Sex and the Single Girl
Chapter 4: “Daddy’s Girl”
I loved my mother, but we had a strange relationship, especially when I was growing up. I considered myself my daddy’s girl, but then again, so did she. My father was the end-all, be-all in my world and as far as I was concerned, the sun rose and set every day because he told it to. He was the center of my universe and I was the center of his. My happiness came before anything and anyone else, and oftentimes that included my mother. Maybe that’s why she was jealous of me. A mother jealous of her child? Yes, it might sound strange to you, but it happens, probably more than you realize.
This jealousy my mother had towards me was the kind that occurs when a person has her life all planned out: just her and her man, seeing the world, building, growing, living life uninterrupted. But then, something unforeseen happens and those plans are put on an indefinite hold. Having a child is the kind of unplanned event that can turn a person’s world upside down, make ironclad plans become as shaky and unstable as a three-legged table.
Sometimes this child is wanted and welcomed by both parents, but sometimes there is one parent that wants the child more. In this case, my father was the one who desired a big family while my mother wanted to keep things as quiet and uncrowded as possible.
Before I came along, my mother was the queen of the castle. My father took pride in being a provider for her, so he doted on her to no end, spoiling her and adorning her with everything her heart desired. In our neighborhood, it was unheard of for a Black woman to walk around in high end fashion, have her own car, a standing appointment at the hair salon every week, whether she needed it or not, all while not holding a steady job.
And let’s not talk about the jewelry! Thirty years before the world became familiar with the term “blinging”, my mother was doing just that. The diamonds in her ears and shining from her wrist were clearer and brighter than anything the other neighbor ladies had on layaway at the local department store.
She was “living the life” by most standards and all she had to do was be the good old-fashioned wife my father wanted her to be. As long as he came home to hot food on the table, an immaculately cleaned house, clean laundry and sex served up with high heels and a smile, he was a happy man.
And he kept my mother happy in return. She was the “Mrs. Jones” that everyone wanted to keep up with—shopping, child-free, and always happy, all the while basking in the green glow of envy cast from the eyes of her so-called friends. And then she found out she was pregnant. It wasn’t the worst news she’d ever gotten, but she had to fight back tears and smile radiantly as she told my father his wish for a family was coming true.
The bond between my daddy and I was undeniable and everyone who saw us together made sure to jokingly comment to my mother that my father had a new favorite girl. I’m sure he never meant for my mother to feel slighted or less loved, but how could she not feel that way when it was obvious I had his heart? To go from getting his undivided attention to having to share it was something she was not used to… and something she did not like. But what could she do but grin and bear it? It’s not like she could let my father or any of her friends know how she felt. She would look ridiculous, jealous of her own child!
So, they carried on as the “perfect couple”, plus one. To those on the outside looking in, my parents were the “ideal”—the couple other couples hoped to emulate. The women looked at my educated, well-travelled father and compared their own men to him, scornfully asking, “Why can’t you be more like him?” All the women longed to be wooed by him, and I’m sure many of them tried to seduce him, with his good looks, rich chocolate skin and head full of thick, curly hair.
Their men returned the favor by lustfully gazing after my mother, the pretty trophy wife with the café au lait complexion and killer curves who kept herself up and doted faithfully on her husband. They too would look at their women and also ask, “Why can’t you be more like her?”
And this “ideal” relationship is where I got my idea of how relationships were supposed to be: a kind, faithful husband and a wife who took care of him and the household. A house full of love with an attractive couple, in the perfect relationship, just like a real-life fairy tale. That was reality to me and exactly what I wanted. But truth be told, things weren’t as perfect as they seemed. About the time I turned six was when things started to change.
From my bedroom, I could hear them arguing in hushed tones behind their bedroom door; curiosity made me wander down the hall to have a closer listen. Their words were muffled, but the displeasure was obvious in the shrill tone of my mother’s voice. Never one to lose his cool, my father’s voice was a quiet rumble as he tried to calm her down.
I would scurry back to my room at the sound of my father’s heavy footsteps on the wooden floor. I acted as if nothing was wrong when he stopped outside my bedroom door and peeked his head in, frustration written all over his face.
“See you later baby girl. I’ll be back later,” he said as he stepped into my room to kiss my forehead before leaving. I’d go back to entertaining myself with my toys, thoughts of my parents’ argument already a fleeting memory.
In the beginning, he would come home after only a few hours, the faint smell of alcohol wafting to my nose as he bent to kiss me good night. “Good night Daddy,” I’d say as I’d hug him tightly around the neck and kiss his cheek. He’d pull the covers to my chin and I’d roll over and drift happily to sleep as children do, not the slightest bit concerned about where he’d been or what he’d been doing.
He faced a much different reception in their bedroom though. My mother, who had been sulking around the house, waiting on pins and needles for him to return, would show her dissatisfaction by throwing angry fits, hurling accusations and pouting like a spoiled child. But despite how angry she may have been, her tantrums never lasted long. In no time at all, there would be no more arguing, just soft moans and heavy breathing. By morning, she’d be the perfectly coiffed housewife again, not a tear in sight.
This pattern of fight-by-day, make-love-by-night went on for a while, though looking back at it now, I’m not exactly sure whether this went on for months or years. But I do remember it got to the point where my father’s absences started happening more frequently and for longer periods of time. There would be times where days would go by and he wouldn’t come home at all.
“Mama? Where’s Daddy?” I’d ask. She would try to come up with an excuse as to why he hadn’t been home since day before yesterday, or three days ago, or last week, but something in the way she said it didn’t ring true. Her pacing the floor and staring out of the window every few minutes didn’t help either; eventually, I just stopped asking.
I’m sure it’s my close relationship with my father that stuck with me as I matured. Even though he was far from it, I expected the men I dated to be perfect, or close to it, like my daddy. Sure I knew that perfection wasn’t realistic and they would make mistakes—really dumb, stupid mistakes—but I believed that as long as they came home, or spoiled me with gifts, or both, I could look over the little things and make the best of the situation, like my mom had done.
My father had told me once to never let a man make a fool out of me, but back then I was so young, it went in one ear and out the other. The last thing I was worried about was boys and besides that, I considered myself too smart for that. Even up until recently, I was convinced I was never going to be in that situation, but ha ha! The joke would clearly be on me.