More Than A Daddyless Daughter

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by Erica Harris

I don't remember the exact time. I couldn't provide you with details as to what was worn, what was being discussed nor what was the plan after dropping my sister off for her weekend custodial visit with her dad. I can tell you that my brother and I sat on 125th Street in Harlem in an awkward silence that eventually turned to this indescribable, silent rage when our mother came back in a car with her hand on her face and told us she was hit by our stepfather. I never forgave him for that. I never forgave myself for becoming a victim of domestic violence myself years later either.

“People talk shit but little do they know your actions are reflections of projected messages from childhood.” – @fujo_shakur

I woke up extremely early this morning, on my off day, and I always take that as a sign that God wants to tell me something. I grabbed my phone per usual and logged onto Twitter (It's an addiction). I saw that tweet and before I could continue on to read the rest of this beautiful woman's story, I was wiping tears from my eyes.

When I got older and got into my first serious relationship as an adult, I found myself in a lot of bullshit. Need me to elaborate? Arguing over money, women, text messages, women in text messages, etc. When my boyfriend at the time, proceeded to throw me on his bed and choke me until I begged for him to stop through tears rushing out of my eyes, I actually stayed around to talk.

I didn't need to know why he did what he did and I refused to tell him I wanted an apology, yet the only talk we had in that moment was where I went wrong.

"You can't have an effect without the cause," he'd say.

I was blamed and the finger pointing was aimed in my direction although I was the victim. And with no questions asked and with no defense argument to present back to him, I just took it for what he said it was. I moved on but that stuck with me to the point it was haunting. I used the same excuse, this time with a different partner, years later. We never spoke about the why's and how's and I never dared to hit back. I wrote like I always do – to escape – but there were red flags presenting themselves everywhere in those poetry pieces about love. They were cold. They were dark. I tried to hide the hurt in pretty-sounding words, hoping no one would be able to read between the lines and find the truths in the lies I wanted to speak out loud so badly.

I eventually spoke up. At the same time I started to fight back, and it was then I started to forgive myself for the fucked up situations I faced. I didn't want to blame anyone – there was already enough of that – but I realized my father not being present in my life had a lot to do with me not fully understanding the depth of a man's love for a woman and how much of a role that plays into shaping that very woman. I knew putting your hands on someone was wrong. But I didn't think much about that when "...but you know I love you, right?" played as the band-aid that covered the wound.

"I love you." That's all I wanted to hear.

Daddy issues. I had that.

How cliché yet how true was it that I didn't know how to express love, give love, acknowledge love, reciprocate love, be love because although my mother showed me all the love she could at several points throughout my life and my uncle was the closest thing to a father figure I've ever known, I still did not have my father. Point, blank, period. 

My homegirls that were fortunate enough to have both of their parents present in their lives, told stories during recess about how their fathers would lift them on their shoulders and spin them around. How their fathers made all their dreams come to fruition when Mommy gave the "no." Their daddy was the first man they ever loved, and to this day, while some are married, their dad, their papa, their abuelo still holds that number one spot in their life and heart. He showed her, his little girl, through that father-daughter dyad, what exactly to look for in a man when she became a woman and wanted to step out on her own.

The boy I lost my virginity to was the first guy I "really" loved. And I loved the boy that gave me his grandmother's ring. The boy who gave me a chain with his initial on it? I loved him too. How could I forget about the one who delivered a dozen white roses to my school for my birthday! I was temporarily happy, but I was permanently a statistic. I was that girl who viewed love as the material things I obtained to fill in the gaps and remove all the voids in exchange for my Goodies and dammit, I didn't know any better because of my absentee father.

My mother put the fear of God in me when talking to me about having sex at an early age, but I went on like the rebellious teen I was and engaged in sexual activities to feel something. I saw love as being submissive to a man because the Bible told me so and I saw love on the screen as being intimate with your partner because that always resulted in him being happiest, even if you yourself weren't feeling the greatest. I confirmed to the authority of another person mentally and physically. I let someone define me because I couldn't and didn't know who I was myself. I heard certain songs and thought back to "him." Watched a movie from long ago that we saw and I had the urge to just be with him – meanwhile, homeboy ain't even thinking about me. And in turn, I honestly set myself up for failure. I needed some comfort from the external. I later found out, the best comfort/security/love comes from the internal.

When I got into a relationship and experienced true love for the first time, it went against everything I've ever felt and known to be before. It confused the hell out of me. And when I became a mother, I had this distorted, convoluted definition and interpretation of what a family is and should be. I knew off the bat what I would and would not be doing based off my experiences with my own mom as a mom, but what did I know about a solid, traditional family unit after growing up in a single-family household? My grandfather left my grandmother, my uncle didn't have his father, my mother didn't know hers, I never even saw a photograph of my own and my sister and brother had theirs but they didn't live in a home with us. 

 This all had a hold on my perception of things that formulated in my mind as a child, the moment I was old enough to grasp and understand concepts. However, I saw that my kids were blessed because unlike me, they had their Dad – an active one at that. This alone statistically meant, they'd be associated with "better socio-economical and academic functioning" and Kae and Kam wouldn't be a part of the "youth suicides/high school dropout/teens in prison/behavioral issues" studies that come from fatherless homes – which are all over 60%. I had something new to focus on; making sure my children didn't become a statistic either.

I can never call myself a "Daddy's Girl." I can never tell my boys stories of my dad like how they'll tell their children about theirs. I can however, come to terms with my behavior and understand why it is I do what I do and how I do it – and it's because of the father I never knew. But I'm glad that I have the power to write my own story and say, "yes, I am a statistic but that does not define who I am and no one should be blamed for my behavior. Let's move on and let's make things right."

I am more than a "Daddyless Daughter." I have forgiven myself. I am ready to build me after years of being internally broken and coming to terms after a dinner date with Truth.


We, Of The Fatherless Tribe: An Abandoned Black Girl, My Love Is Different

Erica Harris is a New York City native and mother of two toddler boys. She is a former student of the State University of New York at Plattsburgh majoring in English with a concentration in Creative Writing and is currently fulfilling her lifelong dream of publishing a novel. She is also the writer behind her personal blog

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