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Daddy Issues

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A girl’s relationship with her father is said to be the foundation for how a woman will interact in her intimate relationships. Before her first kindergarten crush, elementary school boyfriend or first kiss, a girl will form ideas about men based on the relationship she has with her dad. Whether or not those ideas will be executed positively or negatively in her relationships is a bit more complex.

Relationships are discussed in heavy rotation, and have been big business for the handful of men who use their celebrity platform to dole off advice on what women are doing wrong. But conversations on relationships are not new. Denene Millner and husband Nick Chiles wrote “What Brothers Think, What Sistahs Know” in 1999, nearly a decade before women were told act like a lady, think like a man or your degrees won’t keep you warm at night. But the topic of women’s “daddy issues” hasn’t been touched with much care or real analysis.

Whenever the issue is raised it is usually in some form of attributing the batshit craziness of some woman to her absentee father.

Chilli’s reality show last week confirmed an overwhelming belief in the daddy issues philosophy. Last week on “What Chilli Wants,” Chilli revealed she didn’t meet her father until she was 25-years-old. The relationship had been rocky ever since. Every week women clown Chilli for her sometimes thirsty antics and unrealistic expectations. Many have even stamped her as the poster child for what not to do in relationships. When viewers learned about her relationship, or lack thereof, with her father, it all made sense.

Only it didn’t. Chilli has problems in her intimate relationships due to a number of factors- having been cheated on, an abortion, being a single mother, etc. All of those circumstances will alter how you deal with men. Ignoring those factors and concluding she is crazy because she has daddy issues does nothing to dissect the how and why she acts the way she does in relationships.

Though there’s veracity in the idea that people’s relationships with their parents affect their intimate relationships as adults, I am concerned with the tone of the conversation. How many men have issues because their fathers were almost non-existent, or whose mother treated her son more like a boyfriend (“man of the house”) as opposed to her son? There are a ton of those men who exist, but the conversation is rarely centered around the men. And rarely are women all, “Oh, he grew up without his father. He must be crazy and I’m not dating him.” But the equivalent of this is hurled at women.

The problem with the daddy issues assessment is it doesn’t account for the problematic behaviors of women in relationships who DID grow up with their fathers in the home. And women who have loving fathers start believing their stuff don’t stink because they of course don’t have daddy issues.

In thinking about all of this I did my own unscientific study adding the number of women I’ve known for at least seven years and their relationships with men I’ve personally witnessed. Mentally I put the women without fathers in one category and the one’s who had a relationship in some capacity with their fathers in another. The numbers were equal on both sides. Women whose parents have 20 or more years of marriage under their belts were making some of the same naïve, piss poor decisions in relationships as the women whose fathers were never around. Not only were the decisions they made similar, but many of the women shared some of the same relationship qualities.

I searched to see if any of the popular relationship blogs had even touched this topic. Low and behold Very Smart Brothas didn’t disappoint. Last year Panama Jackson wrote “I’ll Be Your Pappy: The Silence of Daddy Issues.” Panama wrote a balanced piece attempting to dissect the issue a bit further than the surface.

He writes:

Part of the reason women and daddy issues doesn’t get much burn is that for the most part, a lot of women succeed in other areas. She doesn’t know her daddy, but she has a Ph.D. or a J.D. or an M.B.A. and is a partner or an associate in some firm, etc.

It’s really tragic that “daddy issues” is more of a jokey scarlet letter we attach to needy and insane broads than something we really discuss because really, if the women are all insane, and the men are all going to kill at least 1/10 of a person apiece, who knows where our community is heading.

My point is not that all women are equally messed up whether dad was around or not. Rather all people bring their share of issues to the table of love and life. Simply assuming a woman is going to behave in a certain way because of how she grew up is counterproductive. Assigning the daddy issues label is another way for men to overlook the role they have played in some of the issues women carry to other relationships.

The dynamic between Black men and women in relationships ought be handled with a little more care if we’re really interested in rebuilding the family structure in our communities. And putting all of the burden and blame on women isn’t going to cut it.

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