My Father Ruined Me!
My father ruined me. No, no -- not that way. It's just that, well... he's such a great guy, and... much to my dismay, far greater than most of the men I've dated. This is a problem. It's becoming more and more of a problem as I zero in on The One. Or attempt to. Unsuccessfully, I might add. Growing up, my self-employed dad was usually home to receive and counsel me on whatever load of pubescent misery I'd dragged home from school that day (check where it says: present and available). He was sensitive way before a nation of 80's quiche-eaters adopted "listening" as a snare to get the snatch (check off: attentive and loves a good chat). He grew up with a divorcee mother and a sister, then managed to marry a woman with only sisters and spawn only daughters himself. This is one man who knows women. Knows how to talk to them. Knows how to appreciate them. Knows them (note: intuitive and a deft complimentor). And, if that don't beat all, he' s an artist. La piece de la resistance: he adores music, dancing, museums , good books and movies as well as architecture, travel and fashion (check everything remaining). Now, I know what you're thinking. He's not gay. He happens to also adore women. All this and straight too? What a bargain. Well, he is and he isn't. He happens to be simultaneously the most selfless and self-absorbed man I have ever known. He is an Artist, after all. There are times when I'm both thoroughly impressed and confounded that my mom has put up with him for all these years. But on the whole, he's an amazing catch. For a father. Just a father, thank you very much. Oh, and did I mention that they're still married? To Each Other. That is correct. The last of the nearly extinct "Happily Married" Species Domesticus in captivity. Plunging me ever deeper into the minority. So, where does this bitch get off listing her prodigious patriarch as a dating liability? She's gotta lotta nerve. And when so many other women have suffered through so much blah, blah-di blah... I know. I know. But look, this is my own personal reality. This is all I know. Stumbling across a man who treats me as well as my father does simply isn't as g'damn easy as you would think it should be. Especially while living up to my expectations, however warped, of how a successful marriage continues to defy planetary logic. When I stumble through a dance at a wedding reception with a guy who's holding me as if I were his mom and not The Girl He's Fucking, I long to be effortlessly led around the floor by the confident grasp of my father. When I'm wide awake and trembling from menstrual torture and my fella asks me if he can "get me anything" as he rolls over, I can't help but think of how my father gently rubbed my tummy-in-turmoil until I fell asleep on the living room couch. When I oblige to help my beau bury his cat in Central Park and he meets me at the animal hospital an hour and ten minutes late, I am reminded of my dad, who, in over a kabillion years of picking me up from girl scouts, band practices, keg parties and airports, was never late. When I have occasion to say "Badges...We don't need no Stinkin' Badges..." and my date looks at me as if I've lost it, I have. I've lost the will to date. I want to scream, "Why can't you be a younger, taller, version of my dad... but Not my dad? He's wittier than you, he's more conscientious than you and he can discuss Wagner and Vonnegut. Gaudi and Gautlier. Anais Nin and NIN!" O.K., so maybe he doesn't know much about Trent, but he's open to suggestions. No gap. Perhaps it's not exclusively a My Dad Thang. Perhaps it's all men of his generation. They knew how to dance. Saw their dates safely home at 3am to Avenue C. Chewed with their mouths closed. Hmmmm. Come to think of it, they also treated women, for the most part, like shit. So, what am I left with? That I'm spoiled? After countless childhood lectures, spankings, and groundings? Maybe. But he doesn't patronize me. I am not Daddy's Little Girl. He supports me. Not with credit cards. With respect. Through all the jobs, all the careers, all the schmucks who were Doing His Daughter, he has supported me. "Follow your heart" he says when I can't decide whether or not to let a boy into my life. My Loins. "Follow your gut." He has welcomed every last of the dregs of guys that I have paraded through my bed with the same genuine warmth of a man meeting his son-in-law. And he has held me without admonishment at every tearful and drama-packed break-up. Poor dad. Who would have thought that being a good father could turn out to be damaging? I have been criticized by men on more than one occasion for having survived the wreckage of puberty with only a few nicks and scrapes. It seems this makes me less tenacious, less dysfunctional and therefore less...interesting. Fuck You Very Much. I've discussed this with my sisters. My grown-up, unmarried sisters. They agree. Why should a man hang out with us when they could hang out with a woman who was treated like shit by her father? She expects less. The barest necessities of kindness will provide heaps more than what she's used to. And I can only surmise that from his point of view, marrying a woman who grew up in a fucked-up home is a lot less daunting. Fewer expectations. No, that's not fair. I take it back. I've had it good. Too many women have not. So, do we all win or do we all lose? Well, none of us should compromise. We've heard that before. We should all have high expectations. Regardless. We should all be appreciated, respected and adored. My dad is a man who, by example, has taught me how a woman -- a truly loved woman -- might be treated. Should be treated. If your example sucks, you're welcome to borrow mine.