An optimist is the human personification of spring. -- Susan J. Bissonette

April hath put a spirit of youth in everything. -- William Shakespeare

The other day on a little known atoll in the South Pacific, there was a volcanic eruption coinciding with a significant rise on the global hormonal barometer, signaling the onset of Spring Fever. On schedule, the frenzy of NCAA March Madness has turned into "Love is in the Air" April Madness at the Halpin house. And my daughters have begun their annual rite of the spring boyfriend hunt.

Melt-worthy Guy, who was on Kelly's radar for quite awhile, oozed out of her life once she read an article on neuroses in Psychology Today and started psychoanalyzing everything about the lad. What was once lovable about him had morphed into glaring neurotic warts that made it impossible to have a ongoing relationship. So she was definitely ready for someone new in her life.

I remember when Kelly, who has always been very open about her crushes and relationships, told us that it was over.

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"How's that melt-worthy guy," I asked. "I'm kinda getting used to that expression, even though when you first used it, I wanted to drive into the city and put him in a George Foreman Grill to see exactly how melt-worthy he was."

"Not funny, Dad. Anyway, it's over. He's got issues."

I smile. Issues? A polite euphemism for what we used to call messed up.

"Why don't you try and heal him of his neuroses? It would be good practice if you decide to go into the field."

"Dad, it's just not worth the effort. And if truth be known, I want to heal you and mom to help you understand all the serious parenting mistakes you made over the years that damaged my fragile psyche."

"Mistakes? They were purposeful. We're reluctant to become the poster parents for healthy parenting. Then everyone would be beating down our door looking to copy our successful techniques. Dr. Phil would have us on his show. We don't need that."

"Say whatever you want but I know you feel guilty about getting rid of all the stuff I had emotional ties with; like some of my stuffed animals, the plastic record player and that nightie that even though it was falling apart I wore on some occasions. Also, you never properly educated us about cheese and cholesterol. And don't think I'll ever forget about that promised trip to the Bronx Zoo that never happened!"

"Kelly, one day you'll understand it's because we're part of the collective unconscious parenting pool and have no choice but to do what has been done for centuries by parents to their children. Throw out your child's old and tattered stuff so there's lots of room for all the new Christmas and birthday presents, and random new stuff. By the way, Santa took back the record player. Felt you were just too naughty that year."

"Dad, you and mom need some serious regression therapy so you can go back and get in touch with all those things you did to us, which left serious emotional scars."

"Kels, if that regression therapy will also take me back to when I was traveling around Europe on my own, without a care in the world, you've got a deal."

"I'll see what I can do. Erin and I are off the mall to buy some makeup but mostly to look for available hot guys."

As my daughters head out, I yell after them, "Remember, we inhabit a parallel universe and your psychoanalysis will not work on us."

Later that evening Erin is looking a little down.

"What's up sweetie?"

"I think I did something stupid. I poked the mysterious Goth guy."

"Whoa! It sure sounds like you did," I said. "Where was this?"

"Online. I poked him on Facebook."

"Huh? OK, Erin, it's now time to educate your social-networking-website-challenged dad."

"Poking is flirting on Facebook. Problem is he didn't poke me back."

"Thank goodness for that."

"C'mon dad. I was hoping he would."

"Sorry, my protective dad instincts just kicked in. Give him time; sometimes us guys are a little slow in picking up even the most blatant cues. The white noise in the brain syndrome makes us oblivious to the obvious."

The next day Kelly tells me that she has a crush on Incredibly Hot Intellectual Guy, who understands Ludwig Wittgenstein's theories on language, has a great sense of humor and a smile to die for.

"Dad, he's just mad smart. I wish my neurons would fire like his. But, I'm having trouble with the fact he has some French in his background."

"What? I thought you loved French guys and you could listen to their accent all day long. I remember when we were in Paris you wanted to speak French whenever possible, so you could hear the Parisians respond."

"It is what it is," she said. "French guys have this `pouffy' thing going on big time and I can't just forget about it."

"But, you told me he was hot and an intellectual and had a killer smile."

"Yeah, but `pouffy' trumps all of that, Dad."

"Are you looking for that indescribable sense of connectedness that online dating services like promise, where you meet someone you're totally compatible with on all their 29 measures?"

Kelly gives me her classic, "What in the world are you talking about, Dad" look.

"Just kidding about the indescribable sense of connectedness," I said. "Way too much compatibility for my taste."

"I must be boyfriend impaired."

"Nah, you're just in a slump."

"Thanks, Dad. You're not going to believe this, but I'm getting into Dylan and the Stones. They're now on my iPod."

"Brilliant, there's hope for you after all."

"Yeah, I guess Mick Jagger was right when he sang, `You can't always get what you want but if you try sometime you just might find you get what you need.'"

"That's my girl!"

Barry Halpin is a prevention specialist for Liberation Programs, a substance-abuse health care agency based in Stamford that provides substance-abuse counseling to adolescents and their families in Darien. He is also the director of the countywide Peer Players, an adolescent theater company. Email him at