Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Chapter 8: Father of the Bride - or - Rent-a-Baby

"I don’t get nearly enough credit in life for the things I manage not to say."
       Meg Rosoff. How I Live Now.

“Nick Taylor: If your parents told you that chocolate was dangerous, would you take their word for it? 
  [Children say no] 
  Nick Naylor: Exactly! So perhaps instead of acting like sheep when it comes to cigarettes, you should find out for yourself.”
       Aaron Eckhart. Thank You for Smoking.

"Those are my principles. If you don't like them, I have others."
       Groucho Marx. 

The Autobiography of Ben and Bob
Chapter 8: Father of the Bride - or - Rent-a-Baby

My daughter is getting married in a few weeks and asked me to say a few words at the wedding. It’s hard not to get sappy at such occasions. After all, I have only one child and I hope she will only get married once – so, by definition, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity: not just to tell her how much I love her and to welcome my new son-in-law to the family, but also to reminisce about her childhood and have some fun in the process.

Once, when she was two or three years old, we found her behind a sofa at home emptying single serve packets of sugar onto potato chips and eating them with obvious pleasure. After scratching our heads for a few minutes, we informed her that this was an unusual choice and that one did not typically mix those two particular food items together. Years later, the story would come back to haunt us as more and more snacks started showing up in the market with both sweet and salty ingredients: chocolate covered pretzels, truffles with sea salt or wrapped in bacon, kettle corn, you name it. It became obvious that we had stifled the creativity of a Julia Child in the making. “I coulda been somebody… I coulda been a contender,” she tells us mischievously when we remind her of the episode. 

Of course, like any other father, I think my daughter walks on water and am very proud of her. Not just because she’s highly educated (how many other kids out there have a doctorate in law and a masters degree in international relations and a bachelors in French literature?) or that she is simultaneously adjunct professor at two universities while also joggling a full-time job, but because that job – and her calling in life – is to help the poor, the downtrodden, the refugees, the immigrants, and the homeless. She is truly helping her community be a better place - first hand.

Even as a college student, she would go off to Africa to work on the war crimes tribunals in one country or to help the refugees in another country. Her favorite topic when looking for a new book to read? Genocide! I once asked her why she chose this path in life. She looked at me like the answer was obvious and said, “It was because of you, dad. You made me watch all those documentaries as a child and you made me read all those books.” I felt at once proud and guilty.

Later, as part of her job, she helped form legal policy and pass regulations to help the homeless and the poor. I used to joke that I didn’t know where she got her social conscience from, given that her father was an unrepentant capitalist but what I came to realize was that she shared many of the same ideals as I do; she just had the guts to act on them. And for that I admire her.

When she was a baby, I made up a secret word to describe her: “bingly”. The word was later broadened in scope to include all things cute and cuddly and is still used by the two of us to signify the sighting of a cute baby at a shopping mall: “Watch out… Bingly at two o’clock”, or an adorable puppy on Youtube. Later I found out that there was a Mr. Bingley in Pride and Prejudice, but by then the word had caught on and we continued to use it in our own way.

The two of us even came up with a great (tongue in cheek) business idea around our obsession with cute babies: Rent-a-Baby. We would open a store at the local shopping mall where parents could drop off their kids to play - just like the ones that already exist in many shopping malls. Except, we would also optionally allow our other customers (newlyweds and couples planning on becoming parents) an opportunity to spend quality time with these same kids - paying us for the chance to "rent a baby" for an hour to see if they're ready for the real experience. Of course, the secret motive behind our business idea was that the two of us - the proprietors would get to play with all the binglies, too.

So my advice to my future son-in-law is to take good care of her. Not just because she is a great human being, but because she is also very bingly.


  1. Good post! As a fellow father a couple years behind you, I loved the "guilty and proud" comment. Ben we will miss your leadership at the virtualization company you helped build. It is a shame that we never worked directly together.

  2. It would be nice if you could add a "Join this site" button to this blog. That would make it easier for people to follow.

    1. There is a "Subscribe to" button at the top right of the page.

  3. I've always enjoyed reading your lengthy e-mail updates, especially non-technical parts :) You have a way with words and a natural gift of comedy. Congratulations on your daughter's nuptials - she's a beauty! Those eyes!
    I will miss your "bold" jokes a lot! ;)
    Yulia W.

  4. Your daughter is a bingley. You must be so proud of her. Will miss your long emails, the funny quotes, and your quest to cure baldness. Bon voyage.

  5. Congs! Great father.

  6. As a Chinese Engineer, It took me a lot of time to understand your 10-pages-long email update in the beginning. But gradually I loved to read them - quotes, April Jokes like vDrone.

    Your daughter must be proud of you too.

    Finally - "Forever Young" Bod Dylan