My father has largely been a source of negativity in my life. My parents divorced when I was 3 years old and my time with him from that point onward has basically been divided into three time periods: 1) ages 3 to 15 I was afraid of him and hated him and was afraid of becoming like him 2) 16 through 20 I forgave him for being a bad father and understood the things in his life that led him to be the fucked up man that he is 3) 21 to present I’ve been somewhat actively trying to pursue a positive relationship with him on an adult level, treating him as an equal and demanding the same in return.

My father’s main problems have always been his ego, his greed, his verbal abuse, his short temper, and his self-centeredness. His life has been countless failed attempts at artistic (mostly film) projects trying to get whatever he wants at any cost regardless of how it affects those around him. He likes to feel in charge, he likes to lead the pack, but really he’s just an immature kid trying to assume the role of the alpha-male which is the position he was in throughout his childhood. He was the oldest of 8 children and was forced into being a third parent and taking care of his 7 siblings denying him his natural growth as a young boy. His father was physically abusive to him, and generally he has had a fucked up life with a fucked up family: drugs, death, suicide, being poor, prison etc. all of which contribute to his inner turmoil. Since he was male and the oldest he was taught to be strong and take control of others from a very young age and if he didn't he was abused or punished until he did.

On the positive side of things he is a very good director. He is politically savvy and very down to earth, smart, and easy to get along with when he isn’t wrapped up in his ego. He has directed many independent videos/films, and written a number of articles. Only a few of his projects have generated any real income but all have had moderate critical success or were enjoyed by those who had access to them.

My mother left him because of verbal abuse and because of his complete economic and emotional selfishness. He is THE typical story of a self-centered artist. His occasional film or video gig bought him enough food to slide by while my mom paid for rent, myself, and everything else. Divorcing him was most definitely the right choice for her and I.

When I was young I was really terrified of him. His bouts of anger often reduced me to tears, he was insulting, mean, and horrible. He had virtually no respect for me one moment and after the tirade was over he would apologize later but never change his behavior on any real fundamental level. It was only when I became a teenager that I really began to pity him instead of hate him. He was and is a failure in his own eyes, his family's eyes, and in society's eyes. He never had a chance to have a normal childhood as a basis for his life and he has built such an ego around himself he sabotages his own work because, for him, it never lives up to the acclaim he feels it deserves.

He has aged and with it I think has come the slow understanding that he has really fucked his life up. He has let down my mother. He has let down me, his son. He has let down his siblings he was supposed to help raise, most of which are fucked up, dead, or barely getting by. But instead of intrinsically changing the life set out for him by his socially constructed gender he uses that same structure to do the only thing he knows how to do: start project after project and hope one takes off, generates lots of money, and use that money to solve his problems. This will never happen and money doesn't solve problems. Even a modicum of success does not make up for decades of bankruptcy and emotional detachment. Due to this I have always had a shallow and tenuous relationship with him. My whole life I acknowledged his character flaws and even though I knew there was a real person in there I knew I would probably never truly see it. I would never really reach HIM, just the bullshit he uses as a facade to cover up his emotions and insecurities.

I was wrong.

During his most recent short film he was, as usual, hoping for the best. Seeing the world through the lens of his gender he saw the answer to his problems lying in becoming a successful alpha male: money, fame, and power. This would be it - this is the big one, it's going to make him $10,000 each week once it takes off and becomes a feature-length hollywood production that he will direct. He'll be famous and never have to work again. I saw the final product and it was beautiful. It was intelligent, sweet, and incomprehensibly optimistic about the world and the human race. It was political and revolutionary. And like most revolutionary pieces of art, it didn't do well. After a month of good reviews and sub par audience attendance at an independent theater the final showing came. The credits rolled, the movie ended, the crowd left, and I found myself standing outside the theater doors knowing something was wrong. The manager of the theater, a friend of mine, came up to me and said that he had just learned, because of the lack of ticket sales (let alone the lack of producers coming to throw money at it) my father wasn't able to pay the theater for the month of showings. He was in the process of letting the owner know that he would pay as soon as he got the money but that he didn't have it now. During my realization of how serious that was the doors opened and I saw my father, his face covered in tears, his voice barely audible, look at me and the manager and barely croak out a single word: water. He closed the door as the manager ran off to find him a bottle of what he requested and left me in shock.

I had known my father for almost 25 years and I had never once seen him cry. I'm sure he had here and there, but it was rare and I had certainly never been witness to it. In that one moment of pure vulnerability I completely and finally understood him. It was a culmination of all the understanding I had done over the last decade. He was fucking alone. He never had a normal childhood and he had never matured because of it. He didn't know how to relate to people unless he was bossing them around. He had taken every last shred of his positivity, his happiness and creativity that he had buried inside of him - he took it past fucked up layers of anger and abuse he had suffered and poured it all into this one work of art; a story of a young man trying to do something good with his life. Something he, having dropped out of high school, having been a parent since he was born, having never been taught how to have a non-dysfunctional relationship to people and society and women, had never been able to do. And not this movie alone but he had poured his heart into his work before, and had seen it all fail. He never had a chance, and maybe he could have been lucky enough to work past his problems earlier in life but can I blame him that he didn't? Can I blame him that his salvation of money, power, and fame was created by viewing the world through the lens of his own socially constructed gender? How many men are lucky enough to have a radical feminist critique present in their own lives so that they can smash their inner patriarch?

So, in a moment of pure unabashed emotion I forgave him for all he had done. I hadn't forgotten it, and I don't let him get away with it when it still happens, but I forgave him. I felt love for him and for the first time in my life I wanted to call him dad instead of his first name.

My dad is the failure of the male gender in a world that builds men up knowing most won't succeed. He is the powerless working class man, he is the self-centered artist, he is the failure of the education system, the long lost first born child, the abusive father, he's a thousand stories and male stereotypes and more rolled into one. Society failed him so he failed those closest to him. Patriarchy built him up and patriarchy tore him down. The problem with gender archetypes is that they aren't real life. A man can't succeed when there's a corporate empire trying to control him. An artist can't express himself when one needs so much money just to have a place to live. A father can't raise a family when he was never raised himself. A husband can't have a healthy marriage if he never knew one was possible. A man has to fight to be a feminist because he's led to believe he is something else: that he's a man instead of being a human being.

Seeing the world through the lens of patriarchy is deadly. Seeing it through the lens of feminism is liberating. I don't think it's too late for my father, I don't think it's too late for anyone, but I know that if he ever wants to release his anger, his sadness, and create a real future for himself - one filled with love and peace, not money and power - then he has a lot to own up to and a lot of work to do. Maybe I'll try and talk to him about it if I can muster up the strength.

Creative Commons License