We don't do the beach the easy way. We drive too long, then walk too far, lugging way too much stuff. The way Eisenhower stormed vital sand, so do we.
On our most recent beach visit, we had only 80 or so folks join us. A healthy mob, sure, but it could've been much more of a mess were it not for the hardship involved in merely getting there. (Imagine if I served the margaritas without accidentally dipping my thumb into the plastic cup, then loudly licking it clean. We might very well break 100.)
Joining us for this last beach trip of the year is the younger daughter's out-of-town boyfriend, a friendly lad in a "Reagan-Bush '84" T-shirt and a little too much chisel to his frat-boy shoulders.
"Must remind her of me," I tell Posh.
"Yeah, maybe," she lies.
Of course, God wouldn't be good enough for my daughters. His son? I'd have to meet him first.
No messiah, this boyfriend, but he has retained a certain amount of easy college charm. Having dated our daughter a couple of years now, this Fresh Prince is like family — but nicer. As you know, many families are more polite to perfect strangers than they are to one another.
While not unkind, our family can be blunt, and very few thoughts go unspoken. Behavior, body parts, taste in TV, even the way you hold a fork, it's all fair game.
So into this tribe wanders this earnest kid from the heartland on a long weekend visit. I feel for him, for that was once me, only the tribe was Italian and didn't really welcome quick-to-freckle Irish outsiders.
The men barely acknowledged me at all, and the women over-assessed me — head to toe — as if they were sewing me a new suit with their eyes. Tough, outspoken women you'd never want to cross. In retaliation, I married one. Guess I showed them.
That's why I can relate to this boyfriend. Chicago roots. Appreciates a cold Pabst. Throws a decent spiral (though his short passes could use more touch). And he has that most important trait in serious boyfriends these days: killer math skills.
Where once moms wanted their daughters to marry bankers or podiatrists, they now covet engineers — steady sorts who can build bridges to the future.
This is no time for poets. Was there ever a time for poets? Trust me, poets only build bridges to the past. And they wobble.
So we proudly welcome this capable kid to our beach party, introduce him around to our best friends. It's not an audition, exactly. It's way worse than that.
A year after graduating, the boyfriend admits he misses college so much that he can't even visit his younger brother back in school. His life is good, but not college good. "What's your major?" is still the best opening line of all time. Once you leave college, Thursday nights are never the same.
You know, you can't force this getting-to-know-you stuff. Either he fits or he doesn't. In high school, the kid played football. In college, rugby. He's the sort of golden boy the Kennedys would flip over, someone to trot out on the campaign trail — though he'd probably have to ditch the Reagan muscle shirt.
It's a complicated issue, this welcoming of potential suitors. I think most dads want to still be the lead lion, the paterfamilias, the one everyone looks to when the keys are locked in the car. Even brothers have issues with this. It's such a stupid male thing. But it's a thing. It's out there.
Yep, to most dads, even God wouldn't be good enough for their daughters. In my mind, I still build boyfriend catapults. At first sight, I want to zing potential suitors out over the Pacific. And I'm not alone in that.
A buddy of mine has an interesting approach to some of the occasional wing nuts his beautiful daughter brings home.
He embraces them.
"We bring them into the family, make Christmas stockings for them, the whole thing," he says.
"How fast do they run away?"
"Actually, they fall for it," he says.
My buddy and his wife resisted their primal urges. They took it the total opposite way. Their weapons: Acceptance. Pre-forgiveness. Family love. If the kid doesn't take to that, even the daughter realizes he's bad news.
My friend is a pastor.
Me, I'm a failed center fielder. And an aspiring adult.
The kind of wing nut who still misses college — while building boyfriend catapults in his head.