from where she has been shoveling on her makeup, he'll regard her with that zombie-hunger in his eyes.
Your natural impulse is to get rid of this one, but doing so doesn't improve things: There are others out there, a whole zombie army, shambling and moaning toward your home.
And what's really discouraging is that this is just the opening skirmish. As time passes, the zombies become more cunning. They learn how to penetrate your defenses, offering to help you around the house, disarming you with their seeming willingness to respect you. And then suddenly, one of them wants to marry your daughter, and you realize that you were lulled into a false sense of security.
Before this happens to you, I suggest you post these 8 Simple Rules to your front door, for all the zombies to read and heed.
Rule No. 1: If you neglected to ask my permission before you proposed to my daughter, don't worry about it. You can make it up to me by making sure your wedding is both beautiful and to a different woman.
Rule No. 2: There are many, many men your age in this world, but there is only one woman who is my daughter. She is unique. You, on the other hand, can be replaced at any time.
Rule No. 3: It has been my job all my life to make my daughter happy. Now it will be your job. My job will be to make sure you do your job. And don't think that just because my daughter has picked you it means you meet my personal standards for what is good for her. I haven't made up my mind yet and will be evaluating you over a time period known as "forever."
4: You may be wondering how to address me: "Dad"? "Bruce"? "Mr. Cameron"? Let's end the awkwardness. For the time being, I suggest you stick with "sir." Sample phrases to help you become accustomed to this term: "May I wash your car for you today, sir?" "Are there any tasks that I can do around the house while you watch the ballgame, sir?" "Is there anything I can do to make your life better, sir?"
Rule No. 5: Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that any man who wishes to marry my daughter should have a good job and a successful career. I'm not saying you need to be the sole source of income, but I am saying if you don't take care of my daughter, I will take care of you.
Rule No. 6: You do not have a legal contract with my daughter — she can break off the engagement if she wants and there is nothing you can do about it except change your name and move out of the country. The same goes for you: I would not want you marrying my daughter if you do not truly feel you are the right man for her, nor, if you break it off, would I want you marrying anybody else. Ever.
Rule No. 7: You may, in a very male episode of last-minute panic, decide that you need to sow some wild oats right before the wedding. Let's define our roles: If you are the sower, I will be your reaper.
Rule No. 8: The vows you will be taking commit you to be faithful to my daughter "'til death do you part." Be advised if you break your vows, I'll immediately exercise the second part of the contract.
Naturally, there's more to the whole equation than just what I've got here. These rules are excerpted from my new book, "8 Simple Rules for Marrying My Daughter" (Fireside, April 2008). If you've got a daughter, I suggest you pick up a copy before the zombies breach your defenses.
To write Bruce Cameron, visit his Website at www.wbrucecameron.com. To find out more about Bruce Cameron and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at http://www.creators.com/.