Let’s begin, shall we, with The Story of the Ham.
Preparing Easter dinner, a woman takes the ham, slices off one end and places it in the roasting pan. Her daughter watches and says, “Why do you do that?”
The woman says, “My mom always did that when she cooked a ham. Now that I think about it, I don’t know why.”
Grandma is called into the conversation. “Why did you cut the end off the ham before you cooked it?” She’s not sure either, but her mom did it, too.
Great-grandma is consulted. She laughs. “My roasting pan was always too small for a full ham, so I’d have to cut off the end every time.”
And thus a tradition was born.
Another story, this time a theme we all recognize: the nervous younger man sits with the unreadable older man, twisting his hands as he asks The Ultimate Question: May I have your daughter’s hand in marriage?
It’s almost impossible to watch this play out without a twinge of “Awwww … how sweet!” And if you’re me, it’s truly difficult to watch this without a hearty helping of “Really?”
If you’ve read this space for any length of time, you could probably phone this in, especially if you’re the reader who called me a female dog a few years ago for not appreciating being called a ‘girl’ at the tender age of fifty.
I’ll admit it: the feminist in me looks at that nerve-wracking scene and starts asking questions, chief among them, “Are we talking about a daughter who is past the age of consent here?” Every time I wonder this, I’m tartly reminded by all the awwww-sayers that it’s about respect, this business of asking the dad for the young woman’s hand.
And that’s where the engineer’s daughter in me raises her slide rule and says: If it’s about respect, then this tense little scene is the ultimate in DIS-respect.
Before you get me a bowl of puppy chow, let me explain.
Let’s say Unreadable Dad hears out Nervous Young Man and says, “No. I don’t approve.” What will Nervous Young Man do now?
Because I don’t believe for one moment that parents should make the call on whom their children marry, the only answer I can get behind here is “Too bad, old man. I’m marrying her anyway.” If that’s the answer, then essentially what we have is a kid who asked for permission knowing full well he was going to do what he wanted to do, no matter what her father said.
The nuns who raised me, steeped in tradition and respect as they were, would have called that the action of a “bold, brazen article,” and they would have called my mother immediately. She in turn would have been annoyed at not being asked her own opinion, as long as parents were being consulted about hands and all.
And if she had been asked, she would have reminded the young man that the days where her daughter might be property to be traded off by her parents were long gone, and that he might be better served consulting with her. Dad would have agreed.
Because anything else is just cutting off the end of the ham.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Elizabeth Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.