I am not without compassion for my father. I have struggled my entire life trying to figure out a man I both loved and hated. Last night I was in a stupid "facebook" argument over spanking children again, and the person brought up the old chicken and egg argument. If people hurt people because they have been hurt, who was hurt first? A very interesting question that we can look into when we do a T.O.T.D. post. But today, let's talk about Montana, and my eve of self destruction. Age: 14 1990, the summer before my 9th grade year.
It was a perfect, diabolic twist of fate that a 16-year old high school girl was in the bar the night my father and I went in to play some games. They were holding some kind of raffle for the local football team (I think it was for the college?) And we bought tickets, and we won: A dinner at a fancy restaurant, a limo ride, and a hotel room. But...keep your mind focused on the 16-year old girl. Now, I cannot be certain of her age, as I didn't talk to her, but I watched her very closely. She had long brown hair, sparkling brown eyes, and a smile that was infectious, and the men swarmed around her as she slowly got intoxicated. My father, to his credit, told me how stupid she was being, because she was alone, and surely, with the amount of drinking she was doing, she would probably be raped that night.
Rape, oh no, we hear about our rape culture and victim blaming, but please stay focused. This is not about that, it is about the statement my father made and the following day. Also remember my father was a teenager and young adult in the 1970's. Have you watched Saturday Night Fever? They literally date rape a girl in that movie and act like she had it coming to her....YIKES!
The next day arrives and my father, I believe with actual fatherly intent, decides to talk to me about boys and drinking. What he should have said, and what he did say, are two different things. What he should have said: You really should only drink in moderation when your brain has fully formed as the teenage brain is still developing. What he said: Know your limits. WHAT? Think about this for a moment. Parents do have a difficult dilemma from sex to drugs to everything else in-between. They are caught between telling their children: Just say no, but also leaving them ill prepared to the dangers of peer pressure; to going overboard and giving way too much information that will forever scar the child. I think: As parents we need to give our children the tools they need to survive in the world, but not give them too soon as to spoil their child's childhood. (This is why being a parent is the most difficult job on the planet, its a balancing act...and no one is perfect).
My father, in the end, rethought he position on this over the course of the night.
So here we are, a man thinks he can protect his daughter from date rape by teaching her what her limit is. While this is good for girl's going clubbing, or anyone who is going to a dinner party with drinking, it isn't the best when your children are minors. While I could argue that the minimum age for drinking is questionable: 21 to drink 18 to die for your country...I think we can agree that 14 is not the best age to do it.
Oh goodness. It started with a drink of vodka, moved to root-beer schnaps, ended with long island ice-tea. It was strange. We ended up back at our hotel room, and I could feel it sinking in. The ground was further away, I felt sick, really sick, I think my father was saying something about being amazed that I could drink so much as I stood up and vomited all over and promptly passed out. My father was horrified, I looked dead, felt dead. He jumped up, I assume as I was cold to the world, and dragged me to the shower where he promptly placed me in a cold shower. I woke up, and vomited again. This went on for more than an hour before I finally stabilized and fell asleep.
What is the point of this story. My father made a huge mistake, and he knew it, but he didn't handle mistakes like many of us do. We say we are sorry, learn from it, feel a bit of shame, but we move on. My father focused in on the shame, allowed it to fester until it turned into rage against the very person he had wronged. He was so embarrassed (I nearly died) that he didn't want to talk about it and began going out of his way to ignore me until he couldn't anymore and started being extremely cruel and mean. Over the remaining month he pushed, shoved, and yelled at me all the time. Culminating in a ride home where he slightly drifted off to sleep, woke up in a fright, then smashed by head against the window leaving a huge goose-bump and a headache that lasted all the way home. (Did I tell my mother, no, why? I don't know).
Here is the thing about shame. Healthy shame has its place, whereas unhealthy shame can create havoc on family members. If you want to learn more about shame might I humbly point you towards this presentation: It is a playlist on YouTube by John Bradshaw, an educator and counselor that I really admire and helped me to grow as a person. Do I agree with everything he says, no, but I think we need to understand ourselves better by looking at everything around and using others stories to help. The Link
I have also attached the videos below.
Shit I want to Post