In my teens and later in my twenties, I was always going from guy to guy. I would typically go from a new guy to an old guy to a new, new guy and then of course back to the old guy. I can see now how old guy and new guy were typically the same guy...just different bodies...and different baby mommas.
For example, when things weren’t working between me and my old college flame, he was replaced with another guy who had very similar features: the drug dealing, the old car collection, children, and of course, my favorite: an inability to commit to me.
I seemed to take an inability to commit to me as some kind of challenge. If I could get this elusive man to love me, I was in fact, lovable. I reached outside myself and threw my self worth into the opinion of someone else. It would consume me... winning over someone and proving myself to him when more than likely he didn’t even love his own self at that time.
There was one guy in particular whom I spent five years involved with off and on while in my twenties. We were the same age. We liked the same music. We both loved shoes. He liked to eat at Hooters and I liked working there. He loved sweet tea and I was sweet! It was written in the stars.
Our romance started like many of my young romances. It started with us “hanging out”. Not a date. Not dinner and a movie, but hanging out. Non committal people always want to hang out. They want your time, not a title.
Well, we hung out for years. We had a lot of fun. I really liked him and I knew he liked me too, but why couldn’t he commit to me? I knew he had children, but he assured me the relationship was over. She was more of a roommate situation and when another woman became pregnant, she was a mistake. She was crazy. They were broken up. Then why couldn’t we be together?
Why couldn’t I move on? Why couldn’t I walk away? Why had I become so accustomed to emotionally unavailable men?
Oh, my father...that makes sense.
Now my father is a kind man. A very funny man and anyone who meets him loves him. In fact, the men in my life have almost always formed a bond with my father. My father is quick to offer a beer, a firm handshake and a clever joke. My friends say I am just like him. You’d think I would have better luck in my relationships then.I have dated men and not seen them in years only to reunite with them and they always ask how my old man is.
Well, he’s the same. My father is always the same-a consistent man who prefers his own solitude than to forming or investing in relationships. In fact, my father is the same to the men I date as he is to me. He is polite, he asks questions, he cracks his jokes, and then he leaves the room.
I could never quite put my finger on why it was that I pursued emotionally unavailable men my whole life until recently...until I began observing my father’s behavior. My father gives what he can. He has never hurt me or condemned me. In fact, he has only spanked me twice in my whole life. He is encouraging. Last year, he watched my feature set and told me he was so impressed with me and proud of me. I felt my heart leap inside my chest. He is loving. He is a fun guy, but he is emotionally absent. My father and I have a friendship. I enjoy our friendship, but I can see in hindsight how this left me very confused when it came to my future relationships with men.
Little girls need more than a friendship with their fathers. They need guidance and protection. When a little girl can’t get that from her father, she will spend years of her life pursuing men and relationships who she believes can provide her with the things her father couldn’t. She will inevitably place those desires and wishes onto others, and in my case, other broken men.
I created a pattern. When my father wasn’t investing his time in me, I began to act out-desperate to get his attention. When that didn’t work, I began to consume myself with boys and the idea of love. I hoped one day, maybe someone wouldn’t leave the room. I falsely believed I just had to convince them to stay even if that meant disregarding my own worth. And after each guy left, I searched for another and another. A younger me resorted to drama and theatrics. I clung to the idea that one guy from the past would come back and he would stay forever. He will invest in me. I will be loved, appreciated and valued by him. I too can have love like my favorite daytime soap opera.
But that’s just an illusion. No romantic relationship can fill the void of a father’s love and soap operas rewrite the same stories because they need content, not because it’s realistic.
The fact is most fathers are doing the best they can. They are only repeating what they learned from their fathers. We all have a cup. Our parents are supposed to fill that cup with love. Our cups are supposed to overflow from their love, but if their cups have cracks or holes in them from their parents, we miss out. We never get filled.
This is where God comes in for me. My dad wasn’t teaching me how to navigate through relationships or life. He didn’t know how to navigate through his own. He wasn’t teaching me how to take up for myself, but God was there. He was watching me, loving me, never giving up on me. He was redirecting my paths continuously throughout my life. When my father failed me, I had someone else who wasn’t. It took me way too long to realize that.
If you’re a father, invest in your daughter. I know it might feel uncomfortable. Maybe you don’t know how to remotely relate to a little girl, but without you and without knowing who her Heavenly Father is, she’s going to be very lost. She will be searching for your love in so many people and will be hurt by so many more and this can be a pattern she follows into her adulthood.
Little girls always need their fathers even when they aren’t little anymore.
As for the Hooters Guy, I dreamt in April of last year that I ran into him after not seeing him for almost ten years. I demanded in the dream to know why he wasted so much of my time.
In June of last year, I got stuck at a red light on my way to the dentist. I looked over and there he was—Mr. Sweet Tea No Lemon. I honked and smiled at him. I felt relieved knowing that the feelings for me weren’t there anymore. He looked back at me and laughed. To my surprise minutes later, I received several messages from him. Again, I haven’t seen or talked to him since I first started stand up back in 2010. The most I have seen him in ten years is in a dream I had months prior.
In his messages to me, he apologized for not letting himself get closer to me. He explained he was in an unhealthy relationship with the mother of his child and could never seem to let go of it and move on. He told me he had feelings for me “big time”, but he met me at the wrong time in his life when he was too wild. He continued to tell me he hoped I didn’t have hard feelings towards him for not respecting my feelings enough when we were younger and he hoped he didn’t hurt me in any way.
I think there is something to be said about getting closure. Sometimes we never get it and we have to just move on with our lives, but every once in a while, we do get it in relationships, but I think it’s best for me to just assume from now on that everyone was madly in love with me at the wrong time in their lives.