Last night, I watched part two of Oprah and Iyanla Vanzant’s “Daddyless Daughters” special on OWN. I could say I watched the special for “professional reasons,” in hopes of finding a nugget or two that could spark some sort of discussion on MN, but a big part of me wanted to see if there was work I still needed to do.
Last year, I wrote about my decision to cut my father out of my life indefinitely. At the time I was tired of the inconsistent relationship, broken promises, and most of all being blamed for our lack of a connection, and so I finally decided to establish a relationship with my father on my terms, which I decided was to have none at all. Being a daddyless daughter has never been something difficult for me to admit. As so many people mentioned in our chat yesterday, not having a father is nothing for me to personally feel ashamed about because it’s not my fault, nor was it a decision I made prior to last year. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still get angry that “daddy gone,” as Iyanla would say.
If I’m being honest, I fall in that emotional liar category Iyanla referenced. I will do just about anything not to feel or display emotions I consider weak, like sadness. But every once and a while, I have no choice but to be alone with myself and those feelings. Like when I’m watching a movie and a woman affectionately calls her father “daddy” — a term I’ve never uttered a day in my life — and he sizes up another man he doesn’t think is good enough for his baby girl and struggles to come to terms with the fact that he won’t be the only man in her life anymore. Suddenly, I catch myself feeling envious that I don’t know what it’s like to experience a man feeling sad because he won’t have to care for you anymore because all I’ve known is a man (and many others after) who ran in the opposite direction of that responsibility.
Or when I look back over my “dating” history, if I can call it that, and realize my experiences read like a classic case of daddyless daughter syndrome. And I get mad because I didn’t have anyone to be my standard of measure; and even more upset with myself because that’s no excuse. I knew more than better, I just still didn’t always do better because sometimes when you’re in the moment of loneliness, lowering your standards so you don’t have to be alone doesn’t sound all that bad.
It’s sort of funny to me how these issues didn’t catch up with me until I was well into my 20s. In adolescence and as a teen, not having a father around meant little to me, but now I struggle with the residuals of that reality — like the aforementioned envy that tugs at me and the question of “how do I know what I deserve if I’ve never had it?,” as one audience member asked. Of course I know the generalities, a man should never put his hands on you, he should provide, he should be faithful, yadda yadda yadda. But what do I, specifically, deserve? Are those intimate intricacies of father-daughter relationships I’ve only seen and heard of, mostly in movies, that are said to be the backbone of any healthy romantic relationship myth or a real-life possibility? And if the latter is true, how do I know I can expect it? I’ve never had it before.
Just typing these questions right now is making me mad because I don’t want to be one of the women who has to ask. While I’m OK with not having a father, I’m not OK with not having a a positive previous relationship to speak of and having to question how much of that is my fault and if any of it really is my dad’s. But I guess a better question would be whether I want to channel that anger into hope and believe that the benefit of eliminating it will be far greater than harboring it as I have been. I’ll let you know when I decide.