Butterfly Cauldron

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I used to be Daddy's Girl

My father and I have an interesting relationship. When I was a little girl, he just adored me. (He still does, I'm sure.) He used to take me everywhere. He even picked out my name. Which is a funny story, actually. My parents had decided on two names, either Sarah or Candace, but they weren't sure which one they were going to name me. So, I'm born and they're looking at me and my dad goes, "You know, I think she looks like a Zan." And that was my name. A name they'd not considered before. But he looked at me and decided it fit and here I am. I always liked that story.

So, when I was a little girl, things were really good. But then, I hit puberty and he didn't know how to deal with me. Part of this was because I wasn't a very girly teenager. Actually, I was the broody goth kid reading Russian literature and scaring my teachers. Face it, puberty isn't easy for anyone and it's really hard on those of us who don't quite 'fit'. So, things got strained for a few years. I think some of that's inevitable with fathers and daughters -- it's got to be hard for a man watching his little girl turn into a woman, knowing all the shit that could happen to her out there. I know that was on my dad's mind a lot, not because he said anything to me, but because my mom let me in on it later. He was really terrified that some boy was going to hurt me or abuse me. A not unfounded fear, given how common assault and abuse is, but it would have helped our relationship a great deal if he'd sat down with me and told me that. Instead, I always thought he just didn't trust me, because my brother had a later curfew, could date sooner, didn't have to get our Mom in there insisting that he be allowed to go to his senior prom. (And I went by myself! I didn't even have a boy for him to worry about!)

Anyway, I went away to college and got a boyfriend. A serious, long-term, maybe-I'll-marry-him boyfriend. Who was nothing at all like my dad. Well, not in any way that was easily noticable.

My father is a smart man, but he's not educated. He went to trade school and worked as a welder off-shore on an oil rig until he got hurt when I was a senior in high school. Education for his children was very important to him, even though he didn't have much past high school himself. He works hard, he works a lot and he has always taken care of us. For him, that's what his job was, that's how he showed us he loved us. He provided a good home for us, he provided a stable marriage with my mother, we never had to want for things we really needed -- even though we rarely had money for extras or brand names. He is always fair, always decent, always willing to help out someone in need -- even if they're a total stranger or a person he doesn't really like. He does what's right because it's the right thing to do. (He's not a saint though -- some of his ideas about race and religion make me just want to scream.) But overall, he's a really good, decent man. He's also very stoic. I call him the jolly green giant. He's nearly seven feet tall, built like a brick wall, the kind of man who just terrifies other men by his sheer existence, but every woman knows will never, ever hurt them. Moreover, every man knows not to so much as hint at disrespect toward a woman in his presence. To do so would.not.be.pretty.

My boyfriend at the time was somewhat like that too. He had a lot of my father's standup qualities. He was a decent person, fundamentally. He was kind and generous and never, ever would dream of harming or disrepecting a woman. He was also gangly and geeky and not the most socially ept person. Which was part of what I found attractive. He wasn't a man's man, none of that macho posturing. He was wicked smart, planning to go on and get his Masters in Physics, because he wanted to design rockets for NASA. Seriously, wicked smart. (And I have suuuuuch a weakness for smart, it's not funny.) He and my dad, eh, they didn't have a lot of interests in common. My dad's a farmer, the Ex wasn't. At all. My dad had certain views on what a man should do and how he should act and the Ex? Well. He didn't seem to fit them. He was too awkward in social situations, his sense of humor was too out there. He didn't watch football or do stereotypical guy things. Which is part of what I really loved about him. Plus, he was a good writer. And we could talk and he always made me feel safe.

But I knew, always, that my father wouldn't really like him. Oh, he wouldn't dislike him, ya know. He would just think he wasn't 'strong enough' for me. Now, in the end he really wasn't, but not for the reasons my father would have pointed out. The Ex had grown up in a very disfuncational family. He mother was an unmedicated, manic obssessive compulsive with serious control issues and his dad was an (eventually) diagnosed, treated manic depressive. He really didn't know how a healthy family functioned or how to fight healthily, so he avoided conflict at all costs. So, when I started to get sick and the doctors thought I was just seriously depressed -- well, he couldn't handle that, given his upbringing. Looking back now, I can understand and forgive him for that, but at the time? Eh.

So, anyway, I knew Dad wouldn't ever really click with the Ex. And they never did, even though he and I were together for almost six years.

The thing is, I don't think my father will ever really like any of the men I'm attracted to. (And gods help me if I bring home a woman.) Because they're not like him in ways he'd understand. And I want my father to approve and like the men I like. I want him to be able to accept them and love them because I love them. I don't want to always feel like I've done something to disappoint him, because that's just stupid. Because the person I love, whoever he/she ends up being, will be the sort of person I can be proud of, who I can tell the world I love because they're good, decent people. It's almost an insult to me, this feeling that my suitors will never be good enough. Because what the hell? I have good judgement. I would never, ever tie my life to a person who wasn't worthy of me, who wasn't the kind of person I could spend a lifetime with, who wasn't fundamentally a good, decent, loving person. And if I can love them, if I can want them, how can anyone ask for more than that?

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posted by Zan at 8:19 PM

8 Comments:

He sounds like Loretta Lynn's "Daddy":
I was just a baby
I thought he was a bear


I always thought it wasn't that the girl had poor judgment/taste, but that she was so great, she had no equal.

9:00 PM  

You know, it probably is from his point of view. But from mine, it feels like he doesn't trust me. And my dad really is great, he's just still hyperprotective. My mom has to run interference with him.

7:29 AM  

I can relate. My family's never liked anyone I've dated, especially my grandmother. She picks people apart and attacks every little thing about them. She wants me to bring home someone that does't have anything in common with me... some "clean cut" guy who looks like an Abercrombie model who is either going to be a doctor or a lawyer.

Not to mention she's only been trying to talk me into marrying for money since I was a kid... telling me that it would be better for me to find someone I could "tolerate" who could give me security instead of being with someone I felt passionate about.

Of course, she didn't discourage me from being successful on my own, she's been stressing me going to college for as long as I can remember. I think she's just afraid I'm going to find some guy who I will end up supporting instead of the other way around.

11:54 AM  

Zan, Your father sounds like a very good man, one who fits all the gender rules for his generation and a few before his. Hard for him to understand a man like your ex, who doesn't fit them at all.
My father died before we could have these problems, but my mother and her sisters had them with my grandfather, and while there was never a man good enough for them, once they had chosen, he was there on the side of the couple. He respected his sons-in-law (even my one uncle who was sooooo different from Grandpa). He was supportive of their goals and proud of their achievements (even the one uncle's who had achievements Grandpa couldn't understand wanting).

3:18 PM  

That was a nice post in so many ways. Fathers just can't ever really let go of their little girls because it's hard to trust that someone else can take care of someone the way you have been for the past however many years. They're passing on what is, to them at least, still a precious tiny baby that needs to be held carefully and loved. I think it must be difficult for good dads to do this. As feminist as I am, I do look for someone like my pops who I know at least has the capability to look after me even though I have the inclination to care for myself.

9:33 AM  

Great post. Nearly seven feet tall!!

9:07 PM  

Yep. He's 6'9, my brother and uncle are 6'8 and I have cousins that are, literally, over seven feet tall :) I tell people I come from a family of Scots-Irish Hill Giants :) At 5'10, I'm the shortest person in my family! (Well, aside from my poor mother who is only 5'4 :)

7:33 AM  

Cute! My dad is 6'3", my mom may have been as tall as 5'2". I am 5'5".

10:25 PM  

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