“He said he’s got the hotel ready for us tonight. I was supposed to go yesterday, but my moms was buggin’ so I’m going tonight. He’s coming to get me at the next stop,” went the conversation being held behind me as I waited for the subway this afternoon with a bunch of high school students fresh from dismissal. When I turned around I saw exactly what I expected: Two teenage girls in school uniforms in all of their shaved faux-hawk, false-eyelashed imagined maturity who probably thought they were more grown than I was.
It’s easy to assume that every teenage girl who’s running the streets at all hours of the night and jumping from bedroom to backseat clearly has “daddy issues”. And as stereotypical as that might be on my part, could you blame me? As of 2011, 11.7 million families in the United States were headed by single parent, 85.2% which were headed by a female and about one-third of those females were black.
What does that mean? It means that someone needs to take ownership. Fathers need to take ownership for leaving their daughters defenseless with no positive male point of view and daughters need to take ownership that at some point, “I didn’t have no daddy around when I was growing up,” is no longer an acceptable excuse for questionable behavior.
Adolescence is difficult enough even when you have two parents to tell you how special you are everyday. I can remember struggling with body issues myself as I noticed the difference between my late-bloomer body and friends who were getting curves and cup sizes past the first two letters of the alphabet. Much of my teens was like social dodge ball. I saw my friends get chosen by boys in the neighborhood one by one while I was always left last sitting on the porch. Even in my insecurities I knew what I would not settle for, and as much of my tears would try to tell you otherwise, I knew there were certain things I wouldn’t do for some guy’s vacant approval. The relationship I witnessed between my mother and father proved to me that a man will only do as much as you allow him to and that you have to demand for respect standing strong, instead of waiting for it to fall on you while you lay on your back.
Friends often told me how lucky I was to have the father that I admittedly took for granted at times. As we grew into women, I couldn’t help but notice that the more I found myself, the more lost they seem to become. Like the cliché, they were looking for love in all the wrong places: in the bathroom stall in the club, in the arms of unavailable men or in the direction of whatever attention was thrown their way. But there comes a time when all women have to stop waiting for their caped crusader and start saving themselves. Just like I can’t use the rejection of some raggedy neighborhood boys to limit my ability to love myself, my friends can’t use the misfortunes of their childhood to excuse believing that they only deserve to be loved lying down.
Positive father figures give a young girl her first example of how a woman should be treated. A girl thinks she’s valued and validated for nothing more than their measurements but a grown woman knows that a price can’t be placed on her love. It hurts to not have a dad to tell you you’re beautiful when that “Do you Like me? Check ‘Yes’ or ‘No’” note gets returned with the word “never” written on it. But just because you’re dad was a deadbeat, doesn’t mean all men are. Many women waste their adulthood holding all men responsible for the hurt caused by an absent father.
Even though the young girl on the subway platform may not know she’s worth more than a room rented by the hour, there comes a point when you realize your relationship problems are your fault. If you never had a positive male figure, make an effort to find some because they’re out there. If no one is going to tell you you’re beautiful, look in the mirror and tell yourself. Stop giving your past so much power over your future. Any man who isn’t invested in you isn’t worth living rent free in your memory, and he damn sure doesn’t deserve any credit for the incredible women you have the potential to be.
How long is too long to hold on to “daddy issues”?
Toya Sharee is a program associate for a Philadelphia non-profit that focuses on parenting education and building healthy relationships between parents, children and co-parents. She also has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog BulletsandBlessings.