Valentine’s Day Was Pure Hell for a Young Woman With Daddy Issues Like Me
I had to get over my core issues with my father to surpass the pain this holiday used to cause me.
There was once a time when it felt like Valentine’s Day shone a very bright spotlight on everything that was wrong with me. For most of the year, I presented an aura of confidence. Look at how beautiful I was: tall, thin, stylish. I was an independent young woman! I didn’t need a man. I was out every night in the bars and clubs, partying. I was a culture-vulture, a jet-setter, living it up, traveling the world. Why settle down when you were as amazing as I was?
But then February 14th would roll around and on flashed that spotlight. The figurative zits bursting through the peerless veneer of my flawless epidermis came into a sudden clear focus. These blemishes were growing bigger and redder by the minute. No one could deny them.
I wasn’t a happy, young single woman. I was single only because I was defective. I was damaged goods and that was the real reason I couldn’t get a man to love me.
The spotlight didn’t just illuminate my flaws, but it flooded the whole scene around me, showing off everyone in my midst: all the normal, well-adjusted people. People who had someone. People who were in love.
Me? I lacked value. No wonder I was alone on Valentine’s Day.
You get the picture as to why this holiday used to cause me so much pain. I was a woman with unfinished daddy issues from childhood. My father wasn’t emotionally available to me as I was growing up. He traveled so much he was often not physically available either. Sometimes it felt like I didn’t even have a father. My subconscious came to believed that because my father had emotionally neglected me as a kid, I was worth nothing.
This sense of being unworthy led to a string of disastrous relationships in my adulthood. Looking back, even calling these arrangements “relationships” is a stretch. I was infatuated with men who couldn’t care less about me. Still, there I was, offering myself to them. They would gladly use me, then bolt away as quickly as they could flush the condom down the toilet. Poof. Gone.
I’d be all alone again. Valentine’s Day just underlined that. Because trust me — I was usually alone for that holiday.
The rest of the year I could keep the truth about me hidden. I’d play up the party-girl persona. Look at me, so carefree and fun-loving. I was a regular denizen of the L.A. nightlife scene. People knew me. I got into clubs for free. Men would buy me drinks at these clubs, court my attention. It didn’t take them long to sniff out the stink of victimhood on my flesh though.
I wouldn’t call these men predators. That supposes that they meant me harm. They, too, believed I was just up for a good time until the truth came spurting forth.
They learned soon enough when I texted them after they fucked me “just to check in.” And when they didn’t answer, I’d text again and again and again, and after that, I’d make sure to call a couple of times too, just in case they didn’t catch the notification.
I made it so easy for them because I knew I was so forgettable. I had to remind them who I was. I couldn’t stop myself. I was quenched for the love my father never gave me. So I’d reattempt to squeeze out a little affection from another stone-cold hipster.
But I never got what I wanted, so I kept pretending everything was cool. I was cool. Nothing phased me. Only this wasn’t true. I wasn’t cool, and everything phased me, especially on Valentine’s Day.
The spotlight switched on again, pinpointing me under its glare. It was lights coming on at the end of a long night at the disco, me caught alone again with mascara streaming down my face, lipstick smudged across my mouth, my hair a disheveled mess, some clothes still clinging to my body but other pieces lost in the darkness.
The truth was undeniable under that floodlight: I was just a pretty piece of trash. No, don’t throw her away just yet. Let’s keep her at an arms-length a little longer. She comes running so fast at the first holler, offering it all while asking for nothing.
It took years to finally get the therapy I needed to deal with my daddy issues. But until I healed, Valentine’s Day was traumatic for me.
I don’t doubt it is for other women who have similar issues with their fathers. All I can do is send my love. Because I know exactly what kind of pure hell Valentine’s Day can be for women like us.
Valentine’s Day wasn’t always a painful holiday for me.
That said, my childhood memories of Valentine’s Day are quite good. All the kids at my school brought in cards to class to give to each other. You weren’t allowed to leave anyone out.
At home, my mom gave me chocolate candy. Sometimes I’d get a crisp five-dollar bill in the mail from my grandma. What a great holiday Valentine’s Day was!
Once I got to high school, I didn’t pay the day much attention. My friends and I didn’t care about it. It was a holiday for adults. We had each other. Who cared about boys?
But then at sixteen, I met a guy. On Valentine’s Day, he showed up at my house with a giant teddy bear, a dozen red roses, a gold chain with a diamond pendant, and a bottle of French perfume. I was astounded. It was a total surprise.
My mother was shocked as well. She should have been. My boyfriend was four years older than me and he’d just showered me with expensive gifts. He was a twenty-year-old grownup sniffing around the ass of her sixteen-year-old daughter, and he meant business. My mom had a right to be perturbed.
This grownup hadn’t finished high school, had been arrested multiple times, and had been incarcerated once on assault and battery charges — and he had his eyes fixed on me. I would say this definitely was my mother’s cue to start seriously freaking. She should have told this dude to stay the fuck away from me.
Maybe it also would have been a good time to take a long look in the mirror to wonder what could be so wrong with our family that I, a beautiful honors student, was interested in this twenty-year-old ex-convict.
And what the hell was wrong with him to make him so interested me?
I’ll tell you what. I was young and easy to manipulate. I gave him my virginity the first time he asked and was cool when he pushed me around afterward. I was up for all the fights we had because they were just as exciting for me as they were for him. I forgave him when he shoved me to the floor at a house party, or splashed a drink in my face during a tiff, or when he left me on the side of an L.A. freeway one night after an argument in his car.
So we know why he was interested in me but why was I interested in him? I was just happy a man was giving me attention.
But the adult in the room, the real adult — not my ex-convict adult boyfriend, but my mother — should have never allowed this no-good grownup to take me in his turquoise Trans Am to some chain restaurant for dinner or, worse, shower me with expensive gifts. No, he should never have been allowed to do that.
The bigger question, of course, was where my father was while all this was happening? I can’t even remember if he was home. He probably wasn’t. He traveled for work so often, he even had an apartment in another state. My father was checked out from our family. He was a workaholic who had his own issues from childhood he wasn’t dealing with.
He was constantly depressed and threw himself into work with the excuse that he had to, otherwise we’d end up poor like he’d been growing up.
It was admirable in a sense. My dad had scraped himself up from nothing, joined the Marines, gone to college on the G.I. Bill, and then earned a Masters Degree in Aerospace Engineering.
He earned a good living. My mom didn’t work. We lived in a five-bedroom ranch house with a pool in the backyard. My father drove a Porsche. We were spotless on the surface until I reached sixteen and there I was, my father’s beautiful eldest daughter dating an ex-convict grownup who had very adult aspirations with me.
And my mother allowed it. My father allowed it by default — by the mere fact he wasn’t even present to tell me no, to protect me. My parents both permitted my statutory rape again and again. But heck, I got one amazing Valentine’s Day out of it, because I’ll tell you, it was one of the only Valentine’s Days I shared with a man before I got my heart dragged through the dirt on so many others, thanks to my daddy issues.
What was wrong with my family?
My parents both had the bad luck to be born into families with long lines of alcoholism and mental illness. My father had been emotionally neglected himself as a child. His father was a belligerent alcoholic.
I believe my father was (and still is) suffering from PTSD from his childhood. He was dealing with his own trauma while I was growing up and just couldn’t be there for me.
My mother enabled him because that’s all she knew. In order to continue to deny anything was wrong with our family, I was named “crazy” when all I was doing was the inevitable.
I was acting out as a result of my parents’ mutual unexamined childhood issues. Dating the ex-convict adult in high school was just the beginning of my problems. At least he was a man who “loved” me. He recognized my presence in his life. I was his girlfriend. At least he wanted to be seen with me in public. He introduced me to his friends.
Most of the other men I became intimate with once I left home felt very little for me. I was no challenge. I fell too easily. I became categorized as a “friend” of convenience. Otherwise, these guys didn’t want to be bothered with me.
He told me he was too “busy” to spend Valentine’s Day with me.
By my late-twenties, my childhood issues felt like chickens coming home to roost. I was not able to deny them any longer. My depression was worsening.
A lot of my depression originated in the fact that I couldn’t find a boyfriend. I’d meet a guy, he’d show a little interest in me, and I’d become hopelessly infatuated with him whether he was right for me or not. This would ultimately push him away. I just wanted someone to love me the way my father never had. But my neediness was an incredible turn-off for men.
This was especially true for the kind of man I was pursuing. They were superficial, no fit for a woman of my level of depth and sensitivity. Of course, that depth and sensitivity were exactly what I was trying to conceal through all this partying. Having deep feelings was painful because I hated myself so much.
So I denied my depth and chased the men I met in clubs and bars. They were just interested in adding another notch to their belts. Still, I offered myself to them. It just felt so familiar. Vie for the attention of a man who only threw me emotional scraps? How comfortable it felt. It was just like my relationship with my father!
How could these men love me anyway? I believed I was unlovable. My own father had thought so little of me. Why would any other man want to love me?
I remember trying to date a man whom I met at whatever watering hole was the hottest at that time. He was in animation, working at some company in Burbank. Maybe not at the level of Pixar, DreamWorks or Disney, but still he was earning a lot of money.
He lived in the Hollywood Hills. I made myself incredibly convenient for him. I was always obediently available whenever he called, ready to rush to his house at a moment’s notice to watch a movie, then have sex.
Hell, we didn’t even need to watch the movie. Just fucking was enough. I’d race to his place no matter how late he called, provide him with an amazing girlfriend experience for free, spend the night, leave the next morning, and then he wouldn’t see me for another week.
A week would pass, he’d feel that itch again and phone me. We’d repeat what we’d done the week before. His feelings didn’t deepen. In fact, he grew more tired of me. And yet, I was crazy about him.
I tell this story because I’d been offering my body to be used by this man once a week when Valentine’s Day beamed its sickly flushed-pink face on the horizon of my calendar. In the days leading up to the holiday, I kept waiting for him to call, maybe ask me to dinner. We had been fucking for four months, after all. We were kinda a “thing,” right?
When he didn’t call, I became so distraught that I phoned him to ask if he wanted to go out. He said he was busy.
You might think I’d stop seeing him at that point. Of course, I didn’t. I accepted that he had more important things to do than spend Valentine’s Day with a piece of crap like me.
But then as the months toiled on, and he kept treating me like garbage, I finally summoned up every ounce of strength I had and stopped contacting him.
That’s when I started seeing a therapist who actually began to help me.
I went to therapy.
This wasn’t my first time in therapy, but it was the first time the therapy actually worked. Maybe it was because I was actually paying for it myself.
Previous to this point, my mother had always footed the bill. Of course, a crazy, defective young woman like me needed a head shrink. My mother understood this and readily shelled out the cash for my sessions.
But now I was paying for therapy myself. Maybe this new therapist didn’t feel the allegiance toward my parents that my other therapists had because my mom wasn’t signing the checks. I’ll never forget when she told me that my parents had ruined my life and that she wanted me to imagine each of them sitting in a chair before me. I was to tell them both how much they’d hurt me when I was a child.
She wanted me to yell at my imaginary parents, even scream at them, let them know how alone and disrespected they’d made me feel. Let it all out — all my anguish. So I did. I screamed at the chairs in front of me as my therapist egged me on.
I’ll tell you: it actually helped.
Finally, someone who knew my story wasn’t gaslighting me into believing all our family’s problems were my fault. I wasn’t being made to feel like I was just a spoiled fuck-up and that was why I couldn’t find a man to love me.
Though my therapist helped me release all this pent-up anger, she also helped me forgive my parents. She helped me grow up so I could start parenting myself. When I was around my parents after that year and a half of therapy, I was actually able to get along with them because I wasn’t reenacting my childhood dynamic with them anymore. I met them as their equal or even as someone who was emotionally more mature than they were.
I won’t say everything fell perfectly into place after going through therapy, but Valentine’s Day stopped having the insane amount of control over me that I once gave it. I stopped letting this stupid holiday squeeze my heart and stomp on it so hard.
Still, I remember the pain this holiday once caused me. I am sure it causes a lot of people pain. Valentine’s Day can be traumatic for people who are single. It’s unfair.
Our society values couples and shames those of us who are uncoupled. I felt defective as a single woman — a sense of shame that was only compounded by my childhood issues with my father.
I think that instead of celebrating a holiday that elevates romantic love as the most important type of relationship, a holiday to celebrate the love we have for ourselves is much more necessary.
Whether you’re alone or coupled this Valentine’s Day, I believe that self-love is more important than any love that can be shared between couples. Besides, only with enough respect and esteem for ourselves can we ever hope to find others to love, and to truly love us.