I remember the first time (and last time) I saw The Flavor of Love and thinking: Maybe if we had more daddies who paid attention instead of fathers who just paid support, this kind of thing wouldn’t happen.
Much ado is often made about sons needing their fathers, but quiet as it’s kept, daughters need them too. I learned a lot of cool things from my Dad. He taught how to draw a perfect circle, catch a ball, and change a tire. He taught me how to play cards: go fish, war, solitaire, black jack, poker, gin rummy, and because of him I play a mean game of spades; trump tight or not. As my Dad says, “Anybody can play a good hand; the skill is to play a bad hand well.” In college I spent many a happy afternoon in the student center forcing squeeze plays, pulling spades, and when necessary bidding blinds to bring me back from the brink.
Despite an affinity for cards my Dad also taught me not to bet. It’s not an issue of morality. Its common sense: There’s no such thing as a sure thing. To further cement the lesson my Dad would trick me into betting. He’d say, “You bid a six with that hand? I bet you get stuck.” I’d say, “Okay, you’re on.” And then he’d say, “Okay, you’re grounded. I told you not to bet.” Lesson learned: the house always wins.
My Dad is a good man so that may explain why I always dated good guys. I knew what to look for. The men in my life have treated me with love and respect. Players, abusers, and psychos need not apply.
Between the ages of 15 and 21 though, my relationship with my Dad was not always so Father Knows Best. How could it be? We were at cross purposes. I wanted to date and he wanted to lock me in my room. Reflecting on the exploits of their youth, I doubt many fathers are comfortable with the idea of their daughters dating. But unable to fight the inevitable, my Dad made sure he gave me the best advice he could. Because of him, I was going Dutch long before it was fashionable.
“Don’t let a boy pay for dates,” he said. “Eventually he’s gonna want to be paid back and what he wants, you can’t afford.”
“Love is not ownership.”
“Do or not do. There is no try.”
Oh wait, that was Yoda. Sometimes I get them confused.
As I got older, my Dad’s relationship advice became more candid. He said, “It’s not what a man can do for you in bed; it’s what he can do for you when he gets out.” Of course I didn’t want to hear this from my Dad. “Ewww!” I said while covering my ears and pouting at him, but I heard every word. A friend once told me that she received similar pearls of wisdom from her grandfather. Multi-generational father figures are also important to a young woman’s development. He, however, put it more bluntly. He said: “You play pussy, you get fucked.” Double, “Ewww.”
Is having a great Dad the reason I have no desire to be a contestant in reality shows that are little more than televised prostitution? Who knows? Maybe I’m just lucky I have the best Dad in the whole world. Now you might be reading this and thinking “you’ve” got the best Dad in the whole world. And you’re right. You do. I wish we all did. Having a father who’s a Dad is the real flavor of love.
*REPOST: The Urban Erma, June 2008
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