Updated: Aug 30, 2022
I don’t talk about my dad a lot. Quite frequently I post screenshots of conversations with my mother, ridiculous shit she’s said that’s usually corny albeit centered around something supportive. She’s become somewhat of a staple in my brand – colonizer mom who supports her whore daughter. We love to see it.
But Dad is not joked about, celebrated or featured because there’s hardly anything to pull from. Very few texts, not much centered in support, nothing corny or outlandish. It’s mostly silence on his end.
These last 10 years we’ve gotten closer and “close” in this instance is relative because it means talking more frequently than never. And it has meant (me) finding something we can bond over to keep conversation going. I’ve found that talking about business creates some common ground, this is an area he’s knowledgeable about so, wisdom and guidance comes easy. No lulls or awkwardness, just a dad talking about how to properly file taxes so you don’t owe the IRS an arm and a leg.
And beyond that making him feel useful, it’s been helpful for me as a business owner navigating things for the first time – we had a long conversation about budgeting for long-term savings and retirement since there is no pension for freelancers. But in these conversations, I only hint towards what I do or give the “professional” version. I talk about being a therapist and having a production company, Kink Media Group, and all of the tasks involved in starting a non-profit. Every now and then I mention sex workers in passing and or how I’m impacted by being a sex worker, but only in disguised language.
I am terrified to be myself around my father.
And this doesn’t fit with who I know myself to be. Which gives me major guilt and crisis because I’ve built so much of my identity around being unapologetic and authentic. I suck dick for money, I eat coochie on yachts, I do porn and I’ve played “coke or molly” with strippers at more than one NBA party. In many ways, the desire to be provocative was directly impacted by him – even in his absence, the expectation to be small and chaste lingered and I wanted nothing to do with that. And while I have no shame or fear in telling you about my escapades, I cannot fathom saying those words aloud around him. Which means almost none of the content I’ve created, none of that business we bond over, can be shared. None of the things I’m most proud of and what has gained me a following, career and income can be celebrated or discussed.
How much of our shame is inherited from our fathers?
I’ve been told I have daddy issues, but these issues were given to me, passed on and awarded as a daughter to a man, dare I exist without his looming anxieties and fear. Sometimes I struggle to discern what’s his and what’s mine and, of course, that’s the goal: that what is men’s becomes law and truth and we ought to wholeheartedly agree or else. Believing this shame is my own is the ultimate gaslight, innit?
Because I *should* be embarrassed about being a whore, I *should* be disgusted about “giving my body away.” I *should* want to “save” myself for whoever and what the fuck ever. Those are things that I’m supposed to want …I am supposed to want the things the men of the world want for me. You don’t realize how much you’ve internalized patriarchy until you’re faced with your father and for that I am grateful he was never around. Because I was able to go most of my life without being consumed with that direct anxiety around what a man would think, what *the* man would think. I was not stunted by patriarchy living in my home and monitoring my every move. Men in the home? I don’t know her. I cringe to imagine how fathers’ rules live within our mothers and queer uncles; even when dads are not around, we damn near can’t escape it.
But him being absent also meant I did not build a muscle to stiff the “most important” man – I can rebel against bosses, peers, men on the street, my middle school principal, and neighbors but …that *one* man? I need practice. I need practice planting my feet, being firm and screaming “fuck you” to the person who is positioned as the head of household. The one who give permission to marry. The one with the loaded shotgun when “boys come around.” The almighty father.
Fathers are a terrifying concept. Destroy them and the fear they pass on.
Even dads who aren’t actively scary, the loving ones, soft and kind: how have they impacted you? What of his do you carry? And if not his, dads in general. How have dads informed your relationship with your body, your idea of work/productivity, what contributing to a relationship looks like, what’s expected of you in certain settings or even how to pick and choose your words to not be too loud or too bold? These are imprints of fathers and we all have them, even if our fathers are kind and funny, even if we don’t have fathers at all. Patriarchy doesn’t skip a generation because your dad did the dishes, held you when you were sad or loved your mother with all his heart.
Who would you be without patriarchy as a personality trait?
This goes beyond jogging at night and wearing what you want, patriarchy is so embedded into our entire understanding of ourselves. It shapes who we think we ought to be and how we show up in any given space. Pondering this question requires a level of imagination perhaps we can’t even access. Because even our dreams and subconscious know the rules.
I don’t know what I need to create that version of myself in this world to plainly say, without fear and with pride, who I am to my father. We aren’t given the luxury of being individuals when patriarchy lives within our family tree. So, the best I can do is remind myself that my daddy issues aren’t mine at all, they are his to hold. And I can choose to believe that my identity is more important than an “ideal” version of myself created by men.
Update: I told my dad I was a sex worker. It was not without fear, but I allowed my fear and pride to co-exist and the words did leave my mouth, even though I struggled to say them. He was more uncomfortable than me and, with less tolerance for unpleasant emotions, the conversation ended abruptly with a swift change in topic. And so, life continues.