As a child, I don’t ever recall having any kind of in depth conversation with my father. I have no memory of rushing to the front door on his return at the end of the day, nor do I remember him sweeping me up into his arms to greet him. I have no memory of sitting on his lap as he told me a story or his involvement in any way of vetting a boyfriend and making sure whatever boy was in my life would keep me safe and bring me home before an appointed time. Dad was attentive to Mom but I don’t think he had any idea on how to be a father in the way that I see depicted or conveyed in the general media. But then, whose father matches up to those images? Perhaps there are some that do.
I am not complaining about my father, merely stating facts. I have very little recollection of closeness nor bond with my father. And the truth is, he was not that close to my brother either- when my brother was still alive. He tried with my brother; they attended father/son activities occasionally. He was present in the evenings when he wasn’t out of town on business. When he came home from work, it was understood that he had likely had a long and hard day so we were not to disturb him. Mom prepared him a cocktail- likely some sort of whisky neat- just one. And he sat in the den watching the news, having a cigarette- while the final dinner preparations were being taken care of by Mom. I don’t really fault him for his version of fatherhood. My understanding is that his Dad was the same way- very little involvement with the children, that was the mother’s role.
Only recently has Mom expressed that Dad regrets those years. He wishes he had been more involved- she even shared quite recently that he felt he might have been to blame, in part, for my failed marriages… for my lack of discernment on good vs. bad men. This reveal from Mom was a bit of a shock to me, as I didn’t think he ever thought about those things. Mind you, I have not asked him this question myself. Our conversations and connections are fairly neutral.
Still, these days, Dad and I have a closer connection while still holding ourselves at a bit of a distance. We do share some common ground with politics and religion – so in some ways we can discuss these topics. But when those run out of fodder, we turn our attentions to other things. We really don’t dig deep- mostly, because he doesn’t want to. He has never liked any focus on negative anything. This means we don’t discuss anything that could cause a damper on the mood. Everything in our lives surrounding Dad must be positive. He hails the book: Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale- in his view one of the best preachers in recent history.
While I don’t necessarily agree with Dad about his blame in my lack of success with relationships, I admit there is a possible sliver of truth there. As a girl, I am sure that I longed for someone of the male persuasion to notice me. Dad didn’t seem to really notice me. In some ways I may have developed a lack of confidence in who I am- what I have to offer, as a result of not feeling special in my Dad’s eyes. So I went outside the home seeking this attention while being afraid of admiration- all at the same time. I bumbled along hoping for a glimmer of love to be tossed my way. As they say- give me a bone. Drop me some scraps. Pathetic when I write that down, but this canvas for my soul has led me to this exploration- so here I go.
In high school, I was generally the side kick of some girl who got the attention and affection of cute guys. When school dances came around, I would be paired up with one of my friend’s boyfriend’s friends that did not have a date. I was basically a back up plan for certain guys. I still prepared myself carefully for the date, buying the requisite dress and dutifully applying the war paint. And then when picked up, I would beam as if this guy even cared one iota for my beauty and personality and simply- me. Off we went to join the group for dinner. On the occasional lady’s room breaks when we would all head off to powder our noses, I would glance at myself in the mirror wondering- what is wrong with me? Why do guys not like me in general? I didn’t feel ugly or fat or undesirable but for some reason, the guys just were not interested. They would joke with me and we would have fun in general as a group but it was obvious that there was no romance. Even my efforts in beautification did not turn their heads nor make them smile at me in a revelation moment that wow- you are pretty, amazing, worth my time. During my senior year in high school, I was head over heels in love with a guy that to me emitted toughness, rugged good looks and was a kind of model of safety. Somehow he knew of my affection and he asked me to Prom. I could hardly believe it – someone actually asking me out of a possible romantic motivation. Our prom picture shows the two of us in white- me in a white taffeta prom dress which had two short layers of pale green and lilac at the very top collar that went off the shoulder; him in matching white tux and matching soft lilac bow tie and cummerbund. We both look into the camera. He is holding my hand, his head cocked just right towards my head – as if to rest on my temple. His hand gently landing on my waist, he shows a tenderness towards me. I was on top of the world in that picture, taken earlier in the evening. It shows great hope and potential for a romantic evening ahead. What the picture misses is the drama midway through the evening as I exited the restroom, having reapplied a fresh coat of lipstick and powder, only to find him on the dance floor with an ex-girlfriend, lip locked. My breathing quickened, my face flushed and I could feel dampness on my upper lip. I retreat to the ladies room and I panic. I don’t know what to do. He had not seen me. But others had seen me and it would soon get back to him what I had encountered. I had to get myself together and face the world outside. I walked back out onto the floor and now they had parted, and I join him. He knew by my face that I knew. And the rest of the evening was simply tense and long. Nevertheless, this was our last date.
I look back on my dating life and see a repeat of this disappointment, picking the wrong guys. Not filtering for the good ones, the kind ones, the generous ones.
Mom’s advice to me a few years back, when we were discussing the stream of bombs in my past love life: “they don’t have to be so good looking you know”. She shared with me a piece she read about Jane Fonda not too long ago. Evidently Jane’s own revelation was that no one had ever told her to look for someone nice. Ok, that is simple. Just find someone nice. I’ll get right on that.