Man, and I thought Mother’s Day landing on my birthday this year packed a whallop…
Happy Father’s Day!
I know many people who have very complicated feels towards this holiday, and I’m definitely one of them. Over the years, the difficult paternal relationships I’ve had have built layers upon themselves, but also have gradually helped me work through some of the formative years pain and PTSD of having an alcoholic father.
That’s where it all started. The death rides, the screaming, the lack of basic care, the gaslighting, the abusive girlfriend and how I always felt like I had to compete with her and his job for even a scrap of sober attention, the denial that it was all even happening. We don’t talk about this. Everything is fine. (What I would’ve given for that comic of the dog sitting at a table in flames saying it was fine when I was a kid.)
When I was 14, I moved in with my mom and she put me in therapy, starting the tedious, expensive, and decades long work of coming out, coming home to myself, and unlearning all the toxic things I’d learned. After a while, I started giving my mom Father’s Day cards on Father’s Day in addition to Mother’s Day cards on Mother’s Day because fuck gender norms and she was more of a father to me than my own could be, while also always being sure to tell me he loved me as much as he could love anyone.
Then she married my step father. Another layer. He is a good man and has almost always been kind and supportive of me, though we have had a few rough patches over the years. However, there’s a current of actual, healthy family there. I’ll never forget how even the lead nurse at the facility where my mom eventually passed commented that they’d rarely seen family work together and discuss things as empathetically and in the actual best interest of and regarding the wishes of their patients like my step father and I did when deciding to sign her into comfort care and begin preparation for the end of her life.
I always thought that would be the set layers of the complicated “daddy issues” I have. The Universe, however, must’ve had a great big belly laugh at my naivete on that subject because one of the kinks I never thought I’d have practically side-swiped me with how quickly it hit. “All” it took was a close kinky friend who had xp in D/g dynamics putting on a fucking suit and and shortcircuiting my brain in some of the hottest ways imaginable. Well that and, of course, lots of negotiation, careful treading on both our parts, and a slow, sometimes exploration of a dynamic that hit me deeper than any other has. Like, holy SHIT, it is seriously the deepest dive I’ve ever taken in over two decades in the kink scene. The tail end of it unraveled a bit due to some life and trauma, and that added another unexpected layer. Not the least of which was the proximity of them ending the dynamic being two months prior to my mom passing during the beginning of the pandemic and my decision to end my marriage and move out. Did I mention during a pandemic?
Again, I was fairly certain that would be the ending of the layers of complication. Even though I knew there was a budding Daddy inside me, both wanting to learn to reparent myself but also interested in giving that back in a kink way the way it had been shared with me, especially in the beginning. Freely, joyfully, kindly, kinkily, and SO sexily. And that friend that opened up this other layer in me and also helped me discover that other side. Have I mentioned how much I love switching and switches?
Anyhoo, they helped me discover the latent FemmeDaddy in me. However, when the pandemic hit and our dynamic exploration ended, I kind of tucked all of it away. The pain of that particular dynamic ending, the timing of it, being on the right side of the slash in it, and everything it touched and tugged on was just too fucking much. Losing two parental figures all in the same year as the ending of my marriage and living on my own for the first time was excruciating. And what hurt even more was that the dynamic grief was so invisible except to a select few, for various life reasons. Not the least of which is that it’s socially WAY less acceptable to talk about the pain and grief of losing a Daddy, even a sometimes Daddy, when your mother has just died of Covid and you’re getting divorced. I’m grateful to my therapist for being experienced with polyamory and kink dynamics and helping me learn to reparent myself, and the very few friends I have who also knew that complex grief I was processing. Joining ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) also helped me incredibly.
But wait…there’s MORE! Because there’s just so many different facets to this kink and I apparently have a track record for not doing simple. And because it’s something that many people relate to (go figure…it’s almost as of we have a problem with toxic masculinity and that fucks up kids and especially children socialized as girls and then we turn around and blame THEM for having “daddy issues”). I could rant on that all day every day, but I’m not going to.
So, there I was, over a year and a half into trying to grieve all this loss, convince myself I was going to be okay and survive what felt like the world literally ending, reeling at the political chaotic shitstorm of racial inequity and 45 stoking the coals of hatred, when a friend posted a pic. And we started flirting and talking. And talking. And flirting. And more talking. And it just kept building, gradually arcing towards capital R Relationship territory. And at some point, there seemed to be a definite…crackle of that very specific dynamic energy building between us. We proceeded very carefully, as I told him very clearly that I needed to go slowly, along with a general overview of why it was so sensitive for me.
Around this time, another dear friend sprung the word on me unexpectedly in a spontaneous make out session. And it just…caused a weird cognitive dissonance within me. It was a during a hot moment overall, but I wasn’t ready to take on that word, that title, that dynamic yet and said as much later when they checked in about it. It still stung in substantial ways and it wasn’t something I could or wanted to just jump in and out of, especially unexpectedly.
My other friend and I, in contrast, slowly and carefully talked about it and found that so many of our desires lined up in that regard and at some point last year, I felt…ready enough to step into that dynamic with him, and also as a partner. I think that also helped me step into it, because we had established being full blown partners and built that foundation from the ground up. And now, it’s the most rewarding, wonderful, and sexy dynamic I’ve ever been in.
But WAIT…THERE’S EVEN MORE!
My boy and I are both switches. And while it’s not even frequent enough to call him a sometimes Daddy, I’d say my boy has done an amazing job at being a service Daddy when I’ve asked for that and he’s able to give it.
So, how many layers are we are in this parfait of paternal complexity? Six, seven? And let’s don’t forget about how I’m still learning to make peace with the fact that I’ll never be an actual parent to a human, the way I wanted to so badly for the first few decades of my adulthood, and also seeing my friends posting about their kids takes on a special hurt today.
So. No big. Nothing to see here. No deep, decades long work of unraveling and processing and grieving and relearning and integrating and exploring and aching and adventuring. No complicated emotional gymnastics of managing dynamic endings while trying to keep the friendship intact. Certainly no big feels of simultaneously being so fucking happy with my boy and our dynamic while also still grieving losses…of what I never had, what I did have that fucked me up, what I had and is now over, what I wanted and will never get. It’s one day, but it dredges up so fucking much. Earlier at work today, I just started crying, thinking about all this and I…let myself. Then I opened up my docs and wrote this. Which looking back over the past few decades, is fairly impressive. I can now feel the complicated feelings, identify them, honor them, express them, and share them in productive ways. Grief and gratitude coexist inside me, and like the ocean, I can hold it all.
It’s funny to me, how people and things come into your life when you need them. Similarly, inspiration can strike when you need it to. I was struggling with how to end this, tie it all together. A Melissa Etheridge song had been floating around in my head since I saw her last week but it was…only a small, yet powerful, part of the story:
Caught in your eyes
Lost in your name
I will never be the same
“I Will Never Be The Same” by Melissa Etheridge
Then, during creative coven tonight, I talked about the difficulty I was having tying this post all together. One of my covenators suggested I step away from it, have some dinner, and it will come. As I was scrolling Facebook, it came, in the form of a quote on another dear friend’s page:
“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same.”
Just like the moon, I am whole no matter what phase I’m in, no matter how much grief or gratitude there is. All of these experiences are part of me, but they are not me. Each step of the way, I will never be the same, because I finally know and understand that that’s part of what life and growing and loss and love and change is. And as another Melissa Etheridge song that’s been very important to me since I first heard it over two decades ago, “the legacy stops here.” And the healing is well under way.