Fathers are just as important to daughters as they are to sons
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When I was 10 years old, I wrote my first love letter. My mom bought me this cute butterfly stationery. She was into letter writing. I used it to write a one-page letter to this guy we'll call "Joe," who I thought was the cutest thing walking. He sat pretty far away from me in class, which made passing him a note too risky. Ms. B didn't miss much.
Then one day, we had a lesson on writing letters. I memorized Joe's address when Ms. B used him as an example. I took almost two weeks to work up the nerve. It mostly read like one-sided dialogue in a manners lesson. "How are you?" "Do you like Ms. B?" You know, 10-year-old conversation.
I sprayed it with some of my mom's perfume and put it in the mailbox. Well, I had been concentrating on remembering his address so much that I was a little fuzzy on the details of the lesson. I didn't think anything more of the letter. I sat in class watching Joe and day dreaming about his reaction when he got my letter.
When my dad got home from school he came and found me in my room. He looked uncomfortable. He said he didn't want me to think he was spying on me but that he came across something that belonged to me. It was my letter.
He explained very gently and awkwardly that I had addressed it wrong. I put the addresses in the wrong spot. He also explained that I put too much perfume on it and the mailman probably wouldn't deliver it.
He showed me how to correctly address the letter. He showed me how to spray the perfume from a distance so you could smell it just a little bit. He offered to mail it for me. I got a huge box of chocolate from Joe for Valentine's Day, something for which I credit the letter and my dad's help.
When I was 15, I was going to school on game day Friday. I was on the drill team and we were supposed to wear our drill team sweat suits. I had mine on with the pants legs pulled up to just below the knee. Which was the style at the time. My dad flipped when he saw me walk into the kitchen. He told me to pull my pants legs down because I looked like a bum.
I was 14, so of course, I refused in the strongest way I could. He said if I wanted to fix my pants and dress like a decent young lady he would meet me in the van. Otherwise, I could ride the bus. He knew I hated riding the bus more than anything. I snatched my pants legs down and grumbled all the way to school, where I was a student and he was a teacher. The couple of times I saw him during the day he greeted me with a warm smile.
We make a lot of the impact of missing fathers on young boys. The whole 'it takes a man to raise a man' thing. But we overlook the impact a father has on his daughter. As a woman your relationship, or lack thereof, with your father or father figure shapes your perception of what defines a man.
It's not about the whole princess thing for all of us. Some of us just want to know we have a dad who is looking out for us. We want to know there is a man in our life who cares how we are perceived. We want a guy in our life who will be on our side.
Next week would have been my dad's 80th birthday. He wasn't perfect, but he was involved. He was the model by which I measured the men in my life. He taught me lessons that have served me in my dealings with men.
We cannot discount how valuable a father's role is in the life of their daughters. We cannot discredit the impact of his actions, however small, in her life. My father taught me to value myself because he showed me I was valuable to him. He taught me to command respect because he respected me. He let me know I was worthy of love because he loved me just as I am.
I don't know how awkward it was for him to help his daughter mail a love letter. I don't know how hard it was for him to stand his ground even in the face of my teenage anger. I do know that Joe and every guy since him up to my husband have been measured by his example of manhood. I do know that he loved his daughters enough to set that example.
- Mariel Blake writes a weekly column for The Daily News.