when I was in middle school, you coached me in softball. I was young, bad at sports, and suffering from terrible social anxiety. I was so introverted and shy. But you always wanted me to have friends. Be supported. Have confidence. That’s why you drove me to every softball practice, every game, every tournament. That’s why you stood by my side and facilitated a conversation between our catcher and myself in some attempt to help me make friends. I remember you said,
“Faith, ask her what bands she listens to.”
“Faith, ask her if she has any hobbies.”
“Faith, ask her what her favorite food is.”
I was in middle school. I didn’t know there was a portion of my anxiety I was missing. You didn’t either. I was never taught how to differentiate anxiety from butterflies. You told me boys would make me nervous, but I think they always made me uncomfortable and I labeled it butterflies. But after softball practice that day, I was mistaking anxiety for butterflies.
You stood next to me and taught me how to listen to women, to respect them, how to talk to them.
I’m 24 now. You just found out I’m gay. you tell me that you’re not coming to my “wedding” should I ever have one. I have expected this response for a long time, but somehow it still hurts? My greatest fears are finally coming to life.
I’m disappointing my father.
The realization is crippling at first, but then freeing.
I have disappointed my father and I’m fine. No; I’m better for it.
If disappointing you means finally realizing something about myself that I have kept hidden for a long time, then so be it. I no longer fear your judgement or your criticism. I know once upon a time your words held so much weight. I revered you so much because that was what church told me; I wish church would have warned me about emotionally abusive fathers. Sometimes there are fathers that don’t deserve your respect.
I remember every time you made fun of me and called it sarcasm. And the ways you joked about me and laughed at me. I remember that you made me feel stupid and worthless. And for a long time I fucking believed it. But now? Now you can say whatever the hell you want because I know something now that I didn’t know then.
Your opinion doesn’t mean shit.
My mom is proud of me. My siblings are proud of me. My friends are proud of me. I’m crazy enough to believe God is proud of me. And you know what? I’m fucking proud of me.
I am a lesbian. It took me forever to be able to say that without fear. Without stigma. Without worrying about people’s judgement. But I am no longer taking to heart the opinions of people who don’t hold any stock in my life. I will no longer cater my life around people who continuously leave me feeling empty. I will gladly take constructive criticism, but I prefer to do so from the people who know me and support me.
Sometimes I stop and reflect on who I used to be. Her and I are very different. At least on the outside. Its funny that I get that comment a lot. “you’ve changed.” Because I feel like I never stopped being the short girl on the softball team who was too nervous to talk to the cute catcher. I still feel like the little girl who cried when her dad made fun of her. Because of course it still hurts. Being rejected by you, the church, and countless other friends who thought I was too much; that all still hurts. The only difference now is that I know pain won’t kill me.
When I was little I used to sit with you and make you tell the story of how you met and fell in love with Mom. You told me you started talking because a mutual friend; you were 23 and you biked from Chicago to Wheaton to meet her after your car broke down because when you know, you just know. you met her outside the Popcorn Shop where she worked. You were married just over a year later. Shane and I came along shortly after. Then the rest of us.
And people say its fucking cursed because of how your story ended, but when I meet my wife, I will take her to the Popcorn Shop and show her the place my parents fell in love because it is where my story begins and because it is the story that taught me how to fall in love.
I have done crazy, stupid things for women I have feelings for. I know I will do more because you set the bar at biking almost 30 fucking miles to meet a woman. What did you expect?
So no, maybe I’m not the daughter you wanted, but I’m the daughter you raised. I have your nose. Your stubborn attitude. Your perseverance. Your last name. Your love for movies. And one day I will treat a woman better than you ever did. Don’t feel the need to come to the wedding with your “straight pride” tattoo. But I will take your advice; when I propose I will plan the most romantic shit you’ve ever seen; just like in the movies. I will take her on proper dates. And I will love the shit out of her. I will never make her feel small the way you made me feel small.
I’ve never been sure about anything; but I’m damn sure about this.
Thank you, Dad. Your words didn’t always make me stronger, but they made me softer. And sometimes I think that’s almost better.
I’m a lesbian. You can call me a faggot or a dyke or whatever slur you want. You can call me a sinner or a heretic. A disappointment or a failure.
But you are one person.
And some day my wife is going to adore me.