Dear Dad, Thanks for the Lesson

Dear Dad,

I wish there were a kinder way to say this. Because I actively try to not hurt people’s feelings. Even when that someone has hurt me. Unlike you, who goes out of the way to cause pain. But here it is, I wish you had been an absentee parent rather than the present and abusive manipulator that you were. And yes, I used the word “were” as in past tense because even though you’re still alive, I have kept my distance from you for nearly six years and have begun to think of you as someone who has already passed.

I hate that I am triggered when I see happy and healthy father-daughter relationships in the media. It sucks that I can be sitting comfortably and vegging out while watching a comedy and suddenly feel as if a spear has been rammed through my chest and have angry tears burning my cheeks. All because the on screen father-daughter duo expressed deep care for one another. Did you know that until I was in my 30s I thought that those healthy relationships weren’t much more than fictional fantasies; that they were the exception, not the rule. I thought that dads were supposed to scream, yell, ignore, belittle, name call, and hit. I actually thought all dads called their daughters names of the degrading, cussing variety… you know like how you used to affectionately use the words that rhyme with witch and hunt to refer to my mother, my sisters, me, and pretty much any other female in existence? Here I am, almost 40 and I am just now realizing that most dads protect their daughters from that kind of treatment, not subject them to it. Looking back, I can’t believe it took me so long to realize that you were the exception, not the rule.

There is a positive spin on it though. Thanks for teaching me exactly what kind of man I did not want in my life. I hated you, still do to be honest. Your cruelty and arrogance can only be compared to that of a violent dictator, the kind whose evils we learn of starting in elementary school. The kind who are used as an example of how not to be. Why couldn’t I see it before?

Maybe it was the gaslighting? Like the time you suggested my boyfriend and first love only intended to share me with his friends. Or how you would lie and say that you never did the things you did or made it our fault, it was never your fault that you hit any of us. Maybe it was the way you treated my mother in front of me and my sisters? As if she were your slave, meant to serve you food, clean your home, and give you sex on demand. The poorly disguised innuendo you made across the dinner table that bordered on X-rated is forever burned into my memory. Maybe it was the way you spoke poorly of women you had never met. Like random women walking down the road as we drove by. You loved making crude sexual comments about their bodies, the way they were dressed, or how they walked. As if your opinion of a complete stranger was valid. Especially confusing was when you would say things about what you would do to them given the chance. As if you weren’t married to my mother and were allowed to hold sexual power over any woman you felt entitled to.

So, thanks, Dad. For teaching me exactly what kind of man to avoid. Even though the lesson took a few mistakes to stick; I did find that I could pick the majority of the abusers out before the end of the first date. Also, thanks for teaching me what kind of parent I didn’t want to be. It would have been nice to not have had the hard lesson, I mean confidence and ability grow from love and support. So the rough upbringing wasn’t actually necessary.

Thanks for nothing–your estranged daughter.

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