Joanna Schroeder wonders why dads take the fall for women’s bad behavior, but when men act badly it’s never blamed on ‘Mommy Issues’
Last week we published Damon Young’s piece, Is There Such a Thing As Daddy Issues? In it, Damon asserts that there really is no such thing… that “Daddy Issues” is really just an excuse to deny personal responsibility. Besides, he asserts, everyone has a dad, (whether you know him or not) so it’s sort of like saying that you have Human Being issues.
Damon uses his friend’s girlfriend, “Jane,” as an example. Jane does a lot of annoying shit, such as when she threw a tantrum and then protested by sitting in a car all night in the winter. With the windows open. Damon’s friend explains his girlfriend’s behavior as just another woman with Daddy Issues. Here’s how Damon replies: Jane’s relationship with her father didn’t make her a weirdo. No, the fact that she was fucking weird made her a weirdo. Daddy issues didn’t cause your ex-girlfriend to break-up with you because she just couldn’t be with a guy who “liked her too much.”
No, she couldn’t be with a guy who liked her too much because she was an asshole and an emotional nincompoop. I definitely agree that Jane’s a weirdo. But are guys any less weird? People, join me here. Don’t we all know guys and girls are equally weird? We may often be weird in different ways, but we have equal potential for assholery. And yet somehow you never hear a guy’s issues blamed on his mama. I had this ex… Let’s call him “Jake”, and we were a giant mess of drama, and about 85% of that drama was his fault (I swear!). One example of his ridiculousness centers around an evening we spent in Venice Beach with a bunch of friends. It was winter, and it was raining near the coast.
Now, I don’t know how many of you have driven in greater Los Angeles in the rain, but some people treat it as if pure liquid ice were falling from the sky and coating the roadways. A light sprinkle causes about half of LA’s drivers to set their windshield wipers to “manic” and camp out in the fast lane on the 10 freeway, or the 405, or the 5 South, (you know us Angelenos, for us it’s all about the freeways) erratically alternating between 40 and 57 MPH. Other people drive in the rain as if they were flipping the bird to physics, flying through giant puddles until they hydroplane (in LA, entire intersections will flood after about 3/4 of an inch of rainfall). And of course they don’t know how to handle a hydroplane. These daredevils all drive 8 MPG SUVs. Black ones, windows tinted, with black rims on their 22 inch wheels. They are almost exclusively driven by teeny tiny white housewives coming back from facials.
But I digress. My point is, driving in LA in the rain is dangerous. Not because of the actual weather, but because of the drivers. So my ex, Jake, and I are out with friends walking along the canals in Venice Beach and all is dandy until I decide to light up a cigarette. Now, when Jake met me, I had a half-pack-a-day habit, and had since sophomore year of high school. But somehow Jake had it in his mind that by the power of his all-encompassing love I would simply no longer crave cigarettes. If only. So I light up. Jake walks away from us, crosses a bridge to the other side of the canal. He gets on his motorcycle, revs the engine dramatically, and starts to drive away without a helmet.
We all yell to him, “What the fuck are you doing?” I offer to get his leather jacket and helmet out of my car where they were locked up, but he replies, “Don’t bother!” and drives away. In the rain, on the freeway, in Los Angeles. In a tee shirt. In 50 degree weather. To downtown LA. Because I smoked a cigarette. That’s almost 20 miles! Crazy, right? But not a whole ton crazier than Damon’s “Jane”… I would never have thought to blame Jake’s craziness on Mommy Issues, though maybe I should have. His mother, while being the sweetest woman in the world, worshipped this man. No matter what you’d say, her comment was about how perfect Jake was. You see a cute dog? Jake is amazing with dogs. Jake once found a wild dog on the street that was half wolf and half jackal, and he trained it to jump through rings of fire. You going out for a little jog? Well, did you know that Jake invented a brand new pair of running shoes that are made of a material harvested from the planet Venus that makes you levitate?
Okay maybe not that bad but it really felt like that. And Mr. Perfect Jake ended up cheating on me, with like ten different girls. I dumped him (obviously), and he was so heartbroken that his mother came into town to take care of him. On her first day in LA she came into my place of work and said, “I heard you had Jake had a little row. I’m sure you can forgive him. He really loves you. And you’ll never find a guy as good as Jake who doesn’t stray just a little bit. It’s the nature of a man.” Now, if that’s not just a big ol’ basket of Mommy Issues then I don’t know what is.
To be clear, we’ve all heard the term “Mama’s Boy” which is definitely supposed to be an insult. But a Mama’s Boy implies a man who is so close with his mother that he is a total wuss, incapable of caring for himself. While Jake’s mom was definitely his biggest fan, Jake was actually pretty tough—the kind of guy looking for trouble. He was also an athlete, very strong, and very confident. Not your typical Mama’s Boy, but definitely a guy with Mommy Issues. I have also known guys with abusive mothers, alcoholic or addict mothers, distant and cold mothers or otherwise randomly imperfect mothers… And these guys have had their issues. One guy actually said to me, on a first date, that I should see his penis because it was really fantastic. Cringing, I took the bait. “What makes you think that?” I asked. He replied proudly, “Because my mother told me so.” But never once did I call any of these eccentricities Mommy Issues.
Why is that? Because mothers, no matter who they are, are seen as a gift to their sons. Whereas fathers, no matter what they do, always seem to have to take the fall for their daughters’ crazy-bananas behaviors. As Damon points out, a woman’s dad is blamed for being too loving, not loving enough, distant, overly-involved, working too much, or not making enough money. What are we really saying with this? That women, like Jane, are never really grown-ups. We’re never fully autonomous or responsible. Our lives are defined by our fathers well after we have our own jobs, write our own rent checks and have our own retirement funds. That’s bullshit. Ladies, you’re responsible for your own shit. If we started to look at men’s behaviors like that, I guarantee you we could blame everything guys do on their moms, too. Instead, you know what we say? We say, “What do you expect? He’s a man!” How’s that for a load of bullshit? You guys are not only blamed for women’s issues (as fathers), but you aren’t even allowed to blame your issues on your mothers. Instead, your badness is assumed to be just a part of being a man.
I agree with Damon when he says, “using daddy issues as a universal excuse, distinction, and diagnosis subtly absolves accountability, making all dads equal scapegoats for shitty behavior.” And this messed up dichotomy of “She’s got Daddy Issues” vs “He’s a man, what do you expect?” is bullshit for everyone. Ultimately, Damon’s right, these are human issues. We’re fucked up. Humans do weird shit. We all do. Even you. I personally have a habit of sending eight text messages in a row. Ask my husband or either of my male blog partners. It’s super annoying. Also, I can’t hide it when I’m angry—I’ll say it whenever, wherever, in front of whomever. And I roll my eyes. A lot. I call myself fat when I’m wearing size 2 pants. Not because I want attention, but because I actually think I’m fat. See? Fucked up.
But it’s really not my dad’s fault. And it’s not your mom’s fault that you bite your own toe nails or that you chuck your cell phone across the room every time your girlfriend looks at another guy at the sports bar. Even if your mom cheated on your dad. Even if she cheated on him in a sports bar. Its still on you, pal. There’s serious therapeutic benefit to looking at your past issues and traumas, identifying them and healing them. And men should have just as much a right as women to go into the shrink and say, “My mama really jacked me up.” But the responsibility to heal those Mommy Issues or Daddy Issues lies within ourselves. And that’s sort of empowering, right? –