Adolescence, Adolescent Sexuality, Attachment, Authenticity, Being True To Yourself, Coffee Shop Folks, Coffee Shop Stories, Family, Fatherless Children, Fatherless Daughters, Fatherless Girls, Friends, Human Nature, Jackie, Jerks, Judgementalism, Life, Living, Love, Lovers, Mental and Emotional Health, Obsession, People, Quality of Life, Relationships, Sarah, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Self-determination, Self-Knowledge, Sex, Sexuality, Society

All the Young Women

SUMMARY: I take a look at the women I met some years ago in Colorado Springs, and then draw a few conclusions about the challenges they faced at that time in their lives.

(About a 8 minute read)

People are often more predictable than life itself.  I can often predict, with surprising accuracy, what a long-term friend will do in almost any situation, but my life has taught me that it can be considerably more difficult to predict where I will be in a year or two.

I certainly did not expect when I came to Colorado that I would soon know — at least casually — about 200 young men and women twenty years younger than me, nor that about two dozen of them would befriend me.

Yet that’s what happened — largely as a direct consequence of my choosing to frequent a coffee shop that both served the cheapest cup in town and was the hang out of hundreds of local high school students.  Since it was also the oldest and most established coffee shop in town, it was also the hang out of everyone else — from the mayor and some city council members to several homeless people.

Continue reading “All the Young Women”

Abuse, Alienation From Self, Authenticity, Bad Ideas, Being True To Yourself, Courtship, Family, Fatherless Daughters, Fatherless Girls, Happiness, Life, Love, Lovers, Marriage, New Love, Quality of Life, Relationships, Romantic Love, Sexuality

Seven Key Things You Should Do to Find the Right Lover (For Young Women Especially)

(About a 17 minute read)

It is only natural that, as we get older, our tastes in entertainment change.  Mine sure have.  At sixty, the days when I enjoyed showing up at church socials disguised as a United States Department of Agriculture Dairy Products Inspector in order to plausibly announce that I had discovered salmonella in the ice cream are long gone.  So, too, are the hours I once spent calling random strangers at suppertime pretending to be a telemarketer selling “the most exciting brand of mint flavored dental floss you and your family will ever enjoy in your whole lifetimes! Can I put you down for six cases?”.

Nowadays, I have adopted more dignified entertainments, the chief of which is corrupting the youth.  For I have found — like so many people before me — that corrupting the youth is the natural joy and bliss of old people.

I confess, however, that I’m something of a snob about it.  That is, I’m very picky about the ways in which I endeavor to corrupt the youth.  For instance, I disdain giving the traditional advice:  “Work hard, become a cog in the machine, support the status quo, and you too will become your own man.”  Or, “Dress modestly, keep your eyes downcast, and walk in a way that does not tempt men to look at you with lust in their hearts and you too will be rewarded with a wonderful husband devoted to making you happy and blessed.”

No, while I do find such old fashioned advice an effective way to corrupt the youth, I also find it much too cliché for an advice-snob like me.  Consequently, I have specialized in — to put it indelicately — advising young people on how to get laid by someone they want to get laid by.   Just yesterday, for instance, on this very blog I published, The Most Basic Way to Find a Lover (For Men) — for, as everyone knows, nothing corrupts young men like getting laid.

So today I aim to do the same disservice to young women with this post.  Of course, nothing is more scandalously corrupting for a young woman than for her to empower herself to get laid on her own terms.  So precisely that is the real core of this post.  This is all about how to empower yourself by doing seven key things that will dramatically increase your chances of finding the right lover for you.

Naturally, I am eminently unqualified to be offering this advice.  After all, I am an old man here advising young women!  But an excess of sanity has never been one of my weaknesses.  Hence, I must caution any young women reading this that the advice they are about to receive should be embraced with due caution.  Obviously, my advice is not based on personal experience.  Most of it comes from observation, a little of it comes from science, and some of it comes from women close to my own age who’ve told me things they wish they’d known when they themselves were younger.

The only claim I make about the quality of this advice is that it’s stuff I’ve considered and mulled over for years — decades in some cases.   Life can be very strange at times, and — in a way — one of the strangest things that ever happened to me was to have once served as the confident of dozens of young women (and young men, too).   That was about twenty years ago.  Circumstances put me in a position that I did not intend to find myself in, but which eventually resulted in my thinking long and hard about many of things I’ll be writing about today.  Now, with that said, let’s gallop on to the first golden nugget of wisdom  bit of wise advice   insightful observation  old fart’s opinion about what many young women should and should not be doing.

• We start today with what might possibly be the weirdest, most unconventional, bit of dating advice you’ll ever hear from the mouth of an old man:  Ladies, get a hobby!

It doesn’t matter what your hobby is.   So long as it fits you, it can be anything from mud wrestling to sewing your own clothing.  By “fits you”, I simply mean that it should be something you can become good at.   Becoming good at it is key.  But you should get a hobby even if that means putting a lot of time and effort into it.

One young woman I know — a woman I once nannied for a few years — had few interests outside of babysitting.  But she nearly turned babysitting into an art.  She read up on her subject.  She planned her sessions with extraordinary care and creativity.  She kept a diary of how her sessions went, and of the lessons she learned from them.  You can turn just about anything into a hobby, but you should pick something you can become excellent at.

My advice here isn’t based on any grand theory of human psychology.  It’s based on observation.  I have noticed over the years that women who have some interest, something outside of — or apart from — men, that they are passionate about are much more likely to weather the ups and downs of finding a decent lover than women who don’t.  They are not only more resilient, but so far as I can tell, they are happier.  And — for some reason — this is especially true of fatherless girls.

• A friend of mine — a woman a few years older than me — once told me, “If young women understood their ‘pussy power’, they’d rule the world.  The trouble is, it’s only us older women who understand it, and then not even all of us.”   And she’s not the only older woman who has told me much the same thing.  But even if no one had told me about it, I could still testify to the “power of the pussy” based on my own experience as a young man.   The thing is, most young women strike me as nearly clueless about it.

All else being equal, women usually — not always, but usually — have the upper hand in the early stages of any relationship.  Especially in the very early stages.  That is, if they recognize their power and act on it.  Yet so many young women behave as if the terms of their relationship are up to the man.  All too often, they are reluctant to express their legitimate wants and needs; they “compromise” by caving in, perhaps with the expectation that they’ll work things out more to their favor later on in the relationship; and they do not enforce clear and consistent boundaries, among other things.

There are probably dozens of reasons — both biological and social — that women do not take full advantage of their pussy power.  But rather than get into those here, let’s just say that anytime a man wants a woman, even if it’s only for a one night stand, the woman has at least some significant degree of leverage over him.  There is an excellent little book called, You Can Negotiate Anything.  Buy it, borrow it, steal it — but read it.

To be perfectly clear, pussy power is not about using sex to manipulate a man.  Giving or withholding sex in order to get your way is poison to any healthy relationship.  Both men and women are fools if they do it while still expecting to have a loving relationship.  But that’s not what pussy power is about.  Pussy power is about recognizing that you have the leverage — as a woman, an individual, and a human — to negotiate the terms of your relationship as at least an equal to your partner, and quite possibly a bit more than equal (especially early on in a relationship, when it can count the most).  This is an important thing to realize because so often young women imagine they are either relatively weak or powerless in a relationship.

I know some people will think I’m offering pretty cold advice here, but it only seems that way.  With few exceptions, there is no genuine romance or warmth in a one-sided relationship.  If you think you can get what you need — much less what you want — by leaving everything up to the man, by surrendering all control and initiative in the relationship to him, you should deeply ponder just how likely that is to work out well for you.

Society trains women to defer to men, to put men’s wants and needs above their own.  But that’s not how a true partnership works.  You have every right — and every happy reason — to be the equal of your partner.  Are you worried a man might not like that? Then accept the fact that, regardless of whatever tough-guy front he might put on, he’s basically a weak, insecure man, and either chose a different partner, or at the very least, realize you’re going to have to pay for his insecurities one way or another.

If you want to make things exciting for a man, be a person in her own right. Do him a favor — give him something to cherish and love that’s more than a doormat.  If he’s a genuinely strong man, being a genuinely strong woman isn’t going to dismay him — it’s going to excite him, challenge him to be the best he can be.  As long as you don’t use your pussy power to actually abuse a man, you will do just fine to use it.

• One of the hardest things for anyone — regardless of age or sex — to do is to be true to themselves.  And just about no one is perfect at it.  But failing to be substantially true to yourself when looking for a lover can have catastrophic consequences.

It’s easy to understand why.  If you put on a false front with people you will (1) attract folks who like the false you, but probably not the real you; and (2) you will repel folks who don’t like the false you, but might have liked the real you.   In either case, you are increasing the odds of ending up with a lover who really doesn’t like you.  Not the real you.   And few things are more problematic than that.

Put differently, you should be as  true as possible to yourself in order to give those people who like you a chance to like you, and also in order to get rid of those people who do not like you.  It’s really that simple.  But how important it is to be true to yourself is easily overlooked.  For much more information on being true to yourself, see my post here.

•  There is a sense or way in which a very large number of people put less time and effort into choosing a lover than they do into choosing a laundry detergent.  That is, they might try, compare, and weigh a half dozen laundry detergents before settling on one brand of detergent that meets their needs, but nevertheless rush headlong into a partnership with the first or second person that comes along.

This seems to be especially true when sex is involved.  I’m all for sex.  I think it’s a great thing yada yada yada.  But I’m appalled at how many people stick with someone simply because he (or she) was “the first”.

To be sure, sometimes the first or second person happens to be the best bet.  But the odds of your knowing that without doing some comparative shopping, so to speak, seem to me to be fairly low.  You don’t have to ditch the first or second person who comes along in order to do some shopping.  You just have to refuse to immediately commit to a monogamous relationship with them.  Don’t think you have the leverage to do that?  Remember pussy power.

You should ask yourself whether you want a mediocre love life, or something better, even much better.  If all you’re looking for is “passably good enough”, then by all means, jump on the first boat leaving the dock.  But if you want more than that, prepare yourself for some serious comparative shopping.  After all, there are approximately 3.5 billion men in this world.  What do you think are your chances you can’t find a stellar lover out of that large of a pool of candidates?

•  Every young woman these days knows that Prince Charming is a myth, right?  We’re way past the age in which young women waited patiently for Him to come along, sweep them off their feet, and make them forever and ever happy, right?  But if that’s the case, then how come so many young women are still waiting for their prince?  You don’t need to consciously profess to believe in a Prince Charming to unconsciously be waiting for one.

It seems to me that one of the biggest myths our society teaches us about a woman’s role in finding the right lover for her is that her role is essentially passive.  I think most men believe that myth, and at least all too many young women do as well.  The myth, however, is diddly-do-squat, to use the technical term for it.

About forty years ago, a study — perhaps the first scientific study — was done on courtship behavior in humans.  If I recall, a group of graduate students were sent to the bars to observe what really happens between men and women meeting for the first time.  After hours and hours of observation, the students reported back that their hang overs were killing them it is actually the women who most often initiate the contacts!

What happens is that a woman in effect signals a man to approach her by any of several means, the most common of which is to simply smile at him while making eye contact.  After being signaled, often repeatedly, the man most likely approaches the woman, introduces himself, and the two of them then sort out their chemistry or lack thereof.  In other words, courtship behavior in humans is typically initiated by the woman.

Every single relevant study of human courtship behavior (that I’m aware of) since that first one has found pretty much the same thing.  Up to 90% of the time, the woman initiates contact.

Yes, it sometimes does happen that a really good lover comes along to a woman who has taken no more initiative to find him than to wait patiently for his arrival.  But just about anything “sometimes happens”.  What I’ve seen much more often is that a poor fit comes along and that poor fit is then blown up way out of proportion by the woman’s hopes and dreams that he’s a prince.

Your odds of finding a great lover dramatically improve if you put yourself out there and make things happen.  Yes it requires time and effort to meet people, but look at the potential pay off!  People complain over and over about how frustrating and grueling the “dating scene” is.  But that’s life.  Most things don’t fall in your lap: You have to work for them.

•  This might be the single most important bit of advice I can give you.   It’s simple in theory, but often hard to do in practice.  Yet do it you must if you are going to be happy.

When you meet an abuser, move on.  Don’t try to reform him.  Don’t try to save him.  Don’t try to change him.  You aren’t going to win that one.   Move on just as soon as you safely can after identifying him as an abuser, and regardless of any excuses you or he can think of for you to stay.

How do you know he’s an abuser?  Early on, it can be hard to tell in many cases because abusers tend to be quite charming up until they sense you have become committed to them.  Then they unleash hell on you.  But if you find someone who:

  • Fails to keep in check any possessiveness or jealousy they feel
  • Believes that you — and not they — are responsible for their feelings, especially any feelings they have of possessiveness, jealousy, and lust.
  • Bad-mouths their ex’s (especially in a one-sided manner, as if there was never anything good about the people they’ve been with in the past)
  • Tells you you’re not like all the rest, meaning you’re not as bad as the rest
  • Has a low opinion of women in general, and plenty of “reasons” to excuse his low opinion
  • Makes you feel uncomfortable to be yourself
  • Freely and sincerely criticizes you in front of others
  • Tries to isolate you from your friends and family
  • Wants to control you, especially your sexuality, but also in any other way tries to control you (influence you, yes; control you, no)
  • Attempts to change you into a person you are not.  That is, change you against your nature, against who you are as a person

If any of the above are true of someone, then the chances are good you’ve got hold of an abuser.  However, the surest sign is the last: They want to change you in ways that go against your nature, against who you are as a person.  That is, they want you to not be true to yourself.  And the only exceptions to that rule are if and when they try to change you because being true to yourself would genuinely harm you or harm others.

If you had a poor relationship with your primary care giver (mother, father, grandparent, etc), or you are a fatherless girl, then please be especially cautious about the potential of getting into an abusive relationship.

It can be difficult to leave an abuser, but the longer you stay with him, the harder it will get.  Seek professional help if you are having difficulty leaving him — your situation is that serious, whether you fully realize it or not.

• Keep up your relationships with your friends and family.  It always surprises me how many woman, once they find a lover, suddenly disappear — or all but disappear — from the lives of their friends and family.  That’s a mistake.

Early on in a relationship, your lover might seem like someone who can be everything to you — friend, confident, companion, partner, etc — but as time goes on, you’ll almost certainly find that he simply cannot be excellent at all those things.

Moreover, it’s not fair to expect him to be everything to you.  That sort of expectation belongs to fairy tales, and imposes on him a huge burden that, if he takes it seriously, will probably drive him to alcohol, drugs, or even blogging.  Do both him and you a huge favor by keeping up with your family and friends.

Besides, if worse comes to worse, they are your lifelines.  They are the people who — if the relationship doesn’t work out — you will need to help you pick yourself up and bounce back from the thing.

That pretty much wraps up all the advice I’ve got for you today.  To recap, here are the seven points in bullet form:

  • Get a hobby (Cultivate a passion in life apart from men)
  • Understand and use your pussy power
  • Be true to yourself
  • Shop around a bit
  • Seize the initiative by putting yourself out there
  • Move on from abusers ASAP
  • Keep in touch with your friends and family

I’m acutely aware of the fact that my advice is not comprehensive — that’s there plenty of good advice for young women I haven’t covered here.  I am hoping that my readers will chip in and offer their own sage advice.  Please feel free to do so!

If you feel grateful to me for this post (unlikely) or feel grateful to me for finally ending it (very likely), then you should consider buying from me a case or two of the gosh darn best, most exciting mint flavored dental floss you’re apt to ever enjoy during your whole lifetime!  Why go yet another dreary day without the tingling, fresh gums you know you deserve as a human?  Simply call me, your Uncle Sunstone, at 1-888-SCAM.  Please have your credit card handy!

EDIT: Sheri Kennedy has offered some excellent advice in the comments to this post.  See her advice here.

Adolescence, Children, Courtship, Family, Fatherless Children, Fatherless Daughters, Fatherless Girls, Health, Marriage, Relationships, Talents and Skills, Values

Reflections on Fatherlessness by Marleen

Dear Reader:  Marleen lost her father at an early age.  In the following article, which she has written for this blog, she sensitively and with deep insight discusses both what that loss meant to her and what such a loss might mean to anyone.  She will be following the discussion of her article, so please feel free to offer her any observations you might have and ask her any questions that occur to you.  – Paul Sunstone

My father died when I was twelve years old, after having had cancer for about a year.

At that time, when I was still young and my father’s illness seemed unfortunate but also “just a fact” (because it overcomes the child), this great loss seemed as something unreal. It felt unreal because it happened to me, and something like that could not really happen to me. Because the world is good and fair, isn’t it?

This sudden loss led to a shocking change in world-view, where the world felt no longer safe. Hence, we might say, that the sudden loss of a parent may lead to a loss of certainty in the world. A certainty that is not only a trust that life in general is good and to be trusted, but also the certainty that people who love you will accept you for who you are and that they will stay.

Is the father, and the presence of the father, not a symbol of safety and certainty for a young girl? Is her world-view not grounded in the relation she has with both of her parents, and does the loss of a parent not permanently damage the trust she has in the world in general?

As a child, one might think: “If my father can leave me or die, anything can happen. Anything! My mother can die, my sister and brother…even I can die.”

A confrontation with this reality, with mortality and finitude at an early age, must influence a child’s relation with its environment.

And what can be said about women whose fathers left them when they were young, through divorce or the inability or unwillingness to take care of them? In both cases, we might argue that the loss of a father (in the sense of a withdrawal of his presence permanently or for a long time), not only shakes her world, but can also be decisive for the men she will choose to date or marry in her adulthood.

Human beings often have the tendency to repeat childhood-patterns, however constructive or destructive they might be, because they are trusted and save. The ego prefers the well known, and hence a woman might choose to date or marry men who are either emotionally unavailable, or who would eventually leave them (or the women might sabotage relationships, so that the men will indeed leave them, as their fathers did).

But as I remember, at the time of my father’s death, the sadness and confusion did not primarily originate in the loss of my father as an individual (that came later), but more – as I said before-  due to the shock that that could happen to us, to our family and to him, in the first place. Is it possible that children think that losses are their own fault, because they are or were not “good”? How responsible do children feel for the loss of a parent? These questions kept me occupied, and when I got older, and when I started to have more insight into my father’s terminal process, mourning really hit me: he knew he was dying, and that he would never see us grow up, graduate from high school and university, and that he had to let go. This insight caused me much grief, because it confronted me with my imperfections and weaknesses as a child and as a daughter. Even though I was only 12, I did nothing to help him; I just had to watch him suffer and die. This strong man was reduced to a weak individual that needed constant care. And I was totally powerless; there was nothing that I could do. Therefore, in a certain sense, the loss of a father at an early age might induce guilt in both male and female children, because they themselves are confronted with a deep sense of helplessness that cannot be overcome by means of any act.

I am curious to know how these kinds of cases can influence developing-women’s psychology. A woman whose father was absent and who had left her might always wonder why, and assume she was not worthy of his love, not worthy for him to stay. A young girl who loses her father through death, might -illogically- wonder why he left her also ( illogically because he did not willfully leave his family) , and will have to accept her helplessness in the whole situation. She cannot fight him, blame him, or ask him to come back. It seems that the loss of a father could cause a great shift in a woman’s world-view and self-esteem. Without the acknowledgment and warm acceptance of a father (or father-figure) in a woman’s youth, she will never learn that she is fundamentally good and acceptable as a woman, for who she is. A father loves his daughter because she is his daughter. She is accepted and loved for who she is, for the fact that she is. Most likely, the young girl will seek that approval, love and care with other father-figures, or in other “symbolic” father-figures and will project this need onto her future partners.

I myself was not aware of my behavioural patterns until recently. Not only did I seek men who were in some way emotionally unavailable, but I also sought men who could protect and rescue me (I dreamed of the one great love, who was strong and protective).  Additionally, I sought to escape myself with the hope of finding a complete safety and certainty in a man’s arms. Not realistic perhaps, but this behaviour was caused, I am certain, by unconscious motives. Perhaps we might even say, that I tried to “fix” something that I was not able to do or complete with my father. I wanted to get the balance straight, to heal the imbalance of our relation at the time of his death.

It is a fact that children are often excluded from the terminal or death-and-dying process, in order to protect them. But, it is crucial for children to be close to their parents when they are dying, and to be able to give their parent their love and attention, only if it is by means of sheer presence (but I must agree this depends on the child’s age). This, for the healing of the child him/herself; sometimes children have difficulty accepting that they were helpless, and could not help mommy or daddy.

I wish that somebody had told me, that I was not to experience any great loss, or mourning, until my late 20’s. Children quite easily seem to be capable to move on with their lives, but this is also a consequence of their mirroring how adults cope with mourning and death. If everyone pretends that life “just moves on”, then life will “just move on” for the child…as if it is something that is expected.

Also, I wished someone would have told me that my father’s loss would influence and guide me for the rest of my life, that it would influence my choice of boyfriends, that it would influence how I felt about life and the fairness of life, how it would influence how I saw myself in relation to men, authority figures, and to ambition and a future career.

It is sometimes written that fatherless women have less self-confidence than women who did not lose a father at an early age, and in general, I cannot agree more. Sometimes these women might think that “it happened in the past”, and that it is therefore not relevant anymore for her choices today. But this is where we make a mistake: we are, in a way, what we were taught and what we experienced in childhood. Our attachment-structures were created then, and are very hard to alter in adulthood. Hence, awareness of our loss, and how it might influence us, can be fundamental for developing control over our lives, and for developing a healthier self-esteem and self-love.

But, something beautiful and fruitful can also develop from these early losses. We see in the history of humanity, that many individuals who lost a parent at an early age were instigated to seek their approval in the external world. They projected their need for approval onto society in general, and in the acceptance of men they respected. Many of the world renowned writers, poets and thinkers lost parents at an early age, and this could have been a reason why they sought to transcend themselves and their own intellectual and spiritual boundaries: they sought to overcome the longing for a deep approval and acceptance by means of a shift from a lost father to a “symbolic father”, found in society in general or in the authority of perceived superiors, such as mentors, teachers, great scholars or great poets, which not only led them to great achievements, but also to an enrichment of their own lives, and of the lives of others.

Children, Family, Fatherless Children, Fatherless Daughters, Fatherless Girls

A Fatherless Daughter’s Story by Brenda Kula

A Note from Paul. I would like to thank Brenda Kula for valiantly responding to my call for manuscripts on the experience of being raised fatherless.  She blogs over at View from the Pines.  This is her story:

When it hits me most profoundly, I am in a park where children are playing. I hear the high-pitched child’s voice calling “Daddy, Daddy, look at me!” A man turns his head at the sound of the familiar voice. He smiles with pride. And I am struck with the overwhelming loss of something I never had. A father.

I was one of those “black market babies” you sometimes hear about. The year was 1957, the 19th of February, when I was born to my mother, Martha Colleen. A woman I’ve met perhaps three times in my 51 years. Three more than I met my father, who remains a shadowy mystery. A tall lanky figure in a black and white snapshot I have of the two of them on their wedding day.

I scrutinize his features in this coarse, barely discernible snapshot, looking for me. I only see myself in the tall cheekbones, the dark eyes. He is smiling, an arm around my mother. She looks happy and girlish. My only photograph of the people who brought me into this world. And just as quickly, turned and walked away.

For some unknown reason, I was not sold to a couple so desperate for a baby they offered up their savings. I was lost to everyone who was familiar to me for the first year of my life. Sold, some say, to the midwife who was there at my birth. Or maybe, they recount, their eyes seeking a memory…a nurse. Somehow as a toddler I ended up back with my maternal great-grandmother. How or why I don’t know.

I have been married three times. Searching, yearning, for the enveloping safety of a father’s love. Trying to find resolution; completion. To fill the emptiness of something, oddly enough, I never had to start with. But the little girl inside me misses the fact that she never got to say “Daddy”, and someone turned in her direction. Something in me is missing because of his absence. Something essential that has kept me searching for the intangible bond called trust.

I know that if men can give love, then they in turn can take it away. Once in anger my husband said that I was unlovable. I wonder if that is what my father saw in me, if he bothered to look at his second daughter at all? But I wonder if it is true? And why I seek men who find pleasure in driving that fact home to me in the cruelest fashion.

But somehow, I know why I stay. Because I can’t forget the little girl who stood at school watching enviously, as fathers and mothers came to admire their child’s schoolwork on those occasions called parent/teacher night. And I had a great-grandmother who was too tired, after having raised eight children of her own, to exude delight or even attend. I remember how embarrassed I was at the lack of parents by my side. As if somehow it was my fault they were missing from the portrait of my childhood.

My great-grandmother kept me shrouded in secrecy. I was not allowed to be told anything about my parents. My questions were met with pursed lips and silence. But one day, one of her daughters-in-law found me in a corner alone. I was around eight years old. She leaned down and whispered, “Your father died.”

My father? I had a father? Who was he? Where did he go?

I did not say a word.

How does a woman cope with the lack of not having had this pivotal person in her life? If I’d figured that out, I would probably not be in the position I’m in. I probably wouldn’t be afraid. I probably could sleep at night without three medications. Magic pills that lull me to a place that is safe. That give me respite so I can go off the clock of  “forever-watching” long enough to rest.

When I was six, I took a bottle of prescription pills. It was the first sign of my depression. The battle has been lifelong. I would not dream of forgetting my morning medication to keep the depression at bay. I have not forgotten once in 25 years. Because the place I go is dark. And there is no end to the desperation. Just a free fall of events that shroud me like a heavy blanket. A grief that does not go away.

My great-grandmother died when I was barely thirteen. My life after that was no more normal than the first part had been. Somehow I fell through the cracks. My memory of it is sketchy and blurred.

I am a college-educated woman, yet the simplest of things escape me. Intellectually I know that what happened at my birth had nothing to do with who I am. That a baby who is abandoned by all who should love her is not at fault in any way. Yet I punish myself with self-doubt, and peer at the world outside with something akin to fear. I know I stay where I am because the thought of going “out there” is too unimaginable for me to contemplate.

I am super-aware of my surroundings. Noises bother me. Being in public with cell phones endlessly ringing and conversations going on all at once as people pass by makes me want to cover my ears and run for safety. The thought of a job where I would have to show up every day and be social and make chit-chat is nothing short of terrifying. I relish the days when I can stay home with my pets and wander my gardens. Alone with nature and my plants and the burbling pond in the background is the only music I want to hear.

I suppose if I could, I would wish to live out in the woods in a cottage that was simply one large room. Danger could not lurk behind doorways. I would feel safe. I would be surrounded by my animals and my social outlet would be the computer.

I volunteer at Meals On Wheels, and my elderly neighbor, who shares my love of gardening, goes along to help me out. I only do this once or twice per month. But I know it feels good to give back. To bring a hot meal and a few words about the weather to a person who might not see anyone else all day. Though I envy that thought myself.

What would I say to my father if I could say one thing? I would ask him why he left me. It is the same question I asked my mother in the only letter I ever wrote her over twenty years ago. Her answer was: It was your father’s idea. Just that.

I suppose this concoction of scattered emotions is why I write a blog. To put my thoughts down. To record my life, so someone will know I was once on this earth. And that perhaps I mattered.

See also:

How do Fatherless Girls Gain Confidence?

Adolescence, Adolescent Sexuality, Family, Fatherless Children, Fatherless Girls, Harriet, Relationships, Sexuality

How Do Fatherless Girls Gain Confidence?

This morning, I noticed someone found this blog by googling, “How do fatherless girls gain confidence”. It wasn’t hard to imagine the mother of a fatherless girl googling that, or even the girl herself.

Whoever it was most likely landed on a post I’d written last year in which I attempted to summarize a few differences I’ve encountered between girls raised with and without fathers. In that post, I tried to make clear I was speaking only of my own limited observations and not recounting science. The post ended on these dark notes:

In general, the difference [between women with and without fathers] was this: The fatherless women were less self-confident around men than the women with fathers.

For instance: The fatherless women were less likely to assert themselves. They were less likely to let men know what their boundaries were. They were less likely to be strong individuals around men.

On the other hand, the fatherless women were more likely to be relatively obsessed with their boyfriends. They were more likely to be emotionally dependent on them. And they were more likely to cling to relationships in which they were being abused.

So that’s where I left it last year — without at all dealing with the question raised this morning, “How do fatherless girls gain confidence?”

Unfortunately, that’s an important question these days. More and more girls are being raised without fathers, and some studies suggest it can aversely impact the girls’ lives. For instance: An international study released in 2003 found a strong link between the absence of a father and adolescent pregnancy. Girls whose fathers left before they were six years old were about five times more likely in the United States — and three times more likely in New Zealand — to get pregnant during adolescence than were girls whose fathers stayed with them. Yet, finding “statistics” on fatherless girls is one thing, finding good statistics from reputable sources is another. From what I’ve seen, there appears to be a ton of questionable stats out there and not much gold. But it gets even worse when you go hunting for information on how a fatherless girl can gain confidence.

I could find almost nothing on the net that actually addressed that question. I think that’s a pity because, as I recall, many of the fatherless girls I’ve known were less self-confident around boys than girls raised with fathers. Which in a way was quite odd because several of my fatherless friends were extremely competent in other life skills. Harriet, for instance, had planned meals, made grocery lists, and cooked suppers for her family since the fifth grade and, by the time she was in high school, she probably knew more about nutrition than some dietitians.

So I’m going to risk discussing how a fatherless girl can gain confidence around boys — but with this strong caveat: I’m not an expert and don’t know for certain what I’m talking about. My own father died when I was two years old, but I faced the problems of a fatherless boy, rather than those of a girl. I’ve been friends with a handful of fatherless girls as they went through adolescence, but that is certainly not the same as being a qualified therapist. And I’ve heard countless adolescent confessions, but I was usually empathetic at the time rather than taking notes. So, the only real qualification I have here is no one else seems to be offering fatherless girls any advice on how to become confident. And that’s sad.

Having said all that, here’s “Paul’s Brazen Advice” to fatherless girls on how to gain confidence with boys:

Confidence comes with success. That’s true regardless of what you are talking about. It could be gaining confidence with boys or it could be gaining confidence driving. Each step you succeed at builds up your confidence. Each step you fail at tears down your confidence. So take small, manageable steps — especially at first.

I’ve known fatherless girls (and even girls with fathers) who rushed into sex in order to please boys. That’s a mistake on several levels. For one thing, it’s not taking things in small, manageable steps. Make the boy court you.

Courtship is basically the process of making friends with someone you might want to have sex with. Don’t rush it. In my 51 years, the best relationships I’ve seen all began as friendships and involved courtships — sometimes long courtships. As one person (who has an outstanding sex life) recently told me, “My husband and I have always been friends first and foremost. The fact we’re also lovers is icing on the cake.”

You have a right to resist any pressure to rush things — and it is a test of genuine friendship that your real friends will respect that right of yours, while your false friends probably won’t. So, if you loose a few “friends” because you’re marching to your own drummer, keep your chin up and march on. They weren’t real friends.

So my advice on how to gain confidence with the boys is to take things in easy, manageable steps. I realize that it might be easy advice to give and yet difficult advice to put into practice. More importantly, it is by no means comprehensive advice. There are so many other things I might say, but for which I don’t have room here.

If I had just one piece of advice to offer a fatherless girl, that’s the advice I’d offer her. If any fatherless girls are reading this, please let me know — either in the comments or by email — whether any of that makes sense. Also, please tell me a bit about yourself. And for everyone: What advice would you yourself give a fatherless girl on how to gain confidence with the boys?

Please see also:

Jackie in the Year of the Comet

Adolescence, Children, Family, Fatherless Children, Fatherless Girls, Relationships

Amanda Could Use Your Insights and Support, Please

Last May, I wrote a post that summarized some of the things I believe I’ve learned from my experiences with fatherless girls.

Today, that post caught the eye of Amanda, who wants to welcome her newly found step-daughter into her family. Amanda would like any advice you’d be willing to offer her on the best ways in which to go about that. She writes:

i have questions. my husband has just found contact w his daughter after 14 yrs of absence. we have young children. i just want her to feel like she belongs, welcomed , loved,& wanted. there are “hot spots” things that will cause a flood of emotion for her. how do we avoid these “hot spots” we dont know what all of them may be. her dad diddnt chose 2 be absent. i believe she knows that now, but it dosnt erase the feelings of being unwanted or “thrown away” for so many yrs. is there anyone with any key words of wisdom? any opinions or advise on this would be very valueable. thanks

Amanda strikes me as a very sensitive and caring person, and I’m sure she’d appreciate any insights or support you’d be willing to offer her. Please post your insights and support here. I’ve directed her to this thread. Thanks!

Fatherless Girls, People

Clueless in Colorado

I ran into an old friend yesterday who I hadn’t seen in a few years.  I happened to look behind me while in line to buy coffee and she was right there.   “Erin?”

She looked puzzled.  “It’s Paul”, I said.

“Paul!” Her face lit with recognition and she gave me a hug.

“So where have you been?  I haven’t seen you in ages!”

“I’ve been addicted to crack cocaine in Denver for three years.”  She said matter-of-factly.

“Sorry to hear that.  Are you off of the stuff now?”  For reasons I don’t know, I wasn’t surprised at her addiction — so she and I struck up a short conversation that lasted until she had to catch a bus.

She’s only been off crack for 32 days, but is living in a home for women with substance abuse problems — so she has some support.

Now, I’m wondering what, if anything, I can do to help her.  She gave me her number and asked a couple of times that I call.  I’ve known her for years — since she was 15 — and I feel some tenderness towards her.  Yet, I have no clue what she needs at this point, or what I could do for her.

Has anyone had a similar problem?  If so, what did you do?

Fatherless Children, Fatherless Girls, Love

Love is the Best Medicine for Wounds to Love

One summer evening, Becky and I were discussing her daughter, Leah. Leah was perhaps 13 years old then, and Becky and I often liked to speculate on how she would turn out. That evening, Becky offered that Leah’s loves “will be few and far between”.

As it happens, I think Becky could be right about Leah. She’s 22 now, and guarded in her love. But why is that?

My hunch is Leah’s reluctance to love wholly or completely has something to do with her father. Becky and Leah’s father divorced when Leah was seven or so. Afterwards, her father often proved neglectful. Among other things, he’d promise to visit, but would not show up. Leah, who was at that time closer to her father than to Becky, took her father’s neglect hard.

I guess Leah shut some part of herself off as her way of dealing with her father’s neglect. She became a guarded lover.

She could, of course, have done much worse than to become a guarded lover. I have known girls in her situation who lost all confidence in dealing with boys. Yet, Leah is very confident.

Naturally, Leah’s story is larger than Leah. All of us — perhaps without exception — have either been hurt in love or will at one time or another be hurt in love. There are things you can escape in this world, but to escape being wounded in love you must never love at all — which would risk making your life deeply miserable.

It is crucial how we respond to our hurts. Most of us become guarded in one way or another. We erect defenses. There are thousands of defenses against being wounded in love, but it is important for us to understand that whatever defenses we erect against being wounded might also be barriers to loving. That is not necessarily a good thing.

The main reason it’s not necessarily a good thing to erect barriers to love is simply because love is the best medicine for wounds to love. Love heals: It promotes growth, and it renews. In fact, I believe you can tell whether love is genuine or not by whether it heals or not. So, if we wall ourselves off from love, we wall ourselves off from the best and most complete way to heal.

I should make clear that I am not talking here about those of us who have been abused. When the wounds we suffer in love come from our being abused, we should erect defenses against abuse. We should not open ourselves to the abuser. But that’s a special case. In general, it is best to overcome wounds to love by loving and being loved, rather than by running away from love.

That, at least, is how I see it. But what do you think? Does any of this make sense, or should I switch to a better brand of coffee and re-think it all?

Adolescence, Children, Fatherless Boys, Fatherless Children, Fatherless Girls, Late Night Thoughts, Society

Fatherless Girls

I’ve noticed for sometime now a steady stream of traffic to this blog because of a brief post I made back in May on fatherless girls. So, tonight, I was trying to count all the fatherless girls I’ve known in this town.

I would count a few, think I’d finished, then remembered another one or two. In the end, I simply gave up. It’s overwhelming. Not the numbers, but the faces. Overwhelming.

I wonder if we will ever again be a society in which it is unusual to grow up without a father. My own father died when I was two years old. At the small school I attended, I was the only child in my class of about 100 students without a dad at home. What are the numbers today?

When I came to Colorado at midlife, I landed in a coffee shop that was a hang out for an eclectic crowd that included everyone from the mayor of the city to a group of homeless gentlemen. The coffee shop was also two blocks from the city’s largest high school, and it attracted very many mildly disaffected youth who enjoyed its eclectic atmosphere as much as I did. Most of the first 200 or so people I met in this town were mildly disaffected kids.

Some of those kids attached themselves to me. When I look back it strikes me that the boys who attached themselves to me usually had fathers. But the girls who did were usually fatherless.

I wonder why most of the boys had fathers, while most of the girls didn’t?

Growing up a male myself, I knew the boys at that age are not usually looking for a father figure when they attach themselves to an older man. Instead, they are most likely looking for help in entering the adult world. That is, at that age, they want to work out how to relate to adults who are not their father. I suppose the girls wanted pretty much the same thing.

Yet, I don’t know. I don’t know why most of the boys who wanted to associate with me had fathers while most of the girls who wanted to associate with me didn’t have fathers. Nor do I know whether there was any difference between the boys and the girls in why they wanted to associate with me. Some things seem bound to remain a mystery.

At any rate, my experience of fatherless children — or more precisely, my experience of fatherless girls — has convinced me they are especially vulnerable, they are often overlooked, and that we all could do more by them. So, I’ve decided to make my own small contribution to their cause by blogging from time to time about some of the fatherless girls I’ve known, what kinds of problems they’ve faced, how they met those challenges, and what wonderful people they are. I hope you’ll be interested.