My Dad is Tracking Me

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Black woman standing in a hallway in a museum.

Yesterday, I discovered a need that I didn’t know that I had. As I chatted with the many people who were kind to me while I was in Mississippi, I felt the need to explain why I’m traveling alone. It wasn’t that anybody questioned me. Rather, I was just making small talk and wanted to connect. Immediately, I defaulted to talking about family because who doesn’t relate to that? As I chatted with people, many of them said things like, “You’re brave to be traveling alone”, and I responded with, “My family isn’t excited about this either, and my dad is tracking me.” Although I was referring to Uncle Frank, it was like a child playing make-believe. Not only has my father been dead since 2018, we didn’t have a consistent or healthy relationship.

I was struck by my need to share and affirm that I am loved by a father, that my dad is tracking me. What’s more is that I didn’t feel compelled to say that my mother was tracking me. Specifically, I wanted to share that a man, who cared about my safety and well-being, was checking for me. Until now, I’d simply accepted my broken relationship with my father. When he died, I wasn’t saddened by his death. I was sad about what we never had and refused to go to his funeral to hear from others about how he was so great to them and so obviously absent from my life.

Again, I was struck by the need to prove that I am loved, specifically through the lens of a father. As I think about the distinction between a father and a romantic partner, the constant that I see is the expectation of protection. To me, masculinity, whether romantic or fatherly, represents a safety net for unforeseen calamity, not the silly woman issues that some people use to justify dismissing a woman’s convictions about who she is and how she chooses to live. Drawing on my Uncle/Daddy Frank was my way of saying, “I’m not by myself; therefore, you better not try to exploit your perception of my vulnerabilities because he will come: my dad is tracking me.” It was almost like saying, “I have an army.”

However, as I think about this…this…expectation of masculinity, is it fair to men? Is it fair to even think that 80 year old Uncle/Daddy Frank would manifest to save me? Are we expecting of men what we can only get from God or an entire family? Where do men go when they need masculinity or to be fathered? Perhaps, we should shed the notion that masculinity can save us, especially in the face of the reality of life. Time and time again, life has shown us that the weight of such expectations is too heavy, even for men. 

If we shed this expectation, then, we can dispense with the idea of mommy/daddy issues and use more precise language to capture what’s really going on: we need more genuine connection and stronger families/villages so that we can contribute to and bask in safety.

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