Notes: I’m writing this as an insight for parents, particularly fathers, whose daughters have started dating. I know teenage years are delicate and can be tricky, and you might mean well but your daughter might take it differently. I’m offering an opinion from the other side, based on my experience.
Recently I read an essay by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, titled Why We All Should Be Feminist (by the way, if you haven’t read that, do it now. One of the best pieces I’ve read). In one part of the book, Adichie points out the different standards we hold for boys and girls.
If we have sons, we don’t mind knowing about their girlfriends. But our daughters’ boyfriends? God forbid. (But we of course expect them to bring home the perfect man for marriage when the time is right).
Reading this made me realize how hard dating could be for a young woman, and it wasn’t just me who experienced this. A lot of women out there go through the same thing. So here I’m talking as a woman who has had the experience of dealing with the difficulties and awkwardness of dating a guy when her father acted somehow less than nice to the guy.
I know many women who have similar experiences, their fathers acting unkindly or hostile to the poor guys. I also know guys — my friends — who have to go through hard times when meeting the girls’ fathers. I have seen uncles and male relatives who behave like a mafia boss when facing their daughters’ boyfriends.
This angers me, quite frankly.
I experienced this a few years ago, so I was a lot younger than I am now. But even at that age I knew myself better than my parents did, so I’m glad to say I did it my way (and I was, and am, unapologetic). I know fathers are concerned and worried about their daughters and blah blah blah, but when they behave like this, it is unnecessary and insulting.
To explain why I think that, I’ll quote what Obama said when he was asked about the potential of his daughters started dating.
Malia and Sasha [his daughters] are very sensible, so I trust them to make good decisions.
There’s also other remarks by Harry Connick Jr. which I think hit the right note.
You know what I can’t stand? Everybody always says, ‘Oh, your daughters are dating. Better get the shotgun.’ And it drives me nuts, because I think that’s such an antiquated way to talk about young women. It’s almost presuming that they don’t have the good judgment to go out with a guy that’s appropriate for them so the dad has to come in and save the day. The way Jill [his wife] and I raise our kids – hopefully they will have enough self-esteem so that they’ll be able to attract guys of a certain caliber. You don’t need a damn shotgun.
This is exactly why it irks me when I see a father acting like he’s ready to beat out his daughter’s boyfriend. Do you think your daughter is not sensible enough to choose an appropriate guy? Don’t you trust your daughter?
So to fathers out there whose daughters have started dating, here’s some thoughts:
If you raise your daughter right, you can trust them to be sensible and make good decisions. Unless you don’t feel like you’ve done a good job, then you can worry. But in all honesty, acting unkindly and untrusting will only push your daughter away from you, and don’t blame her when she starts going backstreet, or hiding things from you. And also, it might make her lose respect for you (especially when you act like that without reasoning).
I know you can’t generalize this thing, and everybody’s different. But I just feel I have to get this point across, and maybe this could help some people to get a better understanding about these things.