Trust me, I have them. Or don’t trust me, whatever. In fact, you might just want to end here, as nothing I say should be taken with anything more than a shot of tequila, right?
stop reading start running, let’s get a couple things clear: I am employed, I’ve never danced on a pole (not to shame those who do), and I don’t blame my flaky father for my problems.
In fact, I actually credit much of my success to the disconcerting “Daddy issues” that plagued my adolescent life. The daughter of a terminal alcoholic, I spent much of my youth fighting my dad’s disease not alongside him, but for him, since “the man of the house” didn’t seem interested in doing it himself. While his life was picturesque to outsiders, it was a fatal combination of my mom’s breast cancer diagnosis and the downfall of the stock market that sent him into a verbally abusive, binge-drinking breakdown and sent the rest of us along with him. Why else would a 13-year-old white girl from an affluent Chicago suburb and a deep Catholic school upbringing find herself playing Gin (ignore the irony here) with addicts in rehab centers on weekends? Thanks, Dad…
While my friends spent spring break sunning on the beach, I found myself attending inpatient programs devoted to shaking my mom, sister and I of our “family disease.” My schedule of school, homework and basketball practice was peppered with Alateen meetings, interventions, and hospital visits. After many weekends together, my dad’s doctors were family friends. DUI became an acronym as relevant to my vocabulary as GPA or SAT. While some teens made dreaded “Dad, can you bail me out?” calls from jail, I found myself on the receiving end of those on more than one occasion.
But, please, don’t read those as complaints. Just like Christmas at crazy Aunt Suzy’s or burying your first pet, these are memories and facts about my childhood I’ve learned to not only accept, but embrace—something others I meet just can’t seem to do.
Lately, the only lasting issues I’ve had from my “Daddy issues” stem from the ones society seems to have with them. And even more concerning (yet not surprising), the ones guys have with them.
Whether it’s an unfunny joke about a stripper or the ever-incriminating “how did YOU possibly turn out normal?” inquiry, these presumptuous, stereotypical and overall ignorant ideas about alcoholism (and those associated) are shrouded digs at my past. Over time, my reactions have changed. Am I supposed to laugh with you? Help you throw me a pity party to talk about my feelings? Feel complimented or congratulated that I somehow managed to escape a lifetime of failure and not “end up like my Dad?”
And the media doesn’t help—I see “myself” everywhere. Or rather, exaggerated, insane, or over-sexualized versions of myself on TV shows, comedies, movies, constantly reaffirming the stigmatizing narrative of the girl with the troubled past you can count on to come in and mess things up. While I can’t escape it, I usually just avoid the topic—not because I’m awkward or emotional about it but because others are. Yet eventually, my relationships evolve past the surface-level “get to know me” games, and it’s time to let people in on my
secret past—in part to grow closer to them/advance our relationship but also to judge their reaction (and often, weed them out).
Some guys do this themselves. They run. Not sure yet if this “flight” instinct is because they see my story as a glaring red flag that will inevitably manifest my crazy some time down the road, or if they’re intimidated by the girl who managed to say “I’m fine” in the face of her dad’s issues and surmount them with minimal emotional scarring. Or maybe they actually think I’m a stripper? In that case, keep running.
Yet, some guys accept the challenge, thinking it’s an interesting or unique part of my character that they want to learn more about. Sadly, with over 1 in 10 Americans claiming to be alcoholics, kids like me are becoming less and less of a case study. Still, I admire these guys’ efforts, and make a concerted effort of my own not to appear stoic, scarred or emotionally distant when discussing my
relationship history with my father. After all, who wants to date that bitter, cynical girl? No one—and I don’t want to be her, either.
In fact, to society’s surprise, I’ve managed to not only escape bitterness but actually turn my father’s fate into what I see as the most positive inspiration in my life. Now, it’s the reaction I’m getting from other guys that’s beginning to make me a bit bitter. I actually had an ex boyfriend (note: the son of two loving, supportive, high-school-sweetheart parents) tell me after I dumped him that he only starting seeing me because my daddy issues made me “an easy target to manipulate, and manipulating girls with low self esteem is like a sport, really.” Really? You, sir, are the one with issues.
Sorry, not to go all Taylor Swift on you—those extreme instances are few and far between, and I refuse to let pricks like that define how I look at love, life, and relationships. Since middle school (a typically tough time for teens) I’ve gotten extra
challenges opportunities to force myself out of my comfort zone and open my mind to any and all relationships, experiences, and circumstances this crazy world has to offer. Sure, my wedding won’t have a daddy-daughter dance, my mom will walk me down the aisle, I’ll never buy another tie for Father’s Day, but I don’t feel robbed of these experiences. They were never promised to me.
Adopting a “there are flowers everywhere for those who bother to look” attitude, I’ve garnered more incredible opportunities than many people will ever get the chance to, partly because I’ve been bred to find a “flower” in just about any situation. Aside from countless rehab facilities, I’ve gotten to visit the same amount of countries as my age (23), and met people around the world whose issues make mine look like paradise. Yes, an unrelenting passion for travel(and the courage to do so) is another side effect I picked up from my dad.
The individuals I’ve encountered, the tools I learned in rehab, the stories I’ve heard, and the confidence I’ve gained throughout my journey have given me
a starring role in a Lifetime Movie uninhibited outlook on life and an overwhelmingly positive view of the world. Believe it or not, these feelings aren’t limited to those with seemingly “normal” upbringings. Plus, I have stories for days, which I’ve found very beneficial to draw on in job interviews, so what I’m lacking in suitors I make up for in sweet jobs.
So if you haven’t stopped reading yet,
thank you run. Run fast. Clearly, you don’t want me—a girl with daddy issues. Because like girls who travel, we lead a life of uncertainty. We tend to speak our minds. We will never need you.
Our outlook on life is unique—not jaded by teenage angst, but rather overwhelmingly healthy and solution-oriented. Change doesn’t scare us. People are inherently good. What my dad did was not his fault. The world is what you make it. Every kid should get to experience rehab (just without all the parental problems that go along with it, of course). At the risk of sounding like a Hallmark card, I don’t see life for what it has done to me, but rather what it has to offer me.
So don’t date a girl with daddy issues, because clearly, our pasts have made us crazy. Who looks at life like that? Through a positive lens, with a glass half full? Accepting of, not intimidated by, the all-to realistic fact that we may end up alone (or worse, in a marriage ended by addiction, like our moms’)? Obviously, we’re undateable, because petty problems, toxic relationships, and idle stereotypes aren’t worth our time or energy trying to fix. We’ve got bigger
guys fish to fry, and years of experience on the grill.
God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference. – The Serenity Prayer, Alcoholics Anonymous