One of my weekly self-care practices that I most look forward to is getting a manicure. I simply love the pampering. I enjoy the filing and buffing of my nails, the neatening of my cuticles and, of course, the relaxing massage that accompanies it all. And even though I prefer to luxuriate in complete silence, I have been going to my nail salon for about 20 years. So inevitably, my desire for silence is forfeited as my manicurist and I, who have children one month apart in age, exchange mommy tales.
But last week, our usual light-hearted chat took a different turn. Somehow, we landed on the topic of fathers. She shared that she did not meet or know who her father was until she was 16 years old. Despite a promise to marry her mother, he already had a wife and children. Upon discovering his deception, her mother decided to proceed with the pregnancy, and she and her mom went on to make a life that did not include him.
But it was as she recounted the day that she finally met her father, that I watched her face redden and her eyes grow glassy. Shame engulfed her as she spoke of standing before him as he ‘looked at [her] like nothing.’ Tears threatened to fall as she spoke of looking just like her father even down to the creased thick skin that rests between her eyebrows and makes her look like she is in a perpetual state of concentration. She said that she hates looking like her father and always has. For all of her adult life, she has longed to have plastic surgery to erase the facial feature that makes her undeniably her father’s daughter. Her voice cracked as she admitted that her daughter even bears the same marker, which rips her heart apart whenever she looks at her.
She needed me to say something. I knew that because I recognized the familiar anguish of not being loved by a father the way your heart longs for. It is a feeling that time eventually reduces to a state of dormancy for some of us. But for many, like my manicurist, the excruciating rejection never leaves. Rather, it bears more rotten fruit. And the words I had to offer her were nowhere near as deep or poignant as I would have liked. They were just simple truths. I told her no matter how identical her face is to her father’s, she is not him. And neither is her daughter. I told her that at least she can be proud that she chose a wonderful father for her daughter who will, thankfully, never have to know the pain she has known.
How The Presence or Absence of a Father Impacts Us
Pride washed over her face as she explained that her certainty that her husband would be a great father was her primary reason for marrying him. I instantly thought about the impact our fathers’ presence has on our lives. Women whose fathers were present walk through the world knowing exactly what love looks like. They often possess a refusal to settle for anything less than they deserve. They seem to move through life with a boldness that boasts knowing nothing other than wearing a polished crown. Fear is fleeting in these women’s lives. They know where they are weak, daddy is strong. They undoubtedly are the luckiest of us.
Then there are the women who spend a lifetime desperately in search of their father. Or we look to right his many wrongs through countless surrogates. We exhaust ourselves seeking refuge in the arms of men who see how starved we are. And they feed us heartily–with empty promises, infidelity, irresponsibility, and disrespect. And we eagerly consume it all. Or we undertake Iyanla-like projects to fix their lives when we should be fixing our own.
But to the women, like my manicurist, who used the wounds inflicted by their father, to know better and do better for themselves and their children, you are an inspiration. You possess a self-awareness and strength that many of us spend a lifetime in search of or never realize. Healing is what all of us fatherless daughters are seeking. And to be healed is what we deserve.