I sat at open-mic night with my martini and my legs crossed, wondering exactly how many poems could be written about daddy issues. It seemed as though at every event I had been to, this one and others, there was some girl onstage spilling her heart out into the mic about the emotions and challenges she faced growing up without a father in her life.
As the poems/songs/monologues started off, they always talked about the pain of being a child without a father—all the unanswered questions and feeling as though something was missing. Now, I can relate to that. I knew who my father was, but the dude was never around, so I had no kind of father-daughter bond or connection. I could relate to the void and the feelings of awkwardness when Father’s Day rolled around and I didn’t feel compelled to send a card or make a phone call. I could relate to the artistry about that aspect of being a fatherless child.
What I couldn’t relate to was, as the pieces developed, the artists’ blaming their promiscuity, trust issues with men and their sexual confusion on the fact that their fathers weren’t around. That was the part I just didn’t get. Now, I’m sure there’s some psychological research out there about the correlation between promiscuity and broken homes—the U.S. Census found that 1 in 3 children in the United States live without a father—but to blame one’s emotional investments in unhealthy relationships and lax mindsets toward sex on the fact that a father wasn’t around to tell you to do better … I just don't understand.
It seems to me that self-respect and guidance about positive relationships can be found from other sources than just a father. In addition to my not having a father around, my mother died when I was 5, and my younger brother and I lived with my aunt. I never used the absence of either parent as an excuse for why I was the way I was.
Yes, his (and her) absence may be a reason I developed particular feelings, but it’s no excuse for behaving in particular ways. Even though I never had the presence of a strong man in my life, the women in the family (cousins, aunts, etc.), and their husbands, were the examples I followed and the sources from which my guidance came. I was surrounded by love and positive influence, even though the family structure was “nontraditional” and “broken” by society’s standards.
In these pieces I read and hear from women discussing their issues with their fathers, they reveal how they’re well aware of the fact that some of their past actions were a result of the psychological and emotional despair they felt. However, what stuns me is their continuing to act in those ways—knowing the relationships they’re in are unfulfilling and will never fill the hole inside, but continuing on anyway.
They attract the men they know are no good for them, pursue relationships they know are unhealthy, and invest unrequited love and emotions knowing they will not be returned. They knowingly subject themselves to a series of relationship failures and a cycle of despair, and rationalize the behavior by labeling it, “I have daddy issues.”
It saddens me that many women will accept an imbalance of power in relationships, have a constant need for validation and attention, and suffer through trust issues all by chalking it up to not having a father around.
Feeling a particular kind of way and having questions about the relationships in your life is normal—though, over time, I’ve come to find happiness by keeping in mind my personal affirmations that I think can apply to any woman (or man) looking to be fulfilled in their relationships:
* I am in control of my life; someone else’s actions don’t impact my destiny.
* I am loved and supported; a man can only add to that support system.
* I love and value myself, my morals, and integrity; those I associate with must do the same.
* I am enough; if someone doesn’t want to be a part of my life, that is OK.
You can’t change the past, or even your feelings, but you can change the way you allow yourself to be loved.
Samantha Callender is a multimedia journalist whose work appears in MadameNoire, Her Agenda and USA Today College.
We want to hear your story. Send pitches for My Thing Is, a forum for personal narratives by The Root’s readers and contributors, to MyThingIs@theroot.com.