The first man-friend to ever meet my father did so under uncomfortable circumstances.
We were 16, he lived down the road and had ridden his bicycle over after school so we could have some totally innocent alone time while my parents were at work. Unfortunately, Papa Bear decided to come home early that afternoon.
At the sound of the garage door opening, I forced the terrified teen to hide under my bed among a thick layer of dust and my vast collection of Agatha Christie novels. There he stayed for close to an hour while I tried to work out how to sneak him out. Eventually, Dad had his afternoon nap and my first love busted out of his prison and rode down the hill to freedom.
I thought we had gotten away with it until: "Hey Liv... Next time, ask the boy to go easy on the cologne, I could smell him the minute I got home." Busted.
Boy numero duo was an unsuitable suitor to say the least. He was covered in tattoos, played rugby league (oh, the horror!) and thought I was a "heaps cool chick, aye". He was a diamond in the rough, troubled and angry. I adored him. My father did not.
On our first date, Mr Unsuitable waited in the car and beeped his horn to signal his arrival. Not knowing any better, I went rushing out the front door in a flurry of excitement.
"Uhh, I don't think so Liv. No daughter of mine answers to a car horn." Dad was not happy. He made me wait through five more minutes of intermittent horn beeping before he yelled out to my Prince Charming to come to the front door. The look he gave my date as he shook his hand was not a kind one. Needless to say, Mr Unsuitable was never seen again.
Boy three fared better than most. He was fine. He came from fine breeding stock, was fine-looking, had a fine personality, a fine job. I thought he was fine. Some fine months passed and I decided to ask Dad his opinion on my fine friend. "Well that depends... are you happy? Life's too short to be just 'fine' you know." Bloody wise words. I ended it soon after.
Manboy four was a disaster from the start. He was older and had a playboy reputation that my young self was intrigued by. No one agreed with the matching and they made their feelings very clear. All except Dad. He could see that I was in love with Mr Manboy and so, for the first time, I never asked his opinion and he never gave it. When it inevitably fell apart, Dad was there to fix the broken pieces. No 'I told you so', just a shoulder to cry on.
Dad passed away a couple of months ago. Something that has often played on my mind is the realisation that Dad will never meet my future husband. It's not even the 'walking me down the aisle' thing that gets me. I'm sad that they'll never sit down with beer and watch the cricket together. I hate that he (whoever he is) will never get to sit through Dad's painfully long stories and pretend to be really interested.
I wish that Dad could see me finally settle down with the right person and have a life that is anything but boring. I've definitely made some errors in judgement but lucky for me, I had a real-life example of the kind of man I want to marry one day.