Once upon a time, callow young men almost always met their dates' dads.This ritual vetting was an important part of protecting the human species from random romantic mistakes.

So, big, green and warty, I returned to the struggling little fishing village of Santa Monica for another boyfriend inspection.

The lovely and patient older daughter has been seeing this guy, who hasn't been dad-certified yet. Told me he's originally from the suburbs of New York, which set off all sorts of alarms. Always bright, always aggressive, yet they have the mannerisms of small animals that find themselves trapped in your garage.

Often, you have to swoosh them out with a broom, while they hiss at you the entire time. Must be fluent in the classics: "The Big Lebowski," "Chinatown," "Moonstruck," "Caddyshack" and Donald Sutherland's masterwork, "Kelly's Heroes."Rule 8.

Still, as my lovely older daughter points out, "New York guys can be tamed and eventually make excellent pets."Look, she likes this fellow — that's the most important thing. Plus, he has a very cool mustache, which conveys both wisdom and an enlightened sense of personal style. So before I left, I asked Justin to sign a short legal document that I am in the process of getting notarized. Must enjoy mocking stuff: skinny jeans, bespoke suits, Microsoft, political dynasties, Prius drivers, hipsters, aging hippies, political extremists, Portland, the NRA, Robin Thicke, the New Yorker, LA Weekly and (especially) that guy who used to play Doogie Howser and now somehow hosts all the major awards shows. Must see some truth to the provocative observation: "In the world of sports, Muhammad Ali changed everything."Rule 10.

In most cases, it was like shaking hands with a smiling canned ham. The more impressive the girl, the worse her father. I mean, aren't parents the most indecipherable of all human beings?

If your date was Goldilocks, her dad looked like Shrek, big, green and warty. "Of course, that's not exactly what her father meant.

As time passed, you learned to pick up your dates before the cocktail hour, before her dad was feeling extra social and likely to utter the worst words you'd ever heard: "Sit down, son. He meant: "Have I ever bored your folks with pointless stories at lousy holiday parties?

"To which I'd then reply: "Yeah, probably."Today, boyfriend inspections are still a part of American dating culture, kept alive by fathers like me with a misguided sense of ownership over their children, the people they love more than anything in the whole world.

Here's what I presented to him: "10 Simple Rules for Dating My Millennial Daughter": Rule 1. Must agree that light beer is fine, but decaf coffee is "merely a cup of lies."MORE FROM THE MIDDLE AGES: Fall makes all of us see routine things with fresh eyes, even coffee-flavored onions Our columnist has cargo shorts and a bullhorn: Let the revolution begin!

Must always root for the underdog, prefer baseball to football, jazz to rap, fall to spring, Fitzgerald to Faulkner, pubs to opera, Montana to Marino, tailgate parties to weddings, dogs to cats, Mel Brooks to Albert Brooks, Matisse to Michelangelo, Bartles to Jaymes. By the second date, you must have it memorized.)Rule 2.

Must agree that life is a compilation of elusive little truths that, when piled up like sugar cubes, form the foundation on which everything else in the universe rests. When watching "Wheel of Fortune," must be able to shout outlandish, nonsensical answers that aren't even close. Earlier this year, the 300-pound beagle signed up for Obamacare. He seems to see the vet on a weekly basis now: for fleas, anxiety, warts, depression, insomnia, gout, gallstones, sex addiction, itching, incontinence, low blood sugar, hot flashes and the occasional but aesthetically...