Life is fine, I tell this myself. I tell this to myself so often I nearly convince myself it is true. The memories of him are vague and not full of love, nothing terrible. He never hurt me, at least not physically. No. He just wasn’t always present. It didn’t work out. He was an asshole. People don’t like that. People say “family is everything.” Family IS everything, if the family isn’t toxic. But this isn’t about that. I leave behind a country full of friends, and a mom-like figure, and my biological father, distant painful memories I’ve all but blocked out.
Cut to living in the bible belt, surrounded by “whole families,” I get pitied, by the parents, by their children.
“Oh it must be horrible not having a father.”
“Why isn’t he here?”
“Do you see him?”
“Don’t you miss him?”
“Maybe your parents will get back together.”
“What about when you get married?”
“Isn’t your mom lonely?”
“Did they get married?”
“You were born out of wedlock?”
“Oh honey, you poor thing.”
These things, I had to listen to them over and over. They don’t know. They don’t understand. They can’t. All I can explain is my mother is my world. She is an amazing woman, who worked so hard for my sisters and I, despite this cruel, difficult, judgmental world we live in. She is strong. She’s my rock. She’s protected me, and loved me. She still does.
But growing up I saw, I knew the hardships. The things other parents said about her, about her being a single mother, horrible, terrible things, things that made me stronger, made me want to protect HER from THEM, because she is an amazing woman. She gives so much love. More than enough to replace what I never got from my father. My father. What a joke title. Remember I mentioned toxicity. It’s always present.
Don’t let anyone, ANYONE tell you that you HAVE to keep relationships with family if they are abusive/ toxic/ hurtful/ judgmental, because that’s wrong. Don’t do it. Don’t hurt yourself by keeping communications open with these people. Because what? Because of blood? Because of DNA. That’s biology. It means diddly squat in terms of love. Adopted parents love the shit out of their kids and there is no DNA link. Meanwhile their biological parents were horrible to them, not all, not everyone. Good families exist. But remember bad families do as well.
But back to my experiences. Most of them, well I became glad I didn’t have a father. Because growing up, being over at friends’ homes, being around their fathers. Most of them were shitty. Some were passive and so I didn’t notice. They did nothing to warrant dad of the year. But nothing horrible either. But there were bad ones. Ranging from a sleepover I had at a friend’s house. I remember it like it was yesterday.
They had a dog, and being a severe animal lover, I got attached quickly. The night turned sour in the blink of an eye when I realized they had a shock collar on their dog. I became upset and started to argue with the parents. Attempting to tell them shock collars are horrible and that they shouldn’t be using them. In retrospect, I understand now that I overstepped my boundaries. That I had no right to criticize them on how they train their dog. But as a child of age ten, that never occurred to me.
I spoke my mind and I wore my heart on my sleeve (still do), and I believe I said something along the lines that they were horrible for doing this. Well, the father didn’t appreciate my rude honesty and decided to yell at me. Let’s remember, I have very little experience with men in general—especially when it comes to being yelled at, especially because my mother hardly ever yelled at me. Even to this day if a man raises his voice, even if it’s not at me, I’m triggered. Not in a voluntarily type of way, but in a panic inducing on the verge of tears type of way. Not because of him specifically, but because of my severe lack of experiencing any man yelling near me or at me.
In upset and fear, I immediately asked to call my mother (this was before every five year old had a cell phone) and told her what happened. I was upset, understandably so, and wanted to come home. It was around 10— late-ish, perhaps 30 minutes or more away from home. The mother managed to convince me to stay the night. She reassures my mother that the father and I won’t be conversing anymore that night. She insists I try and get some sleep.
I end up staying, but I didn’t sleep. I remember laying in her bunk bed, terrified of the man down the hallway. For the record, as an adult I personally don’t believe any adult has a right to yell at a child like that, who is not theirs. I was immature. It wasn’t my job to be the responsible calm one, that was his, and he failed. But others may disagree—that’s fine. You don’t have to agree, not everyone WILL agree.
Cut to another scenario. I’m at my friend’s house, a long time friend. I know her father is an all around asshole. I know he uses a belt on his children. I cannot fathom this. Capital Punishment continues to go over my head. I despise it and everything it represents. I don’t say much. Not about this topic. I may occasionally wonder to my friend why he does this, how often.
But I don’t tell her how terrible I really think it is. Inside I’m terrified, every single time I spent the night at her home. When her father was home I was terrified. He had a temper, he lost it often. I didn’t know if he would ever raise his hand to me, or worse. My mother never knew, not the terror I had. She knew what he was, but not everything I felt about it. I was selfish. I didn’t want to lose my friend so I didn’t tell her.
So these experiences, they tell me I was better off, glad my father isn’t even in the country. Glad I was fatherless rather than being with an abusive man in the house. I know there are all types of scenarios ranging from mild to the most extreme. Growing up I discovered my fear for him was justified—he was far worse than I initially thought. He was abusive to his wife in ways I won’t explain. But she divorced him, and I’m so proud of her for being brave enough to make that change.
So I suppose you could say, growing up, my opinion of men was severely skewed. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t around guys, doesn’t mean I hated men. I don’t hate men. It could just be that I became more wary as time went on. This of course didn’t stop me from making mistakes when it came to my relationships, so many messed up relationships, so many bad choices.
An abusive boyfriend, right out the gate, off and on for five years, emotionally abusive at first. So it wasn’t clear to me. Bad experience upon bad experience. Maybe I was drawn to shitty guys because that’s all I thought existed. I know better now. Of course there are good men out there, good husbands, good fathers, just good men. But the bad ones are sometimes more obvious, which makes it difficult to see the good ones.
What did all of these situations, these experiences, what did they do to me? They made me wary of men in situations where I felt helpless. They made me apprehensive around those with religious backgrounds, because more often than not I was met with judgement and disapproval, even disgust by some, hurtful, painful, making me not want to be around people believing those were the only kinds that existed.
I clung to comforts, books, and music, staying at home. My mother had to force me to go to events, to make me interact with others my age. But I hated it, because I knew deep down they were judging me. They were judging my mother. And I just couldn’t… handle it.
On the more revealing pained side, yes, I wish I had a father. Yes, a part of me will always miss him and feel that void. I’m reminded on Father’s Day, a holiday that makes me oh so uncomfortable. He didn’t walk me down the aisle. I doubt he even knows I’m married. That pain will never fully go away. But… but I don’t regret my life or my choices, and I wouldn’t change anything.