Since I was little, the holiday season has ignited a congenial and playful side in my father. Throughout the year, when he was home, his interactions with us children were didactic and parental in nature. At Christmas time however, he became a much happier, child-friendly parent. So much so, that our mother would actually let us spend time with him alone.
We would go shopping and get lunch. He wouldn’t even get upset if I didn’t eat my food, although it was clear he was biting his tongue. Everything was okay. He would put on a grandiose kind of persona in public, making the sales people laugh (or pretend to laugh). And if one of us broke something by accident, he wouldn’t be happy, but he also wouldn’t yell. We would cry anyway though.
He continued his happy christmas spirit this year during the week he can now take off from work thanks to his seniority. It’s difficult to not get frustrated when his words feel flat. It’s more difficult to not feel guilty when he buys you acceptance with nice gifts.
Maybe it isn’t an act. Maybe he really does love christmas. Maybe he’s just stressed at other times. Am I really complaining about him buying nice gifts and being cheerful? I like it when he’s like this. Even if it feels like it is following some happy-christmas-formula. You simply can’t be unhappy at christmas time, otherwise you appear ungrateful. But there is a somberness underlying the warmth in the air.
A somberness of knowing the good terms between us don’t last. We are never on bad terms at other times. But it isn’t real. I so badly want him to be authentic. To stick around during the year. To show that he cares. To have a real conversation with him, not as father and daughter, but as one person to another. Of course, I’ll always respect and admire him. There will always be a certain dynamic between us. I’m craving something from him. Something that isn’t this poster card week.
I have a bad taste in my mouth. Is it coming from me?
I was at Chick-fil-a recently, standing near the condiments waiting for my to-go order for my family. A 30-something year old man came and stood to my right. It wasn’t clear if he was waiting or standing in line.
He started mouthing something and I looked around for whom the words were directed. A young red-headed girl of about seven years old stood in line in front of us. She was holding her near-empty cup awaiting a refill and clearly anxious.
When the women infront of her left, the girl panicked and turned away toward her father saying something like “oh well”. He took a step forward and assured her it was okay before stepping back, encouraging her to ask for a refill.
She got her refill and walked out with her father, his hand on her shoulder. The whole thing was very sweet. I had almost forgotten the terror of talking to cashiers now that I am the one behind the counter.
For some reason it was saddening as well. May have been attracted to the father and his tenderness? I also found myself a little pissed off at the girl. I want someone to care about and have confidence in me like that. That’s what I would want in a relationship if I ever decide to pursue one.
I want to trust you, confide in you, rely on you. I want to love you.
But how can I love someone who says terrible things with such conviction? When you say “faggots should all go kill themselves”?
How can I love you when you say derogatory, dehumanizing things about blacks and Muslims?
Half the time I’m not certain you believe these things. I tell myself “surely not”.
How can I love you when you only say the L-word to make amends; when it feels only manipulative and disingenuous?
How can I love you when you respond to my tears by commenting on the levels of estrogen in the house? When you dismiss my feelings and devalue my opinions?
You say you’re so proud of me. So happy with the way I’ve “turned out”. But I don’t feel that you value me for who I am but rather my appearance of a “good daughter”.
A role you paint me into that has nothing to do with caring for me but rather simply to bolster your sense of pride.