A Word About My Dad, For His Birthday

Last night I went to the supermarket for various things and nearly didn’t make it past the produce department at the entrance due to the Valentine’s Day Madness that was in progress.  The market had a ginormous display of flowers (flowers they always sell, but this time they were $10-$20 more expensive).  There were balloons EVERYWHERE and giant hanging cutouts of King and Queen playing cards with some stupid “Meant to Be” slogan next to them.  I can’t remember exactly what the slogan was, but you can fill in the blank.

For the record, I don’t hate Valentine’s Day.  I never have.  Being single on Valentine’s Day never bothered me.  Admittedly, I haven’t been single on Valentine’s Day in many years, but when I was a young, awkward teenager with one tale of unrequited infatuation after another, I still didn’t care if I had, specifically, a Valentine.  In the years since, I have enjoyed Valentine’s Day as an excuse to do something slightly more “special” than normal.  But I generally do that often regardless of Hallmark Sanctioned Celebration Days.  Wes and I have never particularly tried to get reservations anywhere.  We usually would have steaks or something at home (my official “celebrate anything” choice).  I like flowers, sure, but I buy them for myself…whenever…and think it’s stupid that prices go up just because significant others who don’t do much any other time of the year MUST do something on Valentine’s Day so that they aren’t given scathing reviews around the water cooler the next day.

Wes and I did do something in particular for our first Valentine’s Day together.  He made me coconut shrimp and then we went to see an opera about Nicola Tesla.  It was a “work in progress” and the music was written by some dude who had been part of Philip Glass’ orchestra or something.  It was…terrible.  However, it has given us years of amusement singing parts of it randomly.

“Myyyyyy TOWAAAAAAAAAH!” (Referencing his giant Tesla coil power generating tower thingy)

“Nicolaaaaa Teslaaaaaaaaaaaaa….” (This was sung no less than 100 times during the hour long show).

In conclusion, we use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to eat slightly fancier delicious things in the confines of our own home, play Wii Frisbee while drinking wine, and talking about how jewelry store commercials make me want to puke and that if Wes ever came home with their “meaningful diamond pendant of the year” I would laugh in his face.  Yes, I would probably wear it, but I would laugh at it because I hate them.  It would be wearing a piece of comedic jewelry for me and I would appreciate it for the same reasons that I appreciate Deathrace 2000 or Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen.

This year, however, is a little different.  My dad’s birthday is this week, and with everyone’s schedules being as complicated and busy as they are, it worked out that my family could all get together tonight to celebrate.  My mom, sister, and I are cooking a nice dinner. I have a cake cooling at home that will hopefully come out of the pan when I get home tonight…and we’ll spend a nice time.

Growing up, I took a lot of things about family for granted.  For instance, it was rare that my parents and I would not have a sit down dinner together.  And we would actually talk at the table.  We had the television on usually, but it was mainly there for noise.  We talked about our days.  I didn’t realize that many people didn’t do that.  In the mornings, we would all sit on the couch listening to NPR and having a cup of coffee together (or whatever it was I was drinking when I was 15).  My dad and I usually left for work/school at the same time and I walked with him a lot, as he worked in Center City.  Spending time together was important, but it wasn’t a stated thing.  We just did it.

As it is my dad’s birthday, I have been thinking about the fact that I also took for granted that my dad has influenced me and been supportive of me over the years.  Firstly, when he and my mom were expecting, he stated that he really wanted a girl.  And he has never been that dad who is overprotective and willing to kill any man who so much as looks at me.  He has always encouraged me to be my own person and has trusted me to take care of myself and make my own decisions.  Hearing many women I know talk about their dads has made me realize again how unique my situation growing up was.

Additionally, I can blame my dad fully for my sense of humor and general peculiar outlook on the world.  You can file your complaints with him if you are so inclined.  My dad is hilarious and has sent me into hysterical, debilitating fits of laughter over small ridiculous comments.  I wish that I could outline some of these things here and have them make sense, but maybe it’s even better out of context.

  1. Well, that guacamole sucked.
  2. That guy thinks he’s the cat’s ass.
  3. The butler was hit by a falling gargoyle.
  4. Seriously? They have a book called The Unwritten Rules of Engineering?
  5. I’m glad that the Army Corps of Engineers uses the Liberty Bell as a simple of engineering excellence.

My dad likes to sing teenage death songs randomly, as well as terrible other girl group songs from that era.  If you mention anything close to the phrase “party lights” (which happens surprisingly often), he will sing, “I see the lights, I see the party lights.  They’re red and blue…aaaaand gree-eeeen!” in terrible falsetto.  I heard this song playing in a Rite Aid once and nearly died laughing because I can not hear it without hearing him in the woman’s place.  We also regularly like to sing “Torn Between Two Lovers” and figure out all the words that rhyme with “fool”, because the song makes just as much sense regardless of what you say.

I realize that none of that is particularly funny to anyone reading it, even though I am currently having trouble writing because I’m giggling so much.  My dad and I crack each other up with absurdity and ridiculousness and I have always really appreciated that.

My dad always encouraged me to embrace my strangeness.  He praised all my weird clothes and usually encouraged me to buy weirder clothes.  He bought me my first pair of granny glasses shades, after I had moved on from John Lennon round ones.  He took me to get my nose pierced.  He took the time to carefully paint my hair with emerald green Manic Panic with a paint brush so that it didn’t get on my skin.

My dad taught me how to play the guitar.  He buys me gadgets for rock music and loves to see Arcati Crisis rock out.  He introduced me to the Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa.  When I graduated from 8th grade, he gave me greatest hits compilations for The Yardbirds and The Animals.  He gave me Cream, The Rolling Stones, Canned Heat, and The Doors.  Yeah, my music taste is his fault too.

He helped me with math and science homework, making fun of word problems as much as I did.  He never said there was anything I couldn’t do.  He never saw my gender as any kind of barrier to my success in life, so I never viewed it that way.

One day, when I was bitching about being harassed on the street by some asshole who has boundary issues and thinks that him hooting and hollering at me is a productive avenue of communication, my dad said, “You know, I don’t understand why men don’t understand that if they just shut the fuck up and respected women’s space that women would walk around freely wearing less in the summer and we’d get to look at them.  Now we can’t because men are assholes.”

And there you have it, folks.  This is why I don’t understand why these things are so difficult.  At an early age my dad talked to me about not understanding why street harassment happens, that the world is a better place when people can walk around the way they want to without fear of being bothered.  Sure, in this case he was talking specifically about wishing that women felt more comfortable so that everyone could enjoy looking at pretty ladies, but it applies to so much else.  My dad never encouraged me to walk around as anyone except who I am.  He never wanted to change me.  He simply wanted me to be exactly the thing I was.

So, happy birthday, Dad!  This is possibly a minor gift when compared to how much you have given me, but sometimes you just have to take some time to really thank someone.  Thank you for how you have helped me become the woman I am.  I am my father’s daughter and I would never have it any other way.