‘To the Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter’ by Jesse Parent is a fifty-three line poem that is contained within one block of text. The poem does not have a rhyme scheme, nor does it make use of a metrical pattern. It is narrative in its construction. This means the majority of the lines read more like sentences than lines of verse. But, Parent does make use of several poetic techniques. These influence the overall structure of the poem and lend it a feeling of rhythm. These include alliteration, enjambment, juxtaposition, simile and anaphora. There is also a very consistent use of repetition in the text. It is seen through the use and reuse of examples of behaviour and their consequences.
All of these techniques will be addressed in the body of the poem, but one, enjambment, deserves extra attention. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. It forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. The vast majority of the lines in ‘To the Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter’ are cut off in spots that jolt the reader down to the next line. For examples look to lines twenty-two through thirty-three.
Within To the Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter’ Parent uses humour and wit to describe the deep love he has for his daughter. The mood is at once lighthearted and serious. Although the lines are generally all quite funny, it is clear that Parent, who is the speaker of the text, has a serious message behind them.
You can read the full poem here.
Summary of To the Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter
In the first lines of this poem the speaker addresses any boys who might, in the future, want to date his daughter. He has a number of rules and general pieces of advice he wants to impart to them. Parent tells one imagined boy that he has been training to kill him since before his daughter was born. This shocking statement is meant to be funny, but it also speaks to how serious the father is about his daughter’s wellbeing.
As the poem continues, the father describes the lengths he’d go to take care of his daughter and the fact that the “boy” does not stand a chance against him. He imagines the boy’s fear of meeting him and encourages it. The speaker alludes, again, to the ease with which he could murder any miscreants who sought to harm her.
As the poem progresses, the speaker addresses the fact that his daughter is eventually going to fall in love and he needs to make sure the chosen boy treats her well. He asks that any boy chosen by his daughter take care of her, protect her, love her and “Befriend her”. The speaker tells the boy that if he can do these things that they’ll get along just fine. ‘To the Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter’ ends humorously with the speaker suggesting that all these rules and threats hold true for any girls who might want to date his daughter as well.
Analysis of To the Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter
In the first stanza of ‘To the Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter’ the speaker makes use of the line that later became the title of the poem. The first line is an exclamation, and it reads (almost) as a friendly greeting. This welcoming feeling continues in the next four lines. The speaker describes how since “before” his daughter’s birth he has been waiting for this unknown “boy” to show up and date his daughter. If nothing else, a reader should take from these first lines that the speaker has been prepared for a long time for this to happen.
Repetition is one of the most important techniques Parent makes use of in this poem. It is used in a variety of ways. For instance, in this section of the poem, he uses anaphora, or the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. The phrase “Since before” is used twice in order to emphasize how long he’s been waiting as well as how long he’s known a boy would come along.
Parent, as the father of this child, makes sure to mention in the fourth line that it was due to his “spark” that she came to exist in her mother’s belly. He has a claim over her that is deeper and more important than any a boy could assert.
Through a strategic line break, known as enjambment, Parent is able to surprise the reader with the real reason he’s been thinking about the “boy” for so long. He has been “training to kill [him]”. At this point, it becomes clear exactly what the poem is going to be about and how Parent is going to be addressing the “boy who may one day date [his] daughter”.
The next lines make use of repetition to stress how long the speaker has been planning to take this boy out, if he should need to. Its been since the boy was learning how to walk and “playing at war”. There is an interesting and amusing contrast here between referencing a young boy’s desire to “play war” and his own assertion that he was training how to take perfect “headshots”. There’s no way, he concludes this section, for the boy to catch or surpass his skill level.
In the next ten lines, the speaker describes what might happen when the boy meets his daughter for the first time. His planning has been incredibly comprehensive and although the humour remains in the text, and is even enhanced, it is still clear that he’s serious in his desire to protect her from harm.
The speaker imagines that when the boy sees his daughter’s face and “her laughing smile” he’s “gonna wanna talk to her”. Parent uses colloquial diction throughout ‘To the Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter’. This makes perfect sense for the poem as it is coming from the poet’s own perspective. He is speaking on something that’s deeply personal and real– the happiness and wellbeing of his daughter.
Parent uses a simile in the next lines to compare the hours the two will want to talk to one another as passing “like sprinters”. He has has been in love before and knows what it’s like to spend every minute talking.
He juxtaposes this wistful happiness with the “dread” that the boy is going to experience when he remembers he has to talk to Parent, the father of the girl he loves.
Time moves forward again to the first time the boy enters the house. One of the wittiest lines in the text asks that the boy take note of the “bone carving / over [Parent’s] threshold”. It was put there for one purpose, to intimidate. It is “expertly carved” and Parent implies that if the boy crosses him in any way whatsoever, his own “femur” won’t turn out so skillfully.
In lines twenty-two and twenty-three of ‘To the Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter‘ the speaker asks the boy not to pay attention to his “‘ample crawl space’” and “‘Room with a rubber mat and a drain’”. But, he clearly wants the opposite. There is no way someone could hear about these places, or see them, and not be worried by their suggestion or presence. These two spaces are ideal to carry out any grisly task the speaker has in mind for the boy. A body could easily be hidden in the crawl space. Or, disposed of in the room with the “mat and a drain”.
In order to avoid being murdered by the speaker, the boy must “approach [him] with love for [his] daughter”. Everything he does must stem from a pure and unadulterated love for Parent’s child. The speaker makes sure the boy knows there is no chance of him manipulating her. He can’t take advantage of deep unaddressed issues. He knows he has been a good father.
Two very clever lines follow. Parent compares the ear he used to press “against her / mother’s belly” to the same ear he’d used to hear his daughter’s heart snap. He is also ready to use the “elbow [he] cradled her head in” to “send a message” with his fist.
Parent goes on, describing how he knows very well the lessons he taught his daughter. She knows all about respect and how one person is meant to treat another. There is an interesting moment in lines thirty-six and thirty-seven where the mother interjects into the poem. It’s clear she’s aware of her husband’s intentions for a misbehaving boyfriend and supports them. She wants her husband to add to his declaration that “you really shouldn’t ever / hit anybody”.
The thirty-ninth line references the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Here, he compares himself to Cain and the “mark” the man had to wear after killing his brother. It was the mark of a murderer. The speaker tells the boy that this mark is in his genes. He has been brought up with the will and ability to kill if he needs to.
The next lines of ‘To the Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter’ describe the daughter’s resilience. She is not going to sit and take any poor behaviour on the part of the boy. She knows better and is strong enough to not keep his secrets. His daughter, Parent states, knows what love is and is not going to be fooled. The passion with which the speaker has been addressing the “boy” cools somewhat in the next lines.
He knows that (although he’d probably rather she didn’t), his daughter is going to find someone she loves. All he wants from this person is that he “continue the lesson[s]” of love he has been teaching her “all her life”.
A few shorter lines make up the last section of the poem. These are simple statements professing the speaker’s wants for his daughter’s relationship. He wants any boyfriend to “Love” his daughter and to “Befriend her”. Parent adds that he should “be there” when he can’t, especially after he’s dead. If the boy can do all this, then he will like him fine. They’re going to get along with the relationship is mutually loving, friendly and respectful.
One of the best moments of ‘To the Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter’ is the addendum that comes at the end of the poem. It is a formal addition to a written statement, added after the initial completion of a text. In this case, the addendum addresses the other side of the spectrum and is aimed at “the girls who may one day date [Parent’s] daughter!”
He has one piece of advice for any women who mistreat his daughter. It is that his “wife is a better shot” than he is. Everything he described in the last fifty-three lines holds true. This time though for his wife who is just as passionate about protecting their child as he is.