Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Witness: My father didn't protect me

When I started looking more womanly (that is, developing breasts) my father took notice. And not in a necessarily creepy way. I mean, let's be honest, there's a level of creep to any man pointing out your tits no matter who they are to you. But sex wasn't a taboo subject in my household growing up. I knew all about sex from the myriad porn stashes my father had around the house. In the bathroom, in the bedroom, on the satellite dish, on the computer... my dad's love of sex wasn't subtle.

And given my mother actively participated in this, by buying him porn for birthdays and such, I assume it was a consensual amount of porn in the house. When she and I have talked about it, we laugh. She blushes a little, because your grown ass daughter saying "there was so much porn in our house!" would likely make most mothers blush, but she never apologizes. Because she shouldn't. I feel I grew up in a sex positive environment and as a result, I don't have that many hangups about sex that haven't come from trauma later.

But back to my original point. My parents, but mostly my father, didn't hide the world of sex from me. I knew how it worked and I was genuinely curious about sex. This curiosity was sated by the multitude of magazines around the house. I learned all the words for all the things at a curiously young age. Did this turn me into a promiscuous sex-addict? Nope. I have a healthy sex life. I'm good.

As I hit my teenage years, my father began to notice that men noticed me. We owned a business, a saw mill, and often on the weekend we would have a gathering of men around. My grandfather, my cousin (who was forty to fifty years my senior), my father's best friend... plus any customers and other men we knew from being country bumpkins. It was a regular weekend for me to wake up, help my mother make coffee, and take it out the boys.

When dad would come in for dinner, he'd always tell me if someone had asked about me. The questions ranged from how old I was to if I was seeing anyone. Most people I thought I was around 18 - 19. I was tall for my age, and my breasts were never tiny. Maybe briefly in grade 6. After that I was teased incessantly at school for being busty. Dad frequently told me that these men, whom I supposed he saw as benign, were asking, essentially, if I was sexually available.

If my father took pride in the fact that men found me attractive, I don't really know. I can only assume he was trying to bolster my budding self confidence by telling me that men, and I mean men in their 30's, 40's, 50's, found me attractive. It didn't make me feel more confident, just more self conscious.

At one point I started dating a family friend. My dad's best friend had a son the same age as me. We were always together when we visited each other's families. Naturally we were 'dating'. We kissed, made out, and that's about it. My father never interrupted us when we were alone in his room. He never threatened this boy to treat me well. He never made a scene about the two of us being a thing. He never told me to be careful. He never tried to mention the large number of guns we had in the closet.

And when that fizzled he didn't say anything either. He just mentioned that a boy down the street, a few years older than me, was around recently and talked about me. It felt like he was trying to encourage me to keep dating. To see people. To get out there and give 'er my best. This always mystified me.

In a world where television series told me my dad should be threatening and imposing to those suitors who wanted to come over and steal my innocence, leave me knocked up, and treat me like crap once they left, my father proved an anomaly. Protective in every other way, he gave me an oddly firm foundation on my own liberty when it came to dating. I never felt I had to prove whom I was dating was good enough.

My father died when I was 14. I don't know what he would've thought about my decade older boyfriend at 18. Or the abusive man I almost married. Or the man I dated who was poly and had a wife, a child, and another husband. I don't know what he'd think of my husband now.

I know that despite his heavy influence of gender roles, my dad didn't step up and act like an overbearing creep when it came to my sexuality or my dating. I know that in spite of he and my mother raising an independent and outgoing daughter, his final wish for me was to find a good man.

Maybe that's what he meant by it all. Go out and find a good man for yourself, kiddo.

Thanks Dad.

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