Perhaps it was willful ignorance, or the deep-seated residue from surviving a traumatic childhood, but the concept of being a daddy’s girl was completely unbelievable to me up until my early 20s. Sure, I’d heard the phrase uttered on sugary sweet commercials and encountered it in a book or two, but the idea that a girl could actually be viewed as something treasured, respected and valuable in the eyes of her father was about as realistic to me as a winged horse. No matter how you tried to package it, I just couldn’t fathom a man who actually took pride in his baby girl to the extent that my father avoided acknowledging me.
Naturally, upon hearing someone proclaim to be a “daddy’s girl,” my first instinct was to dismiss it as bullshit because my father’s neglect had subconsciously caused me to characterize all men that way. Eventually, though, I met with the painful truth: Other girls had fathers who cared about them, and my dad only cared about himself.
Given the overwhelming number of single mothers running households, a father’s absence obviously isn’t a novelty. In fact, the lack of concern my father displays towards my two sisters and I would be much easier to swallow if it could be explained away by his absence. But since he was actually in the home with us, I have no idea as to why he chose not to invest in improving the odds that we’d all grow into strong, self-assured women.
My guess is because he didn’t think that was possible. What is clear is that seeds were planted in his childhood that produced the profile of a father who would eventually become his little girls’ nightmare in the flesh: a chauvinistic, narcissistic adult male. Basically, we were damned from the womb. Being female automatically relegated us to the bottom of his priority list and away from his undivided attention, which was strictly reserved for self-serving purposes, including his desire to father a son – by any means necessary.
But here’s the rawest part of it all – instead of simply replacing that absentee father-induced emptiness with pain and masking it in a thick layer of resentment, distance and divorce, I’ve remained the ever-faithful daughter, hanging in there and providing him with a listening ear, emotional availability and an openness that he never once afforded me growing up.
Until this day, we play what I like to call Hide ‘N Seek: Parental Edition where I attempt to locate and capture my father’s acceptance, which holds the key to my validity.I chase him around trees and through fields on my last breath hoping to find him crouched in a corner smiling, exhausted from the pursuit yet relieved to finally give me what I came looking for.
Years and many therapy sessions later, I finally understood why I’m dedicated to the chase, and let me tell you, as a grown, married woman, the truth ain’t pretty. Despite receiving love (and later, support) from my mother, I still crave my father’s acceptance. I’ve convinced myself that I need it to validate my worth. It’s the reason why I’m addicted to struggle and have to fight to embrace my happy moments, even when they come as a result of good, old-fashioned, hard fucking work.
No matter how many times I’ve heard it from my mother, my husband and anyone else who supports me, I’m just now coming to terms with the fact that you can’t fully rely on ANYONE to help you accept who you are. Ultimately, that ability comes from within. No matter how broken, scarred, or raw your insides are, they comprise THE ONLY tools you have to work with to piece together and nurture your self-love.
Fortunately, the tides are turning. I recently had a breakthrough when my husband comforted me after my father’s latest self-absorbed episode by saying the words, “You mean something. You are valuable.”
So, how I still expect a man who is and continues to be so violently patriarchal to encourage me to love and accept myself is pure desperation from a woman who still needs her daddy, but has yet to come to grips with the fact that she never had him and likely, never will.
But still, a part of me wants to be a doted on daddy’s girl, and I feel guilty as hell about it.