Manifest Feminist

The day at the airport was a milestone in my life. There was the great pain of seeing you torn away from Mama & me, and also the great satisfaction of knowing you were embarking on something grand, something you had worked so hard for and deserved.

The next morning – this morning – was very difficult for me, because your absence was so absolute, and this so keenly felt. It was a very weepy morning (I’m sure there will be more such times). But my tears are more of joy than sorrow. Yes, sorrow, because you are gone, and I can measure the depth of my love for you by the size of the hole in my heart. I couldn’t really do that before today. But also joy. Because you have undertaken something difficult – and the most rewarding activities in life are often the most difficult. Also because I find myself pinching myself and saying to myself, “***** really loves me!” There is so little genuine love in this world, and the family in America is in such pitiful condition, that one almost expects to be disappointed – taken for granted – by one’s children. But, no!

As it turns out, we have an extraordinary family. Amid the quotidian routine, there are moments, epiphanies – such as yesterday – when it is unmistakable that this family of ours is really a living out of love, such as, if I may be forgiven the pride, one seldom sees – anywhere.

But love is hard-won, and when, as a Father one sees that the love given, however imperfectly (and I’m sorry for the extreme and unfair things I said to you when we were having our difficulties long ago), has been more than fully reciprocated, one feels that life is complete. One could die instantly, and not feel cheated. Of course, if you hadn’t left, I wouldn’t have felt these things so sharply. That’s the paradox.

And, of course, the nature of love is to give itself away, to pass itself along. Nothing – not education, not career – is more important for you than that you plant and nourish the gift of love in the would of your marriage and family. Yes, it’s hard at times, but it’s worth every effort. If the day hasn’t already come, one day it should hit you like a ton of bricks (or spark plugs) that “[my husband] really loves me,” and should you die instantly, you would not feel cheated.

It’s horrible to have you gone, but I know it’s necessary. We are marking the days’ till your return.

Hi. My dad is dying.

He sent the above letter to my oldest sister back in 1994, and as I’ve been trying chew on the weird emotions that the death of a parent can elicit, reading this letter really helped me cement exactly how I feel about all of this: what an asshole.

My father ran a conservative Catholic magazine out of our house, and his philosophies including propagating ideas such as gay conversion therapy, that masturbation is a sin, abortion is wrong, and he also made us go to Latin mass. So I guess it’s not shocking that I turned out the way I did: militant radical and the exact opposite of all that bullshit. Upon pondering the death of my father, I realize that I’m so far removed from my relationship with him that I almost forgot how I became the person I am today, which, by the way, is a person I really enjoy being. It’s so natural and easy for me to be myself these days – I had forgotten the insanity and pain that forged me.

Reading that letter was a stark reminder of exactly the crazy bullshit that made me into the crazy person I am today. I mean, like, god damn, there is a lot of psycho bullshit to unpack in that letter, particularly the fact that this is a weirdly creepy love letter to his daughter? Like, yuck, that made me pretty fucking uncomfortable. I mean, I guess it’s supposed to be sweet, but, oof, the purity ball overtones of the whole thing made my skin crawl.

What I do like about this letter is the sheer force of emotion and conviction that inspired it. While I disagree with the convictions (for example that a marriage is more important than a career or education), I’m trying to find a reason to be generous in my heart with a man who at this very moment somewhere across town is dying. The overwhelming emotion that he expresses has a remarkable depth – a depth that I don’t see many people, particularly men, express. The fact that he cried because his daughter left for a year – well, for a while now I’ve had a fetish for seeing my male sexual partners crying, so, yeah, this one struck a chord with me.

But there is something so fundamentally unsettling about this letter. This letter is, if anything, unbelievably manipulative and a way to exert control over a woman while she’s half a world away. The disarming emotion, the vulnerability play a very interesting role in pushing the propaganda of the family unit as the only method to achieve love in life. The fact that he capitalized “Father” when referring to himself even though he’s a Catholic and “Father” can only refer to god belies the god complex that seems to underpin the entire mentality that he propagates in the letter: this man was controlling as fuck, and he called it love.

What struck me in this letter is that it seemed to echo ideas that run parallel with philosophies such as manifest destiny and white supremacy. The letter was intended to reinforce the structure that upholds these philosophies, because without that structure and without the obedience of the people who comprise those structures, those philosophies have nothing to stand on. In such, this letter is a fascinating glimpse behind the curtain, a way to unravel how these philosophies build, grow stronger and self perpetuate. The coercion of obedience from the arbitrarily selected second class citizens is crucial to their functionality, and this is their methodology and language laid bare.

Because even though I don’t agree with the family first philosophy that clearly treats women as second class citizens, it’s the language of love that makes it confusing. As though to disagree with these ideas is to be against the very idea of love. Which is not what I think at all. If anything, this is a very myopic vision of love, one that fails to acknowledge that love exists in myriad forms, beyond the family, in different states. Love is not an object to be given – it is a living creature, a vibrant idea, something that is in constant flux, just as we, as people, are in constant flux.

But I’m not interested in sitting here and rebutting this letter, combing through, point counterpoint. No, I’m not here to argue. To argue would be to give his ideas validity. No. I’m here to learn. I want to learn how to work the tools that these conservative, cis, white, heteronormative have used against us all this time. How does this knife cut, and where do I make my cuts.

Because in my father’s death, all of this dies with him. And, me? I’m still here. I am the progeny of this, and I am the future. So how do I take the ideas of the new world and propagate them? What are the intimate ways in which I communicate and reinforce the new world order among my peers?

Love is intoxicating.

In all honesty, reading this letter over and over again is giving me hella anxiety. Probably because it’s a trap that almost killed me, and it’s a trap that killed people I love, so standing on the edge peering in is like looking at a future that I was supposed to have but never wanted. I also know that I am the same as my father, and all the evil and manipulation and control and baiting in that letter – yeah, I do the exact same evil shit. It’s hard for me to write about that letter because I find myself oscillating between wanting to write a thoughtful analysis of intimate, interpersonal mind control tactics and also exploding with emotion about who those things did or didn’t work on me. And at the same time, I’m so repulsed by that letter, but as I write, and I can hear my father’s voice, his thought process, his cadence as I type out these words – I am repulsed by myself. I try to be better, but I fail frequently.

Or do I want to write about: what is the nature of love. And after having forged a different path, is there love on the dark side of the moon? Certainly the exploration I did on the sex blog encompassed that idea: finding love in dark places. I did find it. You can read all about it.

I don’t know. Like I said, my dad is dying, and this is just a tornado of emotions, which isn’t making for a very cohesive blog post, but…fuck. What else am I supposed to do. I am my father’s daughter. Brace yourself, blog readers, for a lot of daddy issues-related posts and perhaps some undercurrents of incest. Because, well, isn’t that what you’re here for.

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