My dad has called me a lot of things in my life: Megs, Meghan Beghan Ronald Reagan, and even, on occasion, mama’s baby. But, he never got around to calling me Daddy’s Little Girl, which was the one thing I wanted so desperately. Like, I wanted it more than I wanted a Barbie Dreamhouse. I wanted it more than I wanted Punky Brewster’s style. I wanted it more than I wanted my first kiss with Chris King to be seen by the entire 6th grade class. I wanted it more than I wanted a driver’s license. I even wanted it more than I wanted my first roommate and I to live a lifestyle similar to that of Laverne & Shirley. Really, I never stopped wanting it.
The only consolation to not being Daddy’s Little Girl was knowing my older sister wasn’t either. It was comforting knowing the rejection wasn’t anything personal. My dad just wasn’t the touchy-feely type of guy. Living in small town Iowa, he was a construction worker; one of those big, tough guys, you know? He wore steel-toe boots, ripped jeans and plaid, flannel shirts. And, kept his feelings neatly tucked under a hard hat. During the week, my dad would venture off to places like New York where he’d throw together a skyscraper or Minneapolis and work on the Mega Mall; on the weekend he’d come home to us, a cooler dangling from his sleeve, not his heart.
I can count on my right hand the number of times my dad told me he loved me. Maybe that makes it all the more special when it does happen? Maybe. But, I would argue it makes it all the more awkward. Mostly because my dad is so utterly uncomfortable saying those three little words. And, when he does say them, it sounds like he’s just eaten three tablespoons of peanut butter. And, the only impulse I have is not to say ‘I love you’ back, but rather to hand the man a glass of milk.
Either way, when I was 22, I found my very own older man to call me his little girl and in certain situations, I could call ‘daddy’ – and moved right on in. The pressure to marry T mounted about 6 months in. I would find jewelry store catalogues lying around the house, the engagement ring section marked with post-its, and random rings circled in red marker. I was confused; wasn’t I supposed to be doing this? Side note: T had been married twice before. I had no intention of being his third ex-wife. Yet, I found myself infected with a platinum, princess-cut engagement ring. I hated it. But, I hated hurting people’s feelings even more.
I didn’t know how to get myself out of the situation, so I stayed away. And, the more I stayed away, the more controlling and aggressive T became. One night, after enjoying a happy hour with a few co-workers, T met me at our front door.
He was all decked out in a suit. He slurred, “Well, you said you’ve never seen me in one before.” Clearly he’d been in the company of Jim Beam all night. Seeing where this was going, I told him he looked nice and went into the bedroom to get ready for bed.
Apparently, while I was out, T found some graduate school applications I had filled out, without telling him. He was furious. Why hadn’t I told him? Who did I think I was? Was I really planning on moving away and leaving him? Really, my 22-year-old mind hadn’t thought about any of that. I was just trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. Either way, I apologized for keeping him in the dark.
My apology was met with a blow to the nose.
The punch hurled me onto the bed, T hovering above me. Stunned, I leapt up and did a maneuver similar to the limbo underneath his arm. On my way out of the bedroom, I grabbed my cell phone before shielding myself behind the locked bathroom door. As I was desperately calling my brother, M for help, T was punching and kicking holes in the door. I waited for M to come and wondered at what point my life turned into an episode of Cops.
M came to the rescue and took me to our parents, where I stayed for the following three months. My mom helped me move all of my stuff out of T’s house the next day. The only thing I left was his ring, which he eventually gave back – I’m sure out of guilt. My nose was black and blue and it felt like I’d been punched in the face. Because I had.
No one pushed me to defend myself by pressing charges or anything, which I really needed in this situation. Plus, wasn’t my dad supposed to walk out in overalls, wild eyes, and carrying a shotgun? That’s what happens on Lifetime. But, mine just stood idly by, which made me feel like I’d been punched a dozen more times.
It wasn’t until six years later that I found out the truth. M and I were having dinner and drinks at Zipp’s, when he let it slip, “Dad did stick up for you when all that went down, you know. He scared the shit out of T.”
What?! How could I not know this after all these years? I demanded details. M told me that the day after it happened, Dad ordered M to get in his truck. The two of them drove to T’s where Dad barged into the house, grabbed T by the front of his shirt and pinned him against the wall; T’s feet dangling, his face turning as blue as my nose. “Don’t you ever touch my daughter again you piece of shit, you hear me?!” Dad bellowed in T’s face. T whimpered “like a little bitch.”
“It was so awesome! Dad was quite the stud,” M boasted. M went on to tell me that Dad asked him to keep it a secret. Why? I have no idea. Maybe he thought I would get mad. Maybe he was being humble. Or maybe having me know and the emotions involved was far too uncomfortable for him. Really, it doesn’t matter. What matters is I’m my dad’s little girl.