By Gina Barreca
The Hartford Courant.
The most important thing my father ever said to me was, “You can always take the next bus home.”
He said it in reply to the panic on my face as he dropped me off for my first year of college. Other girls looked like Grace Kelly: On a good day in 1975, I looked like Janis Joplin. They had BMWs with ski racks on the roof; we had a 1967 Skylark with a muffler on the ground.
He knew I wanted him to turn around and get us out of town. But what he said was, “You don’t like it? You can always take the next bus home.”
My father gave me permission to take risks by offering a safety net.
“Go ahead, doll; even if you fail, you’re one of mine and I love you.”
He’d always been a man of few words, my father, but he used them wisely. My mother died when I was in high school and I was alone a lot. I started dating an older guy my father didn’t like. He told me he didn’t want this boy picking me up at school every day. I rolled my eyes and said “Dad, NOTHING is going on.” My father looked me in the eye and said, “I don’t care if you’re sleeping with the guy. Sex isn’t gonna kill you. I just don’t want you falling in love with this moron.”
I broke up with the kid about a week later.
There are as many kinds of paternal advice as there are fathers and father figures. I asked around and some of it surprised me, and I’m not easily surprised.
The blue ribbon for straightforward advice from a dad goes to Carly, whose parent told her: “Make him use a condom. He won’t like it, but he’ll like it good enough.”