There is a scene in the pilot episode of My So-Called Life, where Angela is walking out of the bathroom in a towel, and her dad can't look her in the eye or have a conversation with her without fumbling all over his words. Then Angela says, resignedly, "the sad truth is, my breasts have come between us." I love that scene so deeply, because it perfectly illustrates the trouble parents have when coming to terms with the fact that their widdle babies are indeed, sexual beings. This essay, posted by no_I_am_zoe on Blogher's website, is also a great example of the difficulty parents have in treating their children like adults when it comes to sex and sexuality, and how hard it is to act like an adult when you're being infantilized. The post is called "Father Adult Lesbian Daughter Moment, Will It Ever Change," and it describes an interaction Zoe with her Catholic dad about gays and depression.Zoe was sitting down to write her post on BlogHer's site, and her dad said he had some ideas for her.
He went on to tell me that I should write about why gay people are so unhappy…Also implied was, if we (gay people) only all followed the teachings of the catholic church, then we'd all be happy. So the last bit was my own inference because my dad is like a broken record about the church, it's his answer to everything. Converts are the most passionate about their religion. After collecting my thoughts, I started by pointing out that you can't say all gay people are unhappy, that's just untrue. I mean, generally speaking I'm pretty happy. Then I pointed out that there is going to be the same percentage of the gay population as is in the rest of the population who has an inherited form of depression and anxiety, like Betty Please does, which has nothing to do with her sexuality. Now, I won't argue that there is probably a larger proportion of the gay population who suffer from depression and anxiety that is more of a situational form than those in the general population, but really, do the reasons for this need explanation? As you can imagine this went on for while, but I actually feel like it was a small victory for me. I stood my ground as an adult, I didn't back down, and didn't fall back into being his child, which given the complexity of the dynamic we have, that's progress. With my dad, it's not ever going to be him coming around to my point of view, but rather that he respects that I have one and it's my own. We agree to disagree.
I though Zoe perfectly described the push and pull we all feel with our parents as adult children — one which is particularly trying for her, since her parents do not condone a major part of her life. It's so easy to fall back into childhood patterns of insolence and annoyance, which is why just the small fact that she stood her ground is a big deal. I think it's worth pointing out, though, that parents are trying too, and often children do things that they just can't wrap their minds around. A good fictional example of a fraught father/daughter relationship from the father's point of view is Mary Gaitskill's pitch-perfect short story "Tiny, Smiling Daddy." In the story, a father has learned from a friend that his daughter, Kitty, has written a personal essay about him in Self. She never told him she wrote it. He spends the entire essay trying to pinpoint when things went so horribly awry with his only child, and most of it wishing they could just go back to those simple days of her little girlhood. "When Kitty was a little girl he would do it to make her laugh," Gaitskill wrote. "'Well,' he'd say, "do you think it's time we played with the hairs in our nose?' And she would giggle, holding her hands against her face, eyes sparkling over her knuckles." Father Adult Lesbian Daughter Moment, Will It Ever Change? [BlogHer] Because They Wanted To [Salon]