Having an innate fear of fathers, I was particularly nervous about meeting Wendi’s dad. Fathers know what boys want to do with their daughters, and I didn’t imagine he’d enjoy meeting the boy currently wanting to do those things with her.
It didn’t help when Wendi told me that her dad referred to her first two boyfriends as Ick I and Ick II. I assume that the first one was merely Ick until the second came on the scene, but it’s entirely possible that the man suspected there’d be more Icks when he met the first one.
I already believed I was worthless (thanks, dad), so I figured on being quickly labelled Ick III. Maybe I’d even rate a new, worse title. Perhaps Smegma, the first of his name. Or the less poetic That Asshole.
I’d already met Wendi’s mom, who’d confused me deeply by being really nice and not grilling me at all. She flustered me so badly that I blurted things like “I’m perfectly willing to go on welfare to keep writing” and other winning phrases that parents like to hear out of their daughter’s suitor.
She never batted an eye, which only convinced me that she knew I wouldn’t last long.
Now I was going to meet Wendi’s dad. I sat in her dorm room, willing myself to keep my stupid mouth shut. When her folks arrived they were supposed to take us to the mall, where we’d have lunch. Wendi needed to pick up a new bra, so the mall seemed to be a good all-in-one destination. Besides, it was the early 90s; mall culture hadn’t been Amazoned away yet.
There was a knock at the door. I stood up, and my pulse tried to establish new blood speed records. I don’t remember Wendi’s dad coming in. All I know is that one moment there were pleasantries being exchanged out of my sight and then an angry Burl Ives charged me.
Burl Ives was a big part of Christmas for me. He’d done voices for a few animated holiday specials, he vaguely resembled Santa Claus, and he had commercials for his Christmas recordings that strongly implied he’d invented all holiday music.
And now he was backing me into a wall. Wendi’s dad was Santa, and Santa had scratched me out of the Good column.
When angry Burl Ives had pushed me backward as far as I could go, he glared into my face.
“What are you doing to my daughter that she needs new bras?” he barked.
If you’ve ever wondered what goes through the mind of an animal staring into oncoming headlights, I can tell you with some degree of confidence. It’s an inarticulate mixture of bewilderment, fear, and helplessness.
Then he grinned and stuck out his hand. I took it carefully, as Wendi and her mom doubled over with laughter.
There have been times since then when my presence on the Good List has been debatable, but I’ve never dared slide onto the Naughty List. I don’t want to see Santa when he’s really angry.