So here’s the thing. Many of my friends know that I joke about my daddy issues all the time. And what queer twenty year old who refuses to move back home under any circumstances doesn’t have daddy issues, amirite? But why is it that I only perform monologues that are about troubled relationships with a father figure? Why is it that my dad is the only person who has the power to make me cry instantaneously? How do I deal with my daddy issues?!
Like many other young boys and girls who constantly throw themselves at other people pleading for attention and love, my daddy issues started at a young age. When I was a boy, my father would work fourteen or sixteen hour days most of the time, as he is a small business owner and has essentially built his career from the ground up without having a college degree. For that, I certainly commend him. That hard work has also allowed my parents to afford the decently comfortable home in which I am now lounging and the very safe town of my childhood. However, I believe my father’s absence has had a lasting effect on me.
I feel as though I am in constant search for the strong male presence in my life that my father never really provided when I was a tyke. I’m also obsessed with making my father proud of me and gaining his support (heyo, legal studies minor). My father hasn’t seen me perform in over two years now, including my professional theatre debut last summer. I recognize that it is hard for him to leave the state and his restaurant, but as much as I understand, it still has been hurting me a lot. Every son yearns for his father’s appreciation, acceptance, and approval. I am still not out to my father and I am following a career path that is rather different than what he had dreamed for me. But, for some reason, I have absolutely no ability to give my father the “fuck you, I do what I want” and I spend every one of our conversations trying to impress him.
Here is where the complication really lies. My father, like any other man, is imperfect. As I have grown into adulthood, I have been painfully forced to see these imperfections and, at times, give my opinion on them. My parents announced their divorce some three weeks before I left for my freshman year of college and since then, my family life has been a dizzying torrent of change and complications. Many of these challenges have been brought about by the questionable decisions of my father. As his twenty year old son, however, I feel like I have no power but to scream at him once about the wrongs I think he commits and then move on, pretending as though nothing has ever happened.
Two summers ago, we got into a public yelling match which ended in tears on my part (no surprise there). I jumped into my car – my 1996 bright red Yukon, Hank, who I cherished more than anything – and drove to Barnes and Noble. I purchased a copy of All My Sons by Arthur Miller. I highlighted the following quote: “I know you’re no worse than most men but I thought you were better. I never saw you as a man. I saw you as my father.” I dropped it off at my dad’s house and I asked him to read the play. I am almost positive that he never did. (Note: Maybe that is the most stereotypical theatre major reaction, but it made sense to me at the time.)
Now, I ask you, daddy-issue ridden peers, what is a boy supposed to do? How do I balance my never-ending struggle to appease my father while also being able to talk to him when I think he is in the wrong? What happens when a child becomes an adult? How do we approach relationships with our parents? I will never stop feeling like I am subject to my dad’s opinion, but now I am old enough to form my own judgments of his choices. My father may still have that all-powerful ability to influence my decisions and make me feel childlike, but I am now soberly forced to look at him as an imperfect human, instead of the idyllic, yet absent, figure I grew up with.
So, sorry acting class for bursting into tears when we start to talk about fathers. There’s just a lot going on in my head.
Stay hot and keep it messy,