My mother swears that I have “daddy” issues.
This topic of conversation usually comes up when I date anyone who is at all older than I am, though I think she may be biased – after all, if I am truly plagued with issues revolving around my father, that doesn’t leave much room for issues with my mother.
I often point out to her hat I am not actually opposed to dating men who are my own age, or even younger. It just usually turns out that they’re dumb as hell – a little bit of a turn off.
In fact, much to the detriment of her point, the only relationship I have ever had with another person who is younger than I am was probably the most obvious manifestation of whatever “daddy” issues I have left (aside from the years that I swore off men altogether, but that’s another story).
When I brought NE home, he was not yet my fiance. He was a guy I was dating, and to this day I’m not sure how he convinced me to bring him to my parents’. Up until that point, I had never brought anyone home to meet the ‘rents, and hadn’t been planning on breaking the trend anytime soon. However, NE convinced me that it was a good idea. Somehow.
Not to mention, it was the morning after we had slept together for the first time. The morning after we had a huge blowout argument about my not wanting to commit and my refusal to relinquish my right to see as many other people as I wanted.
Really, I don’t know how this happened.
Regardless, we took the drive to NJ on the fourth of July. Or Labor Day. Or one of those holidays that’s warm and requires a barbecue of some sort.
I introduced him to my mom and Bill (my stepfather), and while NE was in the other room talking to Bill, my mother cornered me at the kitchen sink.
“I’m only going to say this once.”
I stared. “Uhh. Ok?”
“If you’ve ever wondered what your dad was like when I was with him, you’re dating him now.”
You see, my mom and dad had a pretty tumultuous relationship. They’re problems began with getting married far too young, and as far as I can tell, for the wrong reasons, and ended with a good mix of drugs, affairs, and misplaced expectations. In what may have been her only insightful moment ever, my mom put her finger on the most obvious manifestation of any issues I had with my father: I was dating him.
Generally, I take any predictions, generalizations, and conclusions made by my mother with a large grain of salt. Her and I are very different, and I tend to find her overly emotional and not quite logical enough for my advice-taking tastes — though, I’m pretty sure there are plenty of people out there who would say the same exact thing about me. But, in this case, she was more right than I could have imagined.
Aside from being a little more emotionally reactive, NE was my dad in slightly taller packaging. And on some weird, slightly effed up subconscious level, I was determined to love him the way my mother never loved my dad, and save him the way my mother could never save my dad. I rolled up my daddy issues and savior issues, and I ventured into what would become one of the biggest educational experiences of my life. We dated, for a second, got an apartment, got engaged, had good times, bad times, learned a hell of a lot about ourselves and each other, and canceled the wedding a couple of months before it was scheduled to happen.
Instead of getting married, I planned a long trip to the Dominican Republic to teach art and do research. My plane was scheduled to leave on the same day as my would-be wedding, and as I packed my suitcases, I unpacked the issues I had rolled up years before to see what was left of my daddy issues. I spent the next four months in a third world country and the past year understanding that my relationships don’t have to have anything to do with that of my parents’, that being with and loving a man who is the embodiment of my father doesn’t prove anything to my mom, and certainly isn’t a necessary gesture to prove that I think my dad is a pretty awesome guy at the end of the day, and that I am neither my father nor my mother, and as an individual I will find someone to compliment me, regardless of them.
I loved, and I learned. I am grateful for it.