I realized I have never had as boyfriend screened by that intimidating fatherly presence. I have never had to be nervous about introducing a boyfriend to my family because my mother is all too willing to see me coupled up.
Perhaps I should be thankful about this.
My father passed away before I ever had a single date. I remember going to my freshman year Homecoming with a friend of mine, I remember taking the picture of me in my dress in the living room and my mom and I talked about what my dad would say if he were there. That picture, framed somewhere in my mom’s house, still makes me think about this every time I see it. Maybe that’s why mom keeps it, it was a happy night in a sad time.
I don’t remember if my friend picked me up at my house or if we met at the dance, but I remember thinking that my dad never got the chance to grill a boyfriend about his intentions. Not a single boyfriend was ever intimidated to treat me right or else. No one was ever warned about a shotgun in the shed (gosh that makes me laugh, my dad was the strong, silent, bookish type and he would have never own a gun), no one was intimidated by my father’s intelligence and looming presence.
I wonder if this has had any effect on my boyfriends. Do they treat women with more respect with the looming father figure? Does that layer of intimidation make them behave any better? Do they treat a woman with more respect after a father talks to them?
I know that the ones that I only date briefly and never get to meet my family are going to behave however I let them. And for a long time in my twenties I let them walk all over me. That’s all on me (or maybe even that can be tied to not having a father in my impressionable teen years). But the serious boyfriends, the ones that I hoped would stick around. Would things be any different if they had met my dad?
Or, on the flip side, do they treat me differently because I am a member of the Dead Dad Club? Do they tip- toe around that subject? Do they handle me with kid-gloves?
I wonder if this hole could be filled by my friends. I wonder what would happen if my friends were more discerning and judgmental of the men I date. They meet many of the men I date, even casually. I wonder what would happen if they gave these men “the talk.” The intimidating, “take care of our girl and don’t hurt her or we are coming after you talk.”
And then there are the awkward politics of if this is coming from a male friend if it’s going to cause unnecessary jealousy. Not to mention that one of my closest guy friends is a cop. I have usually kept him away from men at first because there is a weird attraction undertone between the two of us, but neither of us is interested in dating the other person. But maybe the cop and close friend factor would be enough to test the intimidation question.
I wish my friends would be a tough critic. I wish they would sound the alarm when there is a guy that isn’t quite right. I wish they would stare the guy down and make him feel small and unworthy. Make him feel like he needs to prove himself.
I say all this and obviously I know that I should be pointing the finger at myself. It isn’t the fault of my friends or my dad that isn’t here. It would be awesome if I could blame my failed relationships on my friends that didn’t warn me, or the friends that told me “I don’t know what you see in him, I don’t see the two of you working out.” If they did, I wouldn’t listen. If they did, I would probably not talk to them as much. I would keep dating the dude, and I would make the mistakes and learn the lessons myself.
Nothing would change. I don’t think it would change a man’s behavior either. I think bad men will behave badly if they get a lecture from a dad, and good guys can still break your heart.
What needs to change is me. I need to be my own intimidating presence. I need to force the men to step up and prove themselves worthy of my time. I need to train the men to behave well, to treat me with respect. I will never have a shotgun in my shed but maybe I should start acting like I do.
People will always treat you with how you teach them to treat you. I need to teach the men to treat me better. Because I deserve better than half-truths, cowardly excuses and avoidances, half-lives, and half of their attention.
I need to start expecting more and not settling for less. When a guy doesn’t step up, he gets kicked to the curb. I don’t need anyone else to do that for me.