The idea of my dad knowing that I have a sex life is both mortifying and completely intangible.
I’m not really sure if he really knows that this column exists, and whether he did or not, I don’t talk to him about my love life. It’s not like I run my mouth about it it to my mom either, but she’s read enough of my column’s headlines to know what’s been going on over the past couple of years in the sex department. I’m pretty comfortable talking to her about my relationship, and she’s moderately comfortable asking if I used protection that one time.
But my dad? That’s not a topic that’s up for discussion. We don’t talk about feelings. Our relationship is built on arguing about petty shit, doing weird impersonations, and talking about history. Guys? Absolutely not.
I’m an only child who never really had The Talk™ with my parents, and I have a feeling that my parents didn’t really think it was necessary anyway. School taught me the basics, and I suspect that they knew, just like I did, that my chances of having a boyfriend during those years were slim to none. We weren’t wrong. I never had a boyfriend in high school, or even so much as a prom date, or a date period for that fucking matter. Boys were never in the picture, and maybe that was a relief for him.
Whether in pop culture or in real life, the image of the formidable father intimidating his daughter’s new boyfriend hasn’t really changed. Maybe he’s holding a shot gun or a steely, untrusting gaze, but the message is the same: Don’t fuck with my daughter, and preferably, literally do not fuck my daughter. The closest my dad ever came to unleashing some kind of sex panic in my teens was when my mom told him I was in my room with Alex. To his alarm, he yelled, “She’s got a boy up there?”
He was quickly corrected: Alex was a girl.
What was once seen as an endearing or comical feature of the family patriarch is now more readily seen for what it is: Sexist, archaic, and a little creepy. Still, I understand why a father could be paranoid about their daughter’s romantic trysts; they understand the unsavory thirst of a teenage boy better than anyone else.
But my dad never had to grapple with the fact that his teen daughter likes teen boys and some teen boys might like his teen daughter back. Instead, he’s confronting the reality of his grown ass daughter liking a grown ass man, and a grown ass man finally liking his grown ass daughter in return. He’s not dealing with meeting a pimply faced kid studying for his SATs at the door, attempting to pick up his daughter. He’s dealing with a 27-year-old man with a 401k, planning to move in with his daughter. At times, I lament my lack of prior experience in the romance department, but maybe I’m not the only one feeling some kind of way about it; my dad missed out on some fatherly landmarks of his own.
My boyfriend, a couple of friends, and I are soon embarking on a cross country road trip from New York City to my motherland of Los Angeles. Once we arrive at our final destination, my boyfriend and my parents will be reunited for the first time in nearly a year and a half, and we’ll be staying with them for a few days. In typical nervous wreck fashion, I’ve fretted about what our interactions will be like. Would it be a bold move to kiss my boyfriend in front of him? The thought makes me want to die. What will the sleeping arrangements will be like? Would my dad be cool with us sleeping in the same bed under his roof? Is that going to be really fucking weird? Should my boyfriend and I sleep in two separate beds like a married couple on a ’50s TV show? Is he going to feel a little sick to his stomach whenever he’s around my boyfriend for prolonged periods of time? What if he has seen my column. Christ.
“Was I the first guy your dad ever met?” my boyfriend recently asked as he fidgeted with his phone. I’m pretty sure he already knew the answer.
“Yep,” I said. “The first and only.”
“It must have been weird for him.”
Believe it or not, I never really gave my dad’s first encounter with my boyfriend much thought; we had dinner, my boyfriend was grilled about his decision not to go to law school, and that’s about it. But now that I think about it, my dad was a 70-year-old man when he met the first man in his daughter’s life, and that must have been bizarre as hell. I’m sure it would be strange for any parent, but I wonder if he’s really at a place to see his daughter, who spent so much of her life having a sexless life, suddenly reappear back into his life as a “taken woman.”
One time, I mentioned something my boyfriend said while having a disagreement with my dad on the phone. With a dismissive huff, he said something along the lines of, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, well, I guess he’s an expert then!”
Uh, whoa there.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever identified as a Daddy’s Girl. He taught me how to ride a bike and how to drive a car. Sometimes if my mom said no, I went to my dad and he said yes. But I wasn’t some spoiled princess who relied on daddy for everything. I do know that even if I’m not a Daddy’s Girl, I’m absolutely my father’s daughter, for better and for worse. I’ve taken on his extroversion and ability to talk to anyone with ease, but I’ve also embraced his temper and tendency to pass blame for my own failings. I looked like his clone when I was a kid. I still have his smile. It’s just strange to navigate what an adult relationship between my dad and I will realistically look like, and the presence of another man in my life is making this query even more complicated.
I don’t see myself having a heart-to-heart with my dad anytime soon about boys and feelings and any of that crap. But I do hope to get to a point in which I can feel a little less like a surly, closed off teenager about my relationship whenever I’m talking to him. I’m ready for this to start feeling normal, and hopefully he is, too.