“We, of the fatherless tribe love men differently.”
That one line of Gina Loring’s poem, “You Move Me” strikes me every time I hear it because as a young Black woman it rings so heart-wrenchingly true.
Some of us have other shadows of fathers who help but they can never quite be the “Daddy” that we silently envy in the lives of other Black girls. And those other Black girls seem so oblivious, don’t they? So unaware of the pot of gold they’re holding. In having a protective figure. Someone to validate them and instill self-worth. A rule-setter and protector. It’s not the norm anymore. And here we are. Trying to figure out ourselves. Trying to work through issues with our hair, our gifts and talents, our guards that we’ve built up to the high heavens. We struggle with insecurities before we even know what the word means. Our struggle is sometimes much harder because we are Black, we are female and we are fatherless.
We’re overwhelmed with the stereotypes of ourselves splashed across our tv screens. The oversexed young women, longing for daddy figure in their lives, thinking that their bodies are sufficient payment for the transaction. The tough-as-nails maneaters who have taught themselves to be psuedo self-sufficient to avoid being abandoned again. The clingy, overly emotional young women who try to progress a relationship much further than it should possibly go in no time at all. We learn a makeshift kind of love until/if ever a Prince Charming comes along to work with us and even then sometimes we’ve become so calloused or insecure that he wouldn’t recognize us as the queens we were born to be, so he moves along.
I was the clingy girl. I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted to be wrapped up in the arms of a guy who would treat me right and never walk out on me. He didn’t have to be about anything as long as he made me feel wanted. I had no idea at the time that this had anything to do with my father. Then, I turned into the sharp shooter. I refused to give anyone a chance. I shot down invitations to dinner, compliments, anything that could potentially lead to my guard coming down. I wasn’t happy with myself. Fear of others seeing me alone was unbearable. No relationship seemed to work out no matter how hard I tried. I was abandoned and worthless and I could paint a smile on and go about my day like nothing was wrong but nighttime brought my fears to the surface and I was…alone.
A fateful turn of events over the course of about four years forced me to deal with the underlying issues in my life. My father had walked away. I was wounded. I was confused. I was hurt. I didn’t know how to cope, how to love myself (or anyone else) or how to allow a man to love me. I didn’t have the willpower to wait for the right one. I wanted what I could get, perhaps because with my father, all I had was what little I could get. I made every “relationship” my everything in the beginning. Then, after breaking my own heart that way more than a few times, I ventured to the other extreme. I shut all emotion out and found solace in the chase. Messed up, right?
Not long ago I gave up trying to get a man. Though I still want to meet the right person and settle down one day, I don’t actively pursue it like it’s my full time job. I turned my attention to figuring out how to better myself. I gave up trying to understand why my father chose not to be a dad. This wasn’t easy, especially since for the longest time I never believed I was holding anything against him. “I don’t care” was my default response when he came up in conversation. I thought I didn’t care. But when I decided to get real with myself and pursue a serious relationship with both God and myself, my heart was revealed to me. I was angry. I was frustrated. I held my dad responsible for a lot of the bad relationship choices I had made in my life. I did care and I was a wreck.
(Read: The Single Mom's Guide to Raising Strong Kids)
But as I continued down the rabbit hole, escaping the madness of a life steeped in self-pity and confusion I chose to forgive my father and move forward. To acknowledge that while he was physically present for a time yet emotionally and spiritually lacking I was no less the young woman that God intended me to be. Had I taken some detours on the way to becoming? Yes. But I chose to learn what real love looks like by getting real with God and myself. I joined Maya Angelou’s school of thought in relinquishing my freedom to being anyone’s victim. I could be whole and I could love if I chose to “do my work” as Iyanla Vanzant so simply puts it. My prayers don’t sound the same and my life doesn’t look the same. I released my claim on “fatherlessness.” I released my claim on being “damaged.” What I had to grow up without in the way of paternal guidance and love, and what I acquired in the way of wisdom, peace and understanding through trial and error in relationships I can’t say that I would ever trade.
So, yes my love is different. It is experienced and humbled. It is stronger and full of life. It is ridding itself of the last few traces of cynicism and acknowledging Christ as the ultimate blueprint for love. My love is not abandoned but becoming fulfilled because I simply choose for it to be so.
(Read: Missing Daddies, Angry Mamas, and a Self-Perpetuating Cycle)
Ashley is a late-blooming Aries whose writing is powered by a lifetime of anecdotal proof that awkward can transform to awesome and fear can cast its crown before courage. Armed with the ability to purposefully poke fun at herself and a passion for young women’s empowerment, Ashley seeks to encourage thought, discussion and change. Check out her blog: www.hersoulinc.com and her Twitter: @AshleyLaTruly