Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Confessions of a Gaybo
Arm-chair psychologists would have a field day analyzing my relationship with my father, trying to make a connection between our lack of a connection and my “gaybo” reputation. I’d love to say everything isn’t so black and white, so cut and dried. But the evidence is so tantalizing, right? I mean, even I’ve struggled with it—trying as hard as I can to not to be like him . . . and he’s a rugged, manly, meat-and-potatoes guy.
See, it probably started when my father wanted a daughter. He grew up with four brothers, and he wanted a little girl. When my mom went into labor, they had a list of girl names picked out (Yvonne was at the top of the list), but no boy names. The story goes that as mom was in the hospital, she heard the song “Watching Scotty Grow” on the radio and thought that Scott would make a great boy's name. When I was born and I wasn’t a girl, my father actually accused my mother of willing me into boyhood. The year was 1971.
The early years were fairly happy, I suppose. We moved from Connecticut to Florida just before I turned three. And then my memories begin. And then things got a little more sordid.
Memory paints my father as somewhat feeble in his nurturing, head-of-family role. Drop in some details from my mother, and he looks downright slimy. Reportedly, he cheated on her with multiple women. Sometimes, I’d even go places with him and his girlfriend(s): to the beach, weekend vacations out of town. I remember flashes of these situations—puzzle pieces that really come together when you factor in my memories of playing in the waiting room while my parents went to marriage counseling.
As I got a little older, my father tried to get involved in my interests (or, more accurately, get me involved in his interests). He coached my cub-league baseball team for three seasons. He worked with me on my football skills. He got me interested in playing guitar, and he started taking me to lessons. He gave me guns and taught me how to shoot them (in competitions, too). He took me hunting. He bought me an expensive racing bike, took me to my races, and encouraged me to train. He took me rodeos and truck pulls.
But we never really connected. We weren’t “buds.” In my teens, I started rebelling in my snotty, passive-aggressive way. I was finally seeing him as being an abusive drunk after years of, well, drinking too much and hitting my mother. Around this time, I began seeing my father as someone I didn’t want to be. This is probably why I never started smoking, and why I swore off beer (that lasted until I turned 21), and why I hardly learned to fix a goddamn thing myself.
And then things started getting openly hostile between us. Like the time I was getting ready for my junior prom and my date supported my desire to stick all my hair up and my dad blew up at me and my mom (for allowing me to do what I wanted) and he stomped into their bedroom and refused to come out. Or the time I told him I was going to get my ear pierced and he told me, “I’ll cut your fucking ear off!”
And then there’s our Gulf of Tonkin, our Fort Sumter, our assassination of Duke Ferdinand, our Pearl Harbor: my nineteenth birthday.
After whatever festivities occurred that day, I was in my room (yeah, I still lived at home early in my community-college days). I heard some not-too-unusual yelling in the kitchen. After a few minutes, I came out to investigate. I found my mom sobbing in the kitchen.
“Do you know what your father just told me?”
I quietly shook my head.
“He doesn’t want to be married to me anymore.”
My father was sitting in bed drinking a martini in his underwear. I stood in the doorway. I don’t think either of us said anything.
So, I resigned myself to the inevitable divorce. I chose to live with my mother because “she need[ed] me more.” He said, basically, that he’d never marry anyone like my mother again. But he did.
Flash forward a decade or so, and my father is a very sad man. He’s living a life not at all of his choosing. I can see it when I go visit him. We’ll be working and he’ll just stop and stare into space, slowly smoking his cigarette. I know he’s wondering how he got there.
My goal is to not have to wonder that. Ever.