My relationship with my dad has never been a shining example of warm, fuzzy love and adoration. I love my dad, truly; and for all intents and purposes, he is a good dad. He’s always been around-ish, he’s always provided for our family, and I know that he loves my brother and me deeply, and he expressed that love in his own, unique ways. We have never had that relationship that so many of my friends have, though, where their daddies think the sun shines out of their assholes and they think their daddies are the strongest, most impressive men alive.
The complications between my dad and I started at a very early age. He believed that girls did one thing, and boys another; it’s how he was raised. That’s why I believe it was an intentional twist of fate that he ended up with children that almost entirely swapped gender roles. I was a jock, a tomboy through and through, playing, and excelling at, softball, basketball, soccer, and volleyball all throughout my adolescence; while my little brother wanted nothing to do with any of that garbage, and spent his time holed up in his room drawing, painting, reading, and playing video games. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed those activities, too; but there wasn’t much time for them in between practices, games, and tournaments.
While he never actually tried to stop me from playing sports, my entire life has been a study in passive aggressive, misogynistic jabs, particularly when I decided to speak my mind. If I ever spoke up, I’d get, “Oh, go write your stories,” or, “You really shouldn’t butt in to things you don’t understand” [football, politics, anything not about fiction or baking], etc., etc. This was the boilerplate response whenever I expressed an opinion that did not jive with his own.
At this point in my life, I have the best relationship with my dad I have ever had. As soon as I moved out of his house, our relationship improved. We were no longer forced to interact with each other every day and have our glaring differences stare us in the face at all times. We have still had some tiffs here and there, and we will never be all warm and fuzzy; but we were fine.
Then 2016 happened.
I had never really heard my parents talk about politics, or perhaps I just didn’t pay attention until I started taking my own interest in them. I knew my mom was from a long-line of Kentucky, legacy democrats, but it still never really registered. Once I started doing my own research and learning about the intricacies of both parties, it was clear from the jump that I related far more with the left than I did the right. The cynical part of me always wondered if my dad decided to become such a right wing nut because he was sure my mom had brainwashed me into liberalism; but as the years marched on and I understood the ways of the world in a more realistic way, I understood that my dad was just a deeply flawed man. He was racist, he was homophobic, he was sexist, he was passive aggressive, he was small-minded, he was violently and willfully ignorant, he was controlling, and he was incessantly treading in a very deep pool of his own fragile, masculine insecurities.
It got to the point where, instead of raging about him, I started to pity him. I pity the hate in his heart and the crippling fear he possesses toward anything even remotely different than his idea of ‘normal.’ I pity his inability to feel compassion and empathy for the hardships of strangers and that he begrudges LGBTQ+ individuals love ONLY because it makes him uncomfortable. I pity his stance that his own daughter’s opinion and beliefs matter less because she has the wrong reproductive organs. All of my life I’ve been acutely aware that my dad always thought I should sit down and shut up, and that would be the only way he’d truly be proud to call me his own.
Which brings us to Donald Trump.
I never questioned the fact that my dad would be an initial Trump supporter. Trump is every mediocre white man’s wet dream come to life. There was absolutely nothing exceptional about Trump except that he was able to turn a $2 million loan into a vast empire of unfathomable wealth. No matter that he gained that wealth by cheating, stealing, and operating a shady, unethical business. The end justifies the means! It was exactly what men like my dad wanted in a potential POTUS, and Trump gave them free reign to be hateful misogynists, racists, and homophobes to boot!
I did think, however, that once all of the retched things Trump had done, said, and inflicted came to light, he may have changed his tune a little bit. I knew he would never stoop so low as to actually vote for Hillary, I’m not an idiot, after all; but I thought he may abstain from voting this year, or maybe throw a Hail Mary for good ol’ Gary ‘Aleppo’ Johnson. But, in fact, he only dug in deeper. The day that the video was released of Trump telling Billy Bush to ‘grab them by the pussy’ was the day I thought it might finally sink in. I happened to see my dad that day and asked him what he thought and his response was, “Ahhh, it’s just locker room talk, he didn’t mean it,” and that was it. I felt the tenuous structure of our bond shatter, a fissure straight through its foundation.
This man, my father– the man who made me, raised me, gave me away on my wedding day, and was there when I brought his two cherished granddaughters into the world looked me in the eyes and told me that this despicable, pathetic excuse for a man who was recorded condoning–nay, BOASTING about– sexual assault was simply misunderstood. When I asked him how he would feel if Donald J. Trump grabbed ME or MY DAUGHTERS by the pussy, he snapped that I should, “watch my mouth” and “act like a lady.”
That was it. That was the day all of the respect I had for my father officially fizzled out. Do I love him still? Of course I do. He is my dad, for better or worse. It’s why I have visited and turned away from writing this story nearly 30 different times since the election. I do not wish to inflict pain upon him, I only wish that one of these days, he’d allow a little bit of love to take the place of some of the hate in his heart.
The utter disdain I felt for him in that moment has also morphed into sadness, because in that moment, I felt as though he truly had morphed into a pitiable man. He is so blinded by his perceived plight and privilege (that he will never own up to) that he cannot see past the haze of his own crippling insecurities and hypocrisy. He cannot bear the thought of Americans accepting government assistance, despite the fact that his mother lived on government income for her entire adult life, literally. He cannot remedy himself to the “choice” of homosexuality, because it’s a sin and “unnatural”, yet he has not stepped over the threshold of a house of worship since he was in high school, save a wedding, a funeral, or a baptism. He is a self-made, semi-successful man, true, but he came from very humble beginnings and yet is the biggest snob walking the earth. And, finally, he has so little respect for my gender that a man triumphantly barking about grabbing women by the pussy did not even phase him. He did not stop to consider how this man gaining access to the White House and appointing cabinet members that believe life was better when my marriage would have been arranged, and I’d have stayed home, barefoot and pregnant, would affect me, my daughters, or the millions of other American women in the crossfire.
He has so little respect for me and my independence that he lauded this man that thinks I am less-than. What other conclusion am I to come to, I ask you, other than my father also thinks I am less-than? How do I answer my daughter’s questions when they ask why Mimi, PopPop (my in-laws) and PawPaw voted proudly for Donald Trump, when all they’ve heard from their mommy and daddy is how he’s such a terrible human? (I figured that out, by the way, I told them to ask their grandparents directly).
I was so shaken and disoriented by Donald Trump actually winning the United States presidency that, for just a split second, I decided maybe I wasn’t so convinced of my “rightness” after all. If Donald Trump could really be president, then everything I knew and loved about this country was truly a lie. It really did shake me to my core. In my annual Christmas letter to my dad, I told him that I wanted to try and make 2017 a year of self-reflection. I wanted to try and understand all sides, not just the one I believe in. I still believe that. I want to know the psychology behind this phenomena. What I did not receive, however, was the same courtesy from my father. He loooooooved my letter and showed it to everyone: “Look! She is going to try and see it from MY side!” But because he is an innately selfish person, it never even crossed his mind to reciprocate, and that is why our relationship will never truly recover.
When I look at him, it’s hard for me to see anything other than ‘the man that was supposed to be my protector who instead decided to feed me and my sisters to the wolves, while also supplying the cutlery and seasoning.’
People like to proclaim that no one should lose relationships because of politics, and while I appreciate the sentiment behind it, it’s not nearly so cut and dry. Is it sad when relationships die out, in any situation? Certainly; sometimes it’s devastating. But the politics we subscribe to are a reflection of our essential selves. In the past, people voting republican has not been an insurmountable issue for me, merely a topic of heated, but civil, discourse, but this year was different. It wasn’t about republican or democrat. It was about the end of life and democracy as we know it. That may sound dramatic, but for all their chirping and railing about decorum and tradition, the far right have done an excellent job of pissing all over it by putting a circus clown in the highest office of the land. We are a laughing stock, and we will all pay for their ignorant mistakes.
As for my dad, this article may seem harsh; but it’s no more harsh than having your own father look you in the eye and tell you that your safety matters less to him than Mexican citizens crossing the border and queer people getting married. He made it very clear that my issues are not his, and so my loyalty faltered.
No relationship can be sustained by one person alone. There must be equal commitment, investment, reciprocation, and compromise given freely by both parties. I would love to have a healthy, sustainable relationship with my dad; more than the one time we see each other a week for a quick dinner. I cannot bear the weight of that relationship alone, though; so until he’s willing to meet me half way, we will continue with business as usual.