For many years my type of man was short dark and angry – a Prince Charming who turns into an impossible-to-please toad with heaps of unresolved issues, prone to “male” PMS any day of the month – the kind of guy with whom I could dance fervidly, while one foot stayed out the door at all times.
I’ve often wondered what kept me in a boundless cycle of epic battles, passionate reunions, hopeful reconciliations, and repeated promises? What was it that time and again seduced me into a scorching yet intoxicating heaven and hellhole of crazy-making? Now that the storms of my past have blown over (and I have a few years of therapy under my belt), I’m beginning to see what attracted me to the DRAMA of particular relationships in the first place…
To further illustrate, lets take a little look-see at my relationship with dear ol’ dad…
Any well-analyzed adult knows the most powerful of infatuations often involve a good dose of emotional and/or physical unavailability. Of everything left behind in New Orleans, all paled when compared to the absence of my father. For surely I would’ve given up The Carol Burnett Show, ballet class, even Mawmie’s meatballs to have him back in my life. But alas I couldn’t bargain these childhood chips when pleading to god since those precious perks were no longer available for negotiation. Mom’s new transportation, the Mars Hotel bus, came complete with a make-shift stove, port-o-potty, and a couple of tie-dyed covered chunks of foam…but left little room for anything from my former life in the Big Easy.
As soon as the bus rolled out of Cajun Country, my father became like a rock star to me. Each day that we traveled further and further West, I longed for our eventual glorious father/daughter reunion, most often while staring out of the back window singing Hopelessly Devoted.
Once we arrived in California, I began concocting elaborate fantasies (a crucial element required to keep dreamy dramatic fairy tales alive: a firm refusal to accept reality). As a child, I could, for instance, convince myself that through the power of my love and desire to be with him, the haystack I was sitting on would suddenly fly like a magic carpet from the barn of our next-door neighbor’s horse ranch, and transport me back to New Orleans, where my Dad was waiting for me with open arms (and a case of lemon Yoplait).
Dad and I had this special relationship that, like any great romantic drama, involved continual cathartic confessions of love. I remember walking down city streets, arm and arm, as he puffed on cigarettes and pointed to various landmarks along the way:
“You see dat streetcar?” he’d ask, “I would dive in front of it to save you.”
“You would?” I’d respond.
“I sure would. You see dat building? I would jump off the top floor, if I had tah save you.”
At which point I’d usually gaze in amazement at said skyscraper, praying to myself that his loyalty would never be put to the test.
“You’re gonna to miss me when I’m gone,” he’d continue.
Then with worried brows I’d plead, “Dad don’t say that. If you died, I would die!”
After a few moments of envisioning his funeral, tears would fall.
At which point he’d pull up his shirt with one hand and punch his flexed abs with the other fist, reassuring me as he said, “Feel THIS!”
When we weren’t playing Romeo and Juliet, we were having FUN (another key component in any high Drama: the exhilarating climax before the inevitable crash).
Dad was like a big kid. With HIM, life was an adventure and felt like a party!
One Christmas, he picked Frankie and me up at the airport in New Orleans dressed as Santa. As soon as we reached him through the large mob of eager kids, he twirled us around in the air, then tackle us to the floor and tickle us til we screamed.
On special occasions, he’d ride up in a shining Cadillac, popping in unexpectedly and whisking Frankie and me away from our commune life in California to The Happiest Place on Earth.
We could barely contain our excitement as we had unbridled access to junkfood and other glories of commercialism!
Wherever we traveled in the world, Dad exposed us to culture…
We got to gamble under-age in Vegas, and drink under-age in Europe!
Granted my father was a bit slow to get going in the mornings (unlike Frankie and me who had youth on our side, hence no hang-over)…
But as long as there was room service and videogames, who cared about starting the day in the mid-afternoon?
Just as my Dad saved me from a depressing dairy-deprived childhood, I too eventually acted as his rescuer… While I wish I could say our story ends Happily Ever After, like most great dramatic tales of love, our plot thickened with heavy heartbreak… And so this Drama will continue…