Saturday, March 29, 2014

Fathers and their Truths and their Love and their Realities

Recently, I had a discussion with a good friend of mine about some of the recent blog posts written by fathers to their daughters about today’s ridiculous standards of beauty and about the importance of being a strong partner in a relationship, a woman who holds her partner to a high standard of respect and love.  My two favorites are by Dr. Kelly Flanagan:

If you have a chance, I strongly recommend reading these posts. I don’t care if you’re male or female, young or old, have daughters or not. They’re exceptional. They speak volumes not only about the pain and worries and insecurities so many of us women have felt at one time or another in our lives but also about the character of the man who wrote the posts.  My heart swells when I think about him and other men who can so deeply grasp and sympathize with these issues and who go to such directed efforts to help their daughters see beyond these influences, to reinforce to girls that they are intrinsically and unambiguously worthy of love.

My dad teaching me the importance of a classy chapeau.

I’m not going to go into the details of these and other posts.  You can read them for yourselves.  The question my friend and I pondered – my friend is the father of two daughters – is whether this and other male authors of such posts live and internalize the “male side” of these articulated beliefs.  I’m curious if they are representative of the men they would want their daughters to love and value.

It’s not for me to judge, even if they aren’t. But it’s just something I wonder about.

For instance, in the first post above, Dr. Flanagan encourages his daughter not to focus on her external beauty but rather to seek her value in her internal beauty and sense of self. He tells his daughter, The world wants you to take your clothes off. Please keep them on. I love what he and other dad-authors say about being strong and choosing your dream and not being worried about the exterior over the interior. 

But I did wonder, in the back of my mind, if the authors themselves are influenced by and attracted to a woman’s exterior, by flawless skin and youthful appearance, as much as any other men. I wonder if, beneath the higher thinking they demonstrate, they also see a stunningly attractive female “as a pretty face and a body to enjoy.” Do they actively seek out images of “hot” women, naked or otherwise? Do they find some small disappointment in how the faces and bodies of the women in their lives compare to the world’s standards of perfection?

The second post delivers an equally powerful message about what Dr. Flanagan will and will not consider important in the man his daughter chooses to be with.  I love, love, love, adore, value, worship (add your own verbs here) this message:  Little One, it is not, has never been, and never will be your job to ‘keep him interested.’” I reread that statement a number of times, tears welling up in my eyes. This one hit home. It hit home hard.

Do you know how many men make it seem like it’s our job to keep them interested?  Not all men, most assuredly, but so very many.  Sorry… about to go on a rant… but I’ll reign myself in.  Suffice it to say that I fell a little in love with Dr. Flanagan with that one statement.

Again, Dr. Flanagan isn’t alone in posting these sentiments; he just happens to have articulated them in a way that was powerful for me. But other fathers are stating the same thing out in the webiverse, urging their daughters to stand strong as equal partners, to accept nothing less than complete respect and true adoration from the men they choose.

Which makes me curious about their relationships with women in their lives. Do they take responsibility for helping sustain the interest between themselves and their partners? Do they work hard to keep their love and desire alive? Or do they sometimes get complacent?  Do a few of them move beyond complacency toward allowing themselves to be open to emotional influence from another woman rather than deal with the challenge of facing an issue with their partner?

As I stated above, it’s not for me to judge. I’m not curious about these things with a focus on learning negative things or pointing fingers. I absolutely would not denigrate what these men say or downplay the importance and validity of their messages if they themselves were imperfect. They fact is, we’re all imperfect. Also, the relationships between these men and their wives or girlfriends is none of my business… for all I know, they might in fact be the role models we all want for the boys who someday will woo and win the hearts of our little girls.

I love what these men have to say (especially Dr. Flanagan... I think I'll start a fan club... or a Flan club... but no, that sounds like a foodie thing... nevermind). I value it more than I can express. It sings to me and reinforces my faith in people. Their words give me confidence in the world in which my children are growing up.

I’m just curious, that’s all.

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