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Location: Midwest, United States

I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Had a Dad, Part the Last

So no one got why I writhed so much in my dad’s presence. Perhaps I could convey some element of the basic suffocation, but not the egregious things that really made my dad more than annoying and sometimes even alarming. “Asking too many questions” doesn’t really begin to convey the one-sided and prying nature of most of our conversations. It would start innocently enough with a basic parental inquiry, but as he questioned and I deflected his questions, we would begin a tortured dance of teenage passive resistance and increasing parental determination for some sort of meaningful information:

Dad: So, you went out with Amy and Mia last night?
Me: Yes. You know that.
Dad: What did you three do?
Me: Nothing. We hung out.
Dad: Where?
Me: At Mia’s.
Dad: Where are you when you’re at Mia’s house?
Me: We’re at her house.
Dad: No, I mean are you in the living room? In Mia’s room? Do they have a family room, a rumpus room in the basement?
Me: A rumpus room?
Dad: Where do you spend time when you’re at Mia’s?
Me: …
Dad: Well, what did you do at Mia’s last night?
Me: I don’t know. Nothing.
Dad: Did you play records?
Me: (Lying) No.
Dad: Did you watch TV?
Me: No.
Dad: Did you just talk?
Me: No, Dad. We just sat in silence the whole night. God.
(This whole time my dad is smiling this blithe smile he has, like everything is right with the world and this is just a completely pleasant, not at all tense heart-to-heart between dad and kid.)
Dad: Well, honey, I’m just curious about what you and your friends like to do when you’re together.
Me: Well I don’t even remember what we did. And I wouldn’t want to talk about it if I did.
Dad: (giving up that particular tack, but not giving up) So, are Amy and Mia your best buddies these days?
Me: No.
Dad: So who is your best buddy?
Me: No one. I don’t have “buddies.” I have friends.
Dad: So who’s your best friend?
Me: (Lying) I don’t know. No one. God.

Is this normal? Are all parents of teenagers this persistent, this impervious to their kids’ indications that they don’t want to talk? And if so, do any of them have a kid who can’t bring herself to just say “Shut up and leave me alone”?

I don’t know if this conversation, in itself, seems chilling to you. Maybe it was the context. Something about the way my dad walked through a closed door without knocking, then wondered why I was always locking the door to my room. Something about finding him reading the postcards my first boyfriend had sent me, which I’d stored in a shoebox under my bed. And then, when I reasonably got angry with him for invading my privacy, hearing him argue that he was perfectly justified in reading them, since they were, after all, postcards. (Stored in a covered box. Under my bed.) Something about the way any bit of information I shared about myself might be used to wage yet another battle in his ongoing effort to give me detailed advice regarding every possible aspect of my life.

At that point I thought everything would get so much better once I went away to college. Instead, everything with my dad – and everything between me and my dad – just got weirder and weirder. Perhaps in a few weeks I’ll share with you a few of these later moments. (Watch as E’s dad moves to California and decides to become a homeless environmentalist canvasser! See him create for himself an almost unpronounceable acronym! Look on in astonishment as Dad harasses E. long-distance via the telephone, and witness her decision to cut off all communication with him for almost three years! ) But for now, I think this story has gobbled up enough of my blog. (Or bloggled up enough of my gob.) So, soon we’ll return to the regularly scheduled program of lighthearted musings, scatological anecdotes, and the occasional advice on matters orally hygienic.

Thanks for reading.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. No, my dad was never so interested in my life, thank goodness. You left us all wondering, however, whether you are now in touch with your Dad. And does he know about your blog? That would be interesting...

5:09 AM  
Anonymous Hand G said...

Having been both a son and a dad I can testify to the fact it's not always easy to get the balance right between being interested in and not being too interested in the life of one's offspring!
My dad did a pretty good job of listening but I sometimes wish he'd been a little more inclined to ask more; I think it would have helped.
He's gone now so it's not possible to redress the balance... not that the imbalance was ever that big.
I've always said it takes a brave man to move away from his friends, and your dad must have been aware that when he moved away from his friends - his support group - it would make him more dependent on him; just as you reached an age when you would naturally become less dependent on him.
Something of an emotional perfect storm which probably had something to do with his, and your, next steps.
My only advice:
be kind to each other
try to understand each other
try to be there for each other...
we're human, imperfect...

5:44 AM  
Anonymous Hand G said...

it would make him more dependent on him
should read:
it would make him more dependent on you

5:46 AM  
Blogger Orange said...

It globbled your bog.

I now have a keener appreciation of my reserved dad who asked few questions. Your dad...was it arrested development, wanting to be your age himself?

8:01 AM  
Blogger E. said...

My dad and I are in touch now. And we've struck a pretty respectful balance, after years of difficulty.

In terms of Orange's question about arrested development, I think I can say pretty confidently that it was actually an emerging case of Narcisstic Personality Disorder. I do plan to revisit this story and talk a bit about my adult relationship with my dad, so regular readers will get to hear about that.

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ugh, narcissistic parents. Thanks for this series, E. I look forward to reading more. -- Carmen

11:48 AM  
Anonymous DoctorMama said...

I have a feeling that the problem wasn't so much in what your dad did or said as in the nonverbal messages he was radiating in your direction. Folks like that are slippery because there's never the ONE thing you can say, ok, that was over the line, now we're done. They dance up to the line and back away, over and over and over ...

8:54 AM  

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