How Old Is Too Old?

This is not the question you want to hear from your 16-year-old daughter, especially when it has to do with the age of a guy she wants to date.
The question came to me by way of text, which was good because it gave me a minute or two to think.  Here’s how the conversation went:
Me:  Hey, I’m going to run by the store after work.  Do you need anything?
Daughter:  Nah.  Oh, by the way, how old is too old?
Me:  Too old for what?  Like parasailing?
Daughter:  You know, a guy?  To date…
Me: Ummm…
Daughter:  It’s not an algebra problem, Mom.  It’s not that complicated.
Me:  Math is hard?
Daughter:  Seriously!
Me:  Why?  Who do you want to date?
Daughter:  He’s really nice and lord jesus, he is FINE.
Me: Where did you meet this guy?  (thinking to myself, oh please don’t let her say ‘I found him on craigslist advertising free puppies and candy in his shag-carpeted van.’)
Daughter:  At the mall.
Me: Well, exactly how old is this guy?  (thinking to myself, oh shit he’s probably a 40-year-old ‘producer’ who’s looking for ‘actresses.’)
Daughter:  He’s older, but I really like him, and he’s not a creep.
Me: (breathing into paper bag and thinking, ohshitohshitohshit) HOW OLD?
Daughter:  He’s 20, but he’s not a creep.
Me:  I’m glad he’s not a creep, but that’s pushing the outer limits of what we’re comfortable with.  (But thinking to myself, thank all the forces of nature that he’s not a 40-year-old porn star with a greasy mustache.)
Daughter:  Dad doesn’t have to know.
Me:  I think he’s going to notice if a fully-bearded Bubba the Trucker shows up at our house.
Daughter: MOM!  He doesn’t look that old!
Me:  We would have to meet this young man.
Ok fast-forward to after the text-versation.  I spent a good 20 minutes breathing into a paper bag and trying to figure out what to say to her.  And what to say to her dad.  Because dads don’t necessarily like 20-year-old boys who want to go out with their little girls.
So here’s the thing.  Our little girl is going to be 17 this summer, and that’s not all that far away.  And here’s the other thing, we’ve raised her to be a good girl with a level head on her shoulders.  And if we are those freaked-out, hell-no-you-won’t-go parents, chances are about 110 percent that she WILL go, and we just won’t know about it.
I’m thinking my best bet is to remain cool, calm, and collected (all the while closet-breathing into my paper bag while she’s not looking).  We’ll play things by ear, but I suspect it’s time to have the next conversation with her about young-ladyness and growing up and safety and all that schtuff.
Oh and also, if anyone hurts my baby, I will kick his (or her) ass.  Now where’s my damned paper bag?

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