I was raised without a dad present. I know he loved me, but he didn't deal with his depression and alcoholism. He also committed suicide when I was 12.
Yes, this can all be very sad for me, but only when I think about other people with fathers. It was a great loss a while back, but it has been 15 years. I have made do with the people, family, and skills that I have and have found.
All of the times in which fatherless-girls are supposed to be high risk have passed. I did not drink or do drugs before my peers (in fact, it was much later). I did not have sex with boys early, in spite of whatever annoying attention I received. I did not get pregnant as a teenager nor did I drop out of school. Yes, I have very little self-confidence, but I'm not convinced that can't be tied to other things equally as strongly.
In spite of whatever challenges I have come across, I have not sought any type of pseudo-father-figure. I like being strong and standing up on my own. I like being able to address my own needs and concerns. I also like knowing who I can trust.
I have never had a time in my life when oddly needy and seemingly paternalistic males have failed to find me. Initially, I trusted them. When I was a teenager, these were the adult bosses and workers who'd try and take advantage of my naivete about sexual power and dynamics. In the back room of the store while I was trying to stock shelves. In their car after I agreed to go for a walk.
It was never rape, but I never felt in control or informed. They left me confused and wondering if I actually had a say. Eventually, I learned to identify and avoid them. I learned to find the other kinds of men who can treat me like a peer, regardless of my education or lack of experience.
As we've all grown up and have started to find our boundaries and balances, they've recently shifted shape. Their strategies for insinuation are different.
Suddenly, they are bosses who belittle you for being female. Who assign you less responsibility, give you fewer promotions, and are shocked when you come up with a good idea. They are the ones who don't notice when you've stopped talking because they were ignoring you the whole time. They're still happy to steal work you've done independently and call it their own, because of the guidance they've allowed you to have.
These paternal men have learned to approach you as a peer and attempt to flip the power structure when given the chance. They know they can help you. They know just what you need to do. They approach you and your decisions and your life judgmentally and let you know exactly what you need to do.
It's a lie. They don't know anything but their own lives. I know, because I'm a fixer-type. I want to give help when needed, but I know I don't have the full story. I give advice and brainstorm solutions, but I know I don't have all of the values and context that the person going through it does. I always feel that I have to state this before saying anything about anyone else's life.
I'm tired of being treated as though I "need help" or "need guidance" or "need a father figure/dominant male in my life." It may a my heroic flaw, but my heroic flaw and I will accept it for now.
Clearly, earlier I was too permissive. I know right now that I drop them like a burning plate when I get a hold of what they're doing. I'm not sure I've really come up with the best way to address it, but balance takes me a while.
I know I prefer peer relationships with men. As I think of myself as more of an adult, I'm learning that I have a right to demand just that. It may not mean exclusion all of the time, but I'm not ruling that out as a strategy. It may mean calling them on it before I let them go, even if they don't really understand.