All the signs are there. The flirtiness when she enters the gym for volleyball practice; the text messages to names unfamiliar to me; the backseat conversations featuring casual talk about why “who and who broke up last month.”
My 14-year-old daughter Natalie is interested in boys.
And I need to be ready.
I’ve already heard the standard response from friends when I tell them that my daughter is about to start dating: “Better have your shotgun handy.”
Incidentally, why does a discussion involving daughters and boyfriends always lead to a shotgun reference? Has any father really driven a young male off a front porch with a blast from a Remington? I’ve never even read a tweet about such an incident.
But am I remotely qualified to select my daughter’s boyfriend on my own? So many things to think about, so many details to sweat; why it seems that one man can’t do it all by himself. I need additional input.
I need user generated marketing.
These days it seems every corporation is turning major decisions over to the masses simply so top executives can spend less time in the office and more time on the golf course. When Baskin-Robbins needed a new flavor, did its ice cream engineers hunker down in test kitchens, mixing and churning into the dead of night? No, the company hosted an on-line competition, ultimately won by Chicago grandmother Diane Sroga and her “Bunches of Crunches” concoction.
When Aflac Insurance needed a voice to replace disgraced former spokesman Gilbert Gottfried, it invited the public to upload audition tapes to YouTube. According to the press release: “The company is looking for someone who can convey an array of emotions while using a single word—Aflac—to help consumers understand that Aflac provides a safety net for policyholders when they are sick or hurt.”
All in one word? Geez, I was on the phone with my insurance agent for 90 minutes while he explained the difference between term life and an annuity.
Whether improving an existing product (Domino’s), looking for a new voiceover talent (Chicago Cubs) or developing a new jingle (Folgers) companies want to hear from YOU. Apparently YOU are more resourceful than all their employees.
So I’ve decided the best way to find my daughter’s first boyfriend is to employ a combination of user generated and social marketing strategies. Boys, if you are between 13 and 16, read on. If you are over that age, don’t even think about applying or there WILL be a shotgun in your immediate future.
First, submit a YouTube clip stating why you think you should be allowed to squire my daughter around town. If you have experience in the dating field, tell me. Also, start lining up an army of people to “like” you when I create a Facebook page.
Your video should be bare bones. Don’t try and dazzle me with your Auto-Tune or FinalCut Pro expertise. Remember, you are auditioning to be my daughter’s boyfriend, not her cinematographer. Also, your video should be two minutes MAX! I’m expecting several thousand entries, many from teens who are only using YouTube for their 15 minutes of fame, a strategy that’s working wonderfully for Justin Bieber. I know who you are and I will weed you out faster than a dandelion at Augusta National.
You will get two weeks to produce your videos. During that time, I will create a Twitter account with the name @Natsdad. Occasionally I will tease my followers with cryptic posts like, “Just saw vid from @CharlieSheen. LUV HIM! #warlock #pornstar.” These posts will draw the attention of mainstream media. The Today Show and Good Morning America will bump Bobby Flay and Curtis Stone and their competing risottos to the curb for the chance to interview me.
I will allow public comments on each video. After all, I’m soliciting opinions from everybody, including those who haven’t entered the contest. Even if you are not interested in dating my daughter, that should not preclude you from logging on to your PC at 2 a.m. in a totally inebriated state and helping me make my decision by posting comments like, “Is that a wart on his nose? Ewwww, gross!”
When I have narrowed the field to a dozen I will pitch a reality show to all 4,675 television networks, whose very existence I pay for every month when my cable bill arrives. The show will be called simply The Boyfriend and I will host. All twelve boys will live together under one roof for an entire summer, competing in a series of challenges. One week I will ask them to talk extemporaneously for five minutes without dropping an “F-bomb;” another week they will be forced to navigate three city blocks without a GPS device.
I will judge their attire from the front and the back; if I see even the slightest hint of a butt crack, they are out.
All must blog daily.
Once a week they will enter the “room of truth” and talk to an unmanned video camera. With voices cracking from the onset of puberty, they will mercilessly rip into all the other contestants in hopes of swaying my vote.
Of course they don’t realize that a three-judge panel, consisting of Dr. Phil, Sharon Osbourne and Anne Hathaway (I’ve always wanted to meet her) will be watching their rants and making witty comments before a live studio audience. Ultimately however, their opinions are worthless; it’s YOU I want to hear from and you can do so once AT&T opens the phone lines.
I will let two weeks go by before announcing a winner, which should give the media plenty of time to scoop each other by revealing who I have chosen, even though their only source is “a guy who knows a girl whose old boyfriend used to work at FOX.” The entire nation will be speculating about my decision and it will lead the news every night, even if banks are failing, oceans are rising, terrorists are successfully hacking the CIA’s computer network and William and Kate are seeking an annulment. Matt Lauer will get to that after Al’s weather. And the cooking segment.
Finally, millions will wake up to a short simple tweet:
“Don’t like any of u. Convent awaits. #nun #pope #shotgun.”
Greg Schwem is a professional stand-up comedian and author of “TEXT ME IF YOU’RE BREATHING: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad.”