I have exactly as many goats as I want.

Zero. I have zero goats. And I don’t want five goats. I don’t want even one goat. I want no goats. I don’t care if it’s a cute little baby goat. I don’t care if it’s a screaming goat or a fainting goat or a goat that screams and faints.

No goats.

You don’t have to give me goats in exchange for my daughter to marry you. You don’t have to give me shit.

And you damn well better not ask me for permission to marry her; I see that antiquated practice as a short step up from trading her for goats. If you ask me, it shows you don’t respect her the way you should.

I don’t own her. My approval is not required. She is not mine to sell or to give away. She can marry whoever the hell she wants, and she doesn’t have to ask me. Neither do you.

You need to ask her, and only her.

Should you buy her an overpriced sparkly rock? Beats me. Ask her. Maybe she’d rather that money was put towards a house.

Do you need to get down on one knee? I don’t know. I expect if you are ready to ask her to marry you you’ll have a better idea of how that will go over than I will.

Should you even ask in the first place? Again, no clue.

She may say no.

She may never want to get married. That’s her business.

She may not want children. That’s also her business; it’s her body.

She may want to move far away for her career and leave you behind. Deal with it.

But she might love you.

And if you love her, and believe she is The One, and you both think marriage isn’t some outdated concept and both want it, then perhaps you should ask. Or maybe she’ll ask you first.

I’m not giving you permission, because permission isn’t mine to give. Just a bit of advice.

And if she says yes, I’ll be happy for you. Unless you’re a douchebag. Please don’t be a douchebag.

I don’t expect you are. My daughter doesn’t tolerate assholes.

If she says yes, her mother and I will chip in for the wedding. We’ll buy you something nice for a present. We’ll both come and celebrate and I might drink too much and dance horribly. Even if I don’t really like you, I’ll pretend to like you, for the sake of my daughter’s happiness.

But if she wants to marry you, I expect you’ll be okay. She’s a smart woman.

And because she’s smart, she can make her own choices. She doesn’t need her father’s approval. In case I haven’t made that point clear yet.

So, if you believe it is the right thing, ask her in the way you believe she would want.

Again: Don’t ask me. You may believe it’s about showing me respect, but it’s not.

It’s not, because by asking me, you are showing disrespect to my daughter. You’re implying she lacks agency. It’s an indication you don’t recognize her ability to control her own destiny.

I don’t own her, and if you marry her, neither will you.

You don’t need to engage in this outdated performance of seeking permission. Just ask her.

Then, if she says yes, be a good spouse.

That is all.

And if anyone wants to marry my son, that’s cool.

He keeps eating all our food.

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James S. Fell, MBA, writes for the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, AskMen, the Guardian, TIME Magazine and many other fine publications. His first book was published by Random House Canada in 2014. He is currently working on his next book, which is about life-changing moments.