He asked if I'd prefer an annoying father or an absent one. You see, he's trying to help a friend who's going through a divorce. She was married to the absent kind of alcoholic, whereas I had the "pleasure" of growing up with an annoying one. Without hesitation I told him an absent dad is preferred and cited the lack of privacy, as his mere presence in the house was enough to put panic in everyone's heart rate (the technical term is hyperarousal), as a top reason.
It's a sad state of affairs when it comes to fathers these days, or men taking the easy way out in general. First there's this idiot on whom Newsweek reported as having postpartum depression. He writes:
I ceded nearly complete authority to my wife, then blamed both her and my son for my feelings of loss and insignificance. I took on every parental responsibility with sucked-up reluctance on the outside and contempt on the inside. My wife seemed to consider me selfish and irresponsible. She was tired, she'd say, of parenting both of us. Even when the bickering ended, the wounds never healed. Our marriage took a fatal hit.Why does this man look for sympathy? It takes him two more kids -- "Hey, honey. I don't like the kid we have. Maybe we can fix this situation by having more." -- and a divorce to find his inner father and discover the sacrifice of parenting doesn't have to feel like your life is over.
Still, he's a saint when compared to this asshole:
I became more and more of an ogre. I would snap at her. Tell her "no" sometimes for no other reason than to distinguish myself from her mother. If she got an A on a report card, I'd ask why it wasn't an A-plus. Unconsciously, I would intimidate her. Once -- I can't even remember what she had done -- all I had to do was look at her and my expression sent her running to her room, afraid of me. I never hit her, and have never contemplated any form of physical response toward her or anyone else, but what mattered was that I made her afraid of me.He made his daughter's home, a place where she should feel completely safe, into a nightmare and then highlights the fact that he never hit her. Bill has always maintained that the cumulative effect of names can hurt more than sticks and stones and broken bones, and he's right. Give me a physically abusive father that I can report to the police over someone who tells me to get my "fat ass" out of the way or who tells me I'm an idiot for getting one question wrong on a math test because I forgot to carry the 1. Perhaps if this guy simply loved his little girl instead of trying to compete for her affection with her mother, he wouldn't have turned into that ogre.
Eventually he separates from his wife who gets complete custody of their daughter. He whines about "missing out on many of the small things that parents enjoy: the moments of discovery, a tender bedtime, the daily interactions" -- events that he was ruining for his daughter by his presence -- and rationalizes that now he's an absent father their relationship is better than ever because he can tolerate her more and concludes: "Not only has my girl not suffered, I am willing to predict that when she looks back years from now, she'll be able to see her relationship with her father in a positive light, which might not have been the case had the separation not happened."
So, is an absent father really better than an annoying father? If the absent father gets off scot-free, if this guy's daughter lives her life with the impression that her dad's a good guy, then absent fathers are in fact worse because they live under the guise of integrity. At least the children of annoying fathers can collect evidence of nefariousness and get rid of their dads.
Speaking of false virtue, I love how Dan Savage rips a new one on the guy who wrote the first letter. Self-absorbed people like that become the whining, "Why me?" fathers whom Newsweek and The Globe consider newsworthy in a pathetic sense. I'd much rather be reading stories like the one I recently heard: A guy doesn't hear from a woman he's been seeing after she has a run-in with her ex. He worries his head off, wondering what he did wrong, until she finally calls him and explains that she didn't want him to see her cry. "What's the worst that can happen?" he asks. "I'd put my arm around your shoulder?"
That story made me cry because I already experienced the worst that could happen. Well, now it's time to have a nice guy take care of me instead of expecting an asshole to do it.