My dad and I don’t really chat. Sure, we talk and we know what’s going on in each other’s lives and I critique the foods he eats and he checks that I have $20 in cash whenever I’m going to the bar…but we don’t shoot the shit the way I do with my mom. I assume this stems from my father being very manly and me having zero interest in any of the things he likes to do.
I tried to learn fishing from him when I was little. I learned very quickly that we suffered from a fundamental difference in methods: I mainly go fishing to be social and talk about my day…and my dad goes fishing to, you know, catch some fish and sit quietly for a while. I quickly gave up fishing.
I was never into sports growing up, but we found ways to blend our interests in that department. I joined the marching band in high school and gave him a great reason to go watch football. When it came to televised sports, I used to sit and watch a few innings/periods/insert the proper sports vernacular and try to ask pertinent questions. (It should be noted that, “What are you getting so upset about?” was not and is still not considered a “pertinent question” in my dad’s opinion.) As I got older, Dad would call me in to watch golf and point out which players were young and handsome. He soon learned that I always asked their height and marital status, so he did his best. I tried to give my dad approximately 2 minutes of face time with my high school boyfriends when they came to pick me up, in order to allow for some man conversations. You know, how’s the track team and all that. It had nothing to do with me finishing the application of mascara. Nothing at all.
He also did his best to get into my interests. This included things like driving me and my friends to Hanson concerts and showing the patience of a saint while we waited to see if the band would come out to their tour bus. He listened to long, dramatic stories of what everyone at school said, particularly if I waited until he was trapped in the car with me. He responded appropriately, siding with me when necessary, assuring me that boys were stupid, and flat out lying by telling me I didn’t need to worry because one day I would be a “heartbreaker.” (ANY DAY NOW, DAD.) He bragged about marching band and honors societies with more pride in his voice than any athlete’s parent ever did.
We found our common ground in other ways. The original Star Wars trilogy. Chinese takeout. Baseball, which I came around to even though we support different teams. I don’t like old cars but I like taking pictures of old cars, so we wander around them together.
I have only once asked my dad for relationship advice, and he was pinch-hitting for my mom. (Hey Dad, check out that totally appropriate sports comparison! I know it’s appropriate because I googled it for confirmation. But you’re impressed, right?) He stood there, baffled by what to do with the crying teenager in front of him. “Well…” he started slowly, navigating this minefield of emotion, “it sounds to me like this young man is acting like an idiot.” I was horrified. I was SMITTEN with that boy, that idiot! My jaw dropped. “But,” he continued thoughtfully, “he’ll realize that he doesn’t deserve you and work a little harder. Boys sometimes need time to figure that out.”
Father/daughter relationships are a tricky thing. Some dads, like mine, get tripped up trying to find the right words; words that won’t be dismissed by teenage girls (who are smarter than parents, didn’t you know), words that will instill a respect for the rules, words that will show a daughter how proud he is without being too sentimental. Dad came through that day. Just like every other day of my life, he showed up and did exactly what was needed. Maybe I’ll never take him up on his offer to teach me golf. Maybe he’ll always ask why I have to wear my jeans so low. Maybe he’ll never stop telling me I don’t need makeup. But now I can see that teaching me golf is his way of asking if I want to spend time with him. Saying I don’t need makeup is how he compliments me. And asking why I don’t wear my pants up higher…well, I’m pretty sure that’s just an overprotective, paternal instinct hard at work, actually.