Asking permission


My eldest son and his beautiful girlfriend have just got engaged. After several glasses of celebration we got talking about the personal process of asking a young woman’s father for permission to be married. I can’t share my son’s journey because I haven’t permission to do so, but I thought I would share mine.

I met Anna in high school and had an instant crush on her. I was the shortest person in High School, so making any sort of impression her was going to be problematic. The best i could hope for was to be part of her social group. About ten years later it was my little sister that took me aside and told me that I needed to pull myself together and take stock of the fact that every girlfriend I had ever had, looked just like Anna, so maybe I should get serious and do something about that.

Almost a foot taller than when we had first met, and a decade older if not wiser, Anna and I got re-acquainted and soon realised that there was indeed some romantic spark. Needless to say I was pretty excited about that. (That last sentence may be the understatement of my life)

We had both come from very similar backgrounds growing up as children of Naval officers and changed countries, cities and schools many times. We were now in Sydney having met in school in Canberra. Everything was new and fresh and very exciting. In my memory that period lasted about 6 months when we started to get a little more serious and eventually we decided that we should get married. It was a joint decision, made in conversation, between two equals. If that sounds a little less than romantic, it is not meant to be, it’s just that I have always been keen to share my life with someone and not dominate that person. Anyone who knows Anna well would know that would be impossible anyway.

So now it was just down to details. First things first, ask Davo. Now Davo was actually Rear Admiral David Martin and a hell of a nice bloke. Over the previous six months he had gone out of his way to teach me how to pour a Gin & Tonic and how to offer someone another drink without inferring they had already had enough. He taught me so many things about good manners and social graces I will forever be in his debt. Anna and I arrived at Tresco, the big Naval owned sandstone house in Potts Pt that was the home of the Rear Admiral Support Command in those days. We often went there for meals so this was just another of those nights. We walked in and went to the TV room where Suzie and Davo were chatting at the end of the working day, I seem to recall Davo standing, half reading a newspaper. Anna took Suzie by the hand and whisked her away down the hall and off- off and away.

It occurred to me in that very moment that Davo and I, had perhaps never just been alone in a room, it felt very scary. I managed to start talking and it went something like this. “Davo, Anna and I have been talking and we think we should get married and part of that process is me asking you for permission to do that, what do you think?” Not actually very stunning was it?

Davo had put down the paper when I had begun to talk, and now looked at me over his half glasses, took them from his nose, put both hands on his hips and then lifted one hand to rub his face up and down and let out a big guffaw. It shook the room. He then turned and left the room.

I was not sure if that was a yes, or a “youve got to be kidding” sort of guffaw, so I just stayed in the room and waited, alone, for a few minutes, and then another few minutes. Soon it got to be embarrassing, and I figured that either way, yes or “no way in hell”, I was going to have to sort this out, so left the room and wandered down the hall in search of him. I could hear chat a few rooms away in the direction of the kitchen so headed that way. There was Anna and Suzie and Davo deep into a bottle of bubbly celebrating.

I’ll take that as a yes I whispered to myself.

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