My dad and I were not particularly close as I was growing up. I could remember it from a very young age. Even as kids when we lived in the DC area, for some reason, I always thought it was weird to call him “Dad.”
Fast-forward to high school in Florida, and I still found myself having a challenging time developing a relationship with my father. All I wanted to do was be his friend, but in his eyes, we were not allowed to be friends yet. He had to be the demanding, controlling, overbearing father. Enter: Tiger-dad.
Even when college came around, I somehow did not escape the nest. My parents had a plan for me it seemed: move from DC to FL, as close as we can to a university in Orlando, so I don’t have to move away from home. Every time I watch the show “Fresh Off The Boat,” it slightly reminds me of this life.
You would think things would have changed by college, but actually, they got worse. I was still not allowed to do overnights with friends or go on spring breaks. Even if I wanted to be out past midnight to go dancing, my best friend at the time had to plead and beg for me to go. In fact, until I was finished with college, I was not allowed to have a boyfriend. I guess I didn’t want a boyfriend bad enough, as it took me five whopping years to finish at the University of Central Florida. But alas, I had a college boyfriend–one my dad despised. In hindsight, he had every reason to. But because of the lack of closeness I had with my father, I filled that void with my college boyfriend who I now call my ex-husband.
Even when I finally left the house after college and started an advertising job, we still had a hard time finding the words to say to each other. When I packed up my U-Haul to leave Orlando for Fort Lauderdale, those three little words were still never spoken. I still visited home every month to spend time with my mom and my sister, because they were, and always will be, my very best friends. Sometimes he would think we’d formed a coalition against him. Sometimes he was right.
I ended up marrying my college boyfriend, mostly because my dad didn’t want me to live in sin when I moved up north. So, a year-and-a-half later, the inevitable happened, and the excuse for me to escape this toxic relationship and get a divorce finally appeared.
I have now been in the DC area for seven years, though I’ve had the itch to leave this city before I even got here. But for some reason, I stay.
Since that relationship, I’ve done my share of what we call “dating” as a millennial (I barely make the cut, by the way). But as my relationship with my father started to finally blossom into one where I could look to him for advice on life, philosophies, career, and finances, I no longer found the need to “just be” with a man. I was finally happy because our entire family was at last, close. As they say, time heals all wounds. Something I had never thought in a million years would happen. Oh no! Not with tiger dad.
Does he have his share of episodes that flash back to the days when we were still young? Absolutely. We all do. But now we sort it out as a family, as a unit, as a whole. And as friends.
I thought I’d never see the day when I would finally become close enough with my dad, that it would finally diminish my so-called “daddy issues” and help me break my streak of not-meant-for-me men that have made their appearance in my life since the start of the millennium.
Maybe this newfound closeness will help me discover that one true love I have been waiting for, for 33 years.
More personal essays on Voices: Time Spent Drifting – Being Okay with Directionless Phase of Life
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Photo: Nathan Walker via Unsplash