A Daughter on Grieving: Losing a Father and Dating

jolie and I on futon (2)My sister just finished her freshman year of high school. Like plenty of teenage girls, she has taken an interest in her male peers. To my great concern, an exorbitant number of boys have taken an interest in her too. It’s scary watching your little sibling come of age. It’s scarier watching people close to your age become sexually attracted to your little sibling. Your baby sister… who still falls asleep in your lap during car rides.

This summer, I tried to understand why I was so upset about all of these horny boys tailing my sister. At first, I thought it was just the age. I wanted to put a big sign on her that said “FIFTEEN YEARS OLD.” Two years below the age of consent is definitely a big problem, but there was something else. Now I see that I should amend the sign to “FIFTEEN YEARS OLD AND SHE LOST HER FATHER.”

If you’re interested in men, regardless of your gender, losing a father can really complicate things. My sister is so much more susceptible to manipulation by older guys! Losing a father figure means losing a beacon of

When I was thirteen
When I was thirteen

trust and protection, and spending your days trying to replicate that is emotionally exhausting, and ultimately disappointing. The truth is, you don’t want to look to your uncle or a close family friend. Someone who actually qualifies as a strong, loving father figure makes the loss too real. For years I couldn’t appreciate the brave men in my family that stood in after my father passed, because it was a constant reminder that there was an empty space to fill.

No, an adolescent who has lost a father would look for some handsome, suave teenage boy to “distract” them, while subconsciously desiring the qualities of a father.

I wish I could yell at all of the guys that are looking to prey on my sister. Don’t they know how confusing it is to be in a culture of meaningless hook ups when you’ve lost a Dad? Can’t they imagine how weird it is to be

Jolie now
Jolie now

looking for a significant other, when you really just want someone to take you shopping and lecture you on the tragedy of Tiger Woods’ demise? You can see how that desire could lead to some potentially dangerous relationships with older men, under the guise of “I just like facial hair” or “boys my age are so immature.” And let’s not forget about those few, golden, platonic male friends that help you through your grief. They do such a good job that you can become sexually attracted to them in your confusion, and then those relationships are ruined too.

I want to yell this at all of the guys trying to “mack” on my sister, and then I realize that I want to yell this to all of the guys that I’ve ever been with . . . that priceless moment when you’re lecturing someone, and realize you’re also talking about yourself.

I can’t speak to how this plays out for those attracted to women who have lost a father, or someone of any sexuality that has lost their mother. I do know that having a stand-up father tell you how boys should treat you is highly underrated. As I said, others have tried to fill in, to tell me I’m a princess and should be treated as such. However, my knee-jerk response is: you’re not my Dad.

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