Cringe-worthy. Kinda weird. Definitely uncomfortable. But also, flattering. My emotions ran this gamut every Tuesday and Sunday evening, the times Dad demanded I schedule to be spent, alone, with him. Playing music together. Gossiping about his wife/my mother to me. Pawing, I mean, patting me.
On the one hand, I was flattered (and guilty!) that he seemed to like me better than my mother, his wife of thirty years. We bonded over the pain and frustration her paranoia, her menopausal idiosyncrasies and her über-control caused us. Triangulation at its finest! (Look it up!)
On the other hand, I never felt comfortable around the man. His rages terrified me. His depressions worried me. His teasing wounded me. His hands hurt me. And the way his eyes constantly followed me freaked me out.
He never seemed comfortable in his own skin. Never had any friends. Nor many hobbies.
But he was my dad. And we were supposed to be “close,” right?
He was also the only man in my life. Oh, there were others, but most of them were my married coworkers. Unhappily married, of course. Tired of their middle-aged wives. Usually alcoholics or ex-alcoholics. I was there to listen to them, to sympathize, to provide a shoulder for them to pat, just like my relationship with dad. And what was with all the shoulder patting, anyways!?!
Occasionally, I’d date a young man, but the relationship never lasted long. If I wasn’t dumped, my parents made sure I did the dumping.
Hindsight being 20-20, the dynamic is now so obvious. Covert incest! I blush at the name.
(See excellent books on the topic below.)
It took thirty years and getting married to make this dynamic painfully obvious to me. To reveal I wasn’t just a daughter; I was Dad’s pseudo wife. And had been for much of my life.
You see, when your parent is a narcissist, you belong to them. Mind, heart and body. You are theirs, baby. And if they can’t have you, no one can have you.
That’s why narcissistic mothers often raise “Mamma’s Boys.” They’re the women who undress in front of their sons and kiss them on the lips. If their son, by some miracle, manages to ditch the computer games and break out of Mamma’s basement to snag an unsuspecting female (aka “that whore that stole my baby boy”), holy crap! Look out for the mother-in-law from Hell. Think Mrs. Wolowitz from The Big Bang Theory. Got it?
Click here to read my newest article, Parents Who Are Jealous of Their Kids.
Personally, I wasn’t allowed to move out until I was thirty-one, supposedly, for my safety. And did I mention Dad tried to renege after saying I could move out!?
Dad’s jealousy was more covert. It also had a much longer history. I vividly recall Dad reacting with anger when I kissed my first-grade boyfriend on the arm. Wait! Say what!?!
On the other hand, Dad could do anything he wanted to me.
Lick out my ears. Hell yes! He just held me down while I wriggled and protested.
Slap back-and-forth between my thighs causing great pain, just to watch the “jiggle.” Of course! (Mom showed him how to do it.)
Slap the tender soles of my feet while I writhed and begged for mercy. Business as usual!
Tickle me unmercifully ’til I screamed! Oh yeah!
Thankfully, puberty stopped the licking, slapping and tickling. Other things changed too. Mother took me aside and smilingly explained it was now inappropriate for me to hug my Daddy in the usual way. “He’s a man and you’re a woman now,” she said. A-frame hugs were now the name of the game. Or as Catholics say, “Leave room for the Holy Spirit.”
My innocent relationship with Daddy would never be the same. Thanks to Mom, it became slightly sexualized. While other girls wore tank tops, shorts and even swimsuits around their father with nary a thought, I was horribly body conscious around mine. Clothed in stiff stabilized fabrics from neck to knees, conscious of even a gap in my neckline, I was ill-at-ease in his presence. Body conscious! Guilt-ridden if I accidentally hugged my father too close, confessing “my” mistake to my angry, jealous Mother.
It wasn’t long until she started accusing me of “being cute” for Daddy. That was just a euphemism. Seduction! That’s what she meant. And to this day I wonder if she was projecting something weird about him, onto me. All I knew was that I had to win his approval and deserve his love. Trying to be sweet, loving and pretty just got me accused, suspected and yelled at.
Defenseless, I believed her. I owned the false guilt. Only a horrible person would “be cute” for her own father. And I, a clueless virgin, was this horrible person. She even forbade me from wearing a certain modest dress suit because, and I quote, “You look too good.”
But not only was I considered a seductress in my own home, I was also “slut shamed” for High School crushes.
I’ll never forget that day in 10th grade. The occasion was a High School band concert. Dad took me out for a “date” prior to the concert, but I was too excited to eat. I couldn’t wait to introduce my father to “Joe,” the boy I liked.
After we got home from the concert, I huddled in bed, curled up in the fetal position, adrenalin gripping my heart. I knew, just knew, I’d done something horribly wrong. But what!?!
I didn’t have long to wait. In the dimness, my parents filed grimly into my room. Glowering down at me, the verdict was read. “You are never to speak to, look at or even think about him again,” Dad stated. “You’d obviously let him have his wicked way with you in a school stairwell!” Slut shamed again!
The Little Warden, I mean Mother, enforced my sentencing by daily interrogations after school. Six months later, I was removed from school and put in solitary confinement, studying alone in my room (aka homeschooling) for the next two years!
When I developed OCD (i.e. trichotillomania and dermatillomania) in High School to cope with the stress of being forced to act happy and perfect in a most chaotic, imperfect home, Daddy was incensed. He tried everything to rob me of my one-and-only coping mechanism, that was ruining the complexion of HIS pretty girl. As a last resort he said, “Until you stop picking on your skin, I’ll never tell you that you’re pretty ever again.” And by George, he kept that promise…even on my wedding day.
High school graduation brought some changes to my life, but not what you’d expect. Instead of going out into the wide world to try my wings, I was bribed into spending my 18th Summer in my parents’ basement. It was incumbent on me to help Dad fix up their rundown house, neglected due to bringing me up. It also gave him the opportunity to be alone with me, talk about sex constantly, detail the minutiae of the female orgasm, assure me I wouldn’t enjoy sex, etc.
During my early twenties, Dad’s jealousy became less evident. He stopped cutting my hair himself and let me go to a salon even though he disliked my shorter style. Maybe his cancer distracted him from obsessing about me. Maybe his Little Warden did the obsessing for him.
[Author’s Note: I just realized that Dad’s insistence that I “check in” and “check out” so they always knew exactly when I arrived or left a destination was more in the vein of a controlling, insanely jealous lover, than a caring father.]
Maybe I just didn’t have many dates. When I had a horrible date or got dumped, Dad was happy to take me out, proving I had a better time with him than anyone else. And if I did have a good date with a kiss at the end, Dad demanded I end the relationship…immediately. No reason given; no tears allowed.
Frankly, I was shocked when he didn’t forbid me from ballroom dancing lessons. “I’m the only man who’s ever held her in his arms,” he reportedly said sadly as I went off to my first lesson. Mother thought it so sweet. I just found it creepy.
But then something strange happened. Mother asked me if my father had ever molested me.
“NO” I responded, shocked and horrified. “I didn’t think so,” she simpered and cooed. But she knew it was on the cards, or she’d never have asked. Was she checking to see if it had happened? Or checking to see if I remembered a specific scenario she knew occurred?
I was thirty-two before I dared to introduce Dad to another person of the male persuasion. Michael. My husband. Before even meeting Michael, Dad was meddling. He called me angrily on my first (and only!) date with Michael to demand I immediately leave because dusk was falling. The next morning, Dad attempted to brainwash me by claiming I was “just infatuated” with Michael. I wasn’t having any of it. I knew what I wanted, and I wanted Michael. I secretly accepted his proposal of marriage that very day. By their vary “caring,” they forced me into a hasty marriage.
Four days later, Michael met my parents. And I was terrified. Michael couldn’t keep his hands off me! He kept touching me, right in front of them. The slut-shaming from seventeen years prior had my stomach in knots.
Nine days later, we were married. Walking up the “aisle” on my father’s arm, I was painfully conscious of the proximity of his arm to my chest, hoping a “boo-boo” didn’t happen, so I wouldn’t have to “confess” the woops to Mother after saying my “I Do’s.”
When the minister spoke the words, “You may kiss the bride,” Michael and I kissed and kissed and kissed. It was the first time Dad had ever seen me lay a hand on a man, let alone kiss a man. So I snuck a peak out of the corner of my eye. Sure enough, a disapprovingly expression was frozen on Dad’s face. He spent our wedding reception pouting in a corner, speaking to no one.
If I thought saying “I DO,” would exorcise Dad’s disapproval, I was sadly mistaken. After years of parental lecturing on the topic of sexual immorality, apparently even my wedding vows didn’t make it okay for me to kiss a man. Silly me! Naïve me! Even holy wedlock couldn’t sanctify physical contact between myself and my new husband in the eyes of my Bible-thumping father.
Banish the thought Michael would touch me, hug me, lift me or (gasp!) kiss me in his father-in-law’s presence. While Mother giggled and cooed, Dad averted his eyes, grimacing with rage.
Hugging Dad post-wedding was, if possible, even more awkward that ever before. He seemed to be unable to bear touching me. Had to force himself to hug me…from a respectful distance, as always.
I felt dirty, like I’d become the whore he always feared I would. Meanwhile, Mother was hugging my husband in a way that made both my new husband and myself extremely uncomfortable. Let’s just say, she left no room for the Holy Spirit. WTF!?! Hypocrite, you are, Mom! I looked up at Dad to see what his reaction was to his wife’s chumminess with my husband, and saw in his face only the dejection of a “whipped cur.”
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I had to know what was going on. There’s a famous cliché. “If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a frickin’ duck!” And this looked, walked and quacked like frickin’ jealosy.
“Mother, why is Dad acting so weird when Michael kisses me?” I asked.
“Oh,” she cooed, clearly prepared to brainwash me with a well-rehearsed stock answer, “He’s just having trouble getting used to his little girl being married.”
I wasn’t his daughter! I was his “wife.” And by getting married, I’d cheated on him!
Welcome to the rotten world of covert incest.
Did you like what you read here? If so, I’d be happy to contribute an original story about narcissism, narcissistic abuse (and its many rotten bedfellows) and healing to your site or guest blog. For details on the “whole package” deal I offer, please visit www.lenorathompsonwriter.com.
Discussion: To hear a discussion of this article, click on the link and fast forward to 1:28:00 on the recording. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/naasca/2016/02/01/community-matters-this-week–412
Recommended Reading: Chapter 7 of Father Daughter Incest by Judith Herman. This chapter describes the “seductive” father who supplants his wife with his daughter in his affections. Sometimes he woos her. Accuses her of being a slut if she becomes involved with any other man. Best description of cover father/daughter incest ever!