My first memory ever is of me waiting in the window of our living room for my father to pick me up. It must’ve been winter because I remember being hot, zipped up in my coat that I refused to take off because he was “five minutes away.”
He never showed.
But my mother let me wait. She didn’t fuss at me for keeping my coat on for well over 30 minutes, she didn’t call him out of his name in front of me out of the anger and hurt I’m sure she felt at seeing me hurt, again.
She let me wait because she’s brilliant enough to understand that I needed to learn, on my own, that he was not, and is not, capable of loving me, being there for me, and being in my life the way I wanted and deserve.
That was well over 20 years ago, and even though I like to think that I’m over it, I know that I am not. I know that I still have some healing to do, and I am just now accepting that he just will not be the Daddy I want.
I always wanted to be a daddy’s girl; I wanted to sit on his lap, talk to him about frivolous stuff, introduce him to my boyfriends and let him scare them away. I wanted him to be there. I’m not the only one. Daily I see black girls hurting and showing it in many ways, and sometimes when you get down to it, the root is daddy wasn’t there.
It manifests in my relationships, my mental health, the way I see myself, the way I see others, my interactions. At one point it truly enveloped my entire life so negatively that I shut down, gave in to depression and began to develop a self hate so antagonizing that I was never happy and I never thought I would be. I’m still feeling the effects of that time, but I’m on my way out.
I’m one of the blessed ones, though. I did not have him, but I was privileged to have so many strong black men around me that love profusely to soften the blow of my father’s negligence. My stepdad is the daddy that I would have created if God gave me the chance; he has been there for me through hell and high water, and refused to not love me even when I didn’t want to admit that I appreciated his presence. My Unkie has always been there, and my Pastor calls me his daughter because he’s been more of a father than the man that helped my mother make me. I have an outstanding Godfather, and a friend that I call brother because that’s what he is. I’m truly blessed.
But I know that I am an exception to the rule. I also still wish that the man I look just like would pick up the phone every once in a while just to check on me. I wish that I didn’t have to see him in the mirror, hear him when I laugh, and sound like him when I argue with those I love and love me.
Truth is, he and I are very much alike, and that fact haunts me. Most times I feel like I got all of the worst parts of him, but that also comes from the fact that all I really know of him is the worst parts. All I know is the empty promises, petty comments, and selfish intentions. All I know is the man that hurt, and still hurts me.
I also know, though, that I do not fight this alone. Outside of my two half sisters, there are other girls out there that may not be my daddy’s girls, but want to be daddy’s girls just like I did. I see it in my little cousins who are either numb from their father’s disengagement or near tears on special days because he forgets them. I see it in their mothers who are angry that their girls are hurting, but are at their own wit’s end and don’t have any more pep talks to give.
I see it in my students who’s fathers are in jail, on drugs, or dead. I see it in my contemporaries who are trying to figure out this adult life and raise their own kids and be parents that they didn’t have.
I see it when I watch videos of black men talking about how much their sons need them, and I argue that their girls do too. We need our daddies to not only scare away the monsters under our beds, but show us what it feels like to be loved by a man the right way so that we have less of a chance of settling for one that has daddy’s bad traits.
So black girls, I get it, more than you know. I know that the shit hurts so bad sometimes that you start an argument with your mom or boyfriend because you just need to be angry. I know how it feels to distrust men so bad that you almost drive away the ones that truly want to be there. But I also know that it gets better. It may not feel like it; it may not seem as if it will, but it does.
Every day I fight the urge to hate him, and in turn hate myself. Every day I cope with depression stemming from his neglect and my untreated hurt, and some days are better than others. But the betters are more in number.
The idea of him is just an idea. Ideas are fleeting, but if they are held on to for too long they can either be strengthening or diminishing in ways that we can’t fathom. Black girl, you’re gonna be alright, and he’s not the daddy you deserve, and that is okay. You are, however, the best thing that has happened to your own existence, and he cannot dictate who you are, what you are becoming, or where you are going. So, don’t let him. Love yourself the way you wish he could.
The hurt may not ever go away completely — mine hasn’t. But you will get to the point where your living and loving and joy are more important to you than his absence, his fear of fatherhood. And you will live, and love, and have a joy that he, or any other man or woman, cannot dismantle.
Dear Black Girl, I love you, and you’ll get through this. Your love is too precious to have thrown back in your face anyway.