Content Warning: eating disorder, emotional parental abuse, body dysmorphia, misogyny
I think it all started when I was just a kid. We used to have such a great relationship. You let us watch TV with you, you bought me a pillow pet, you let me stay up past my bedtime just a little, but then it could all come crashing down in just a matter of seconds. If there’s a blanket on the floor, if there’s laundry not finished, if we get a ‘B’ on our report cards, even if we reply in conversations, which you would call ‘talking back’. It’s like you become some monster. You tell us we’re a disappointment, that you never wanted kids in the first place, that you were so angry you almost gave us up for adoption. And yet, I still loved you. I still respected you. We all did. You were the first man in my life, and I was told growing up that you were supposed to be the one who would never hurt me: my only hero. And then, everything I’ve ever read about loving fathers just seemed like lies. You sheltered us all in a way that caused us to not know anything now in our adulthood, forcing us to rely on you. But all you’ve ever taught us was how to clean and cook, or in your words, “the only thing girls need to know how to do,” and “that’s why I wanted to have a lot of girls for children.” And you treat our mother the same way. You treat her as some drone who must abide by your every command. And because she loved you, that’s exactly what she did. And if she tried to show any sign of defiance, you would threaten to leave her, to leave us, because you knew that she couldn’t raise five children all on her own.
You tried to teach us that that’s what girls should do: shut up and be pretty. Yet in the end, the only thing that has ever done to us is give us crappy mental health and skewed perceptions of love. You made your children feel insecure about existing. You made us toxic and manipulative. You made us anxious if our boyfriends were suddenly silent, depressed if they were mad at us, and apologetic even if we weren’t in the wrong.
And when we tried to confront you about this, you told us you’d stop. That you’d get better. But instead, you got worse. You made us feel bad if we would binge-eat, you pointed out how chubby our bodies were, you criticized us if we were too short or too tall, too loud and too quiet, too stupid or even too nerdy, and we were only children.
At that point, we didn’t know who we were. Who we’d become. We were afraid to grow up. “What if they think I’m too loud? What if they think I’m too tall? Why am I so short? Why do I enjoy reading so much? It’s so nerdy! Why did I not pass this test? I must be stupid. I can’t eat too much, so I’ll just eat once a day. Am I too skinny? Maybe I’ll just eat a bunch of junk food. I made a mistake, what if he breaks up with me? Will he hate me? Am I not worthy of his love? Am I not worthy of anyone or anything?” Those are the only relentless things that I hear in my head, not because I was made that way, but because you put them there. Now, I am an adult trying to break out of my mental illness that you so certainly believe is just a myth. I thought I needed you but, in the end, you’ve only made me realize how better I can do without you. And that is the only thing I will thank you for.