For a single chick who has no man, no prospect of a man and who endured a broken engagement at the start of 2011, it’s Valentine’s Day and I’m in an excellent mood.
I’m not drunk. I’m not on any prescription medicine.
I do think it’s life. I do think it’s maturity. Sometimes you just have to be happy where you are and take advantage of what your current situation offers you. I’ve been having that revelation over and over.
So to the couples and all of the people in love, that’s fantastic. Enjoy yourselves and each other.
I think I feel so good today because my dad taught me to feel good about myself through Valentine’s day and every day.
Every year, my dad knew what the deal was.
He had three females in his house. The toilet seat stayed down; me, my mom and sister went to the beauty salon on certain Saturdays and he stayed home to wash cars and mow the lawn and we all got a card and chocolates or a stuffed animal EVERY YEAR for Valentine’s Day.
The man trained me well in self-esteem. From teaching me how to ride my bike, helping me up when I fell down, to telling me not to dance with boys at my first sixth grade dance– especially NOT slow songs, he set the groundwork for how I saw myself and how the man I choose needs to see me.
I didn’t know it back then, but my dad was a teacher in this regard. When I was eating at the dinner table as a preteen, my father would check me every time my fork would scrape my teeth. For some odd reason, I would pull the fork through closed teeth with each bite. He’d say, “some day you are going to go on a date and no man is going to want to hear that every time you go out to eat.”
I stopped right away.
My dad is a stickler for hair. Even now, I get my hair done before I go to visit home. In high school, when I chopped my shoulder length tresses to a short almost pixie, he didn’t speak to me for two weeks. And would ask “when is it going to grow back?”
My mom hates the mall. Prior to online shopping, that woman was the catalogue queen. I’d mark the pages and she’d make the call!
My dad on the other hand, will leisurely stroll through the mall and that’s what we’d do to hang out. We still do it every time I’m home. He taught me the art of waiting out sales. But he was also doing something else, that genius. Because we were out shopping together, he did have a hand in my fashion sense in a quiet, sneaky way without seeming like an overbearing dad that didn’t want me to look attractive to boys. He took pride in the beautiful women in his life looking beautiful, and beautiful was how he wanted us to present ourselves. Anything short of that (jeans that were too tight, shorts that were too short, revealing sexualized clothing), in his opinion was disrespectful to the natural beauty he saw in us and wanted others to see, admire and respect too.
Both my parents helped me pick out my prom dress and my dad actually picked out my shoes in Bakers that I didn’t even notice. They matched perfectly and were really, really cute!
Not only in clothing, but we’d play basketball in our back yard and neighborhood courts and we would even play pickup games usually against other boys and men and we’d win or it would be a really close game! He never told me to sit out and watch, instead we were strategic. Our passing game and pick and roll was sick! Talk about building confidence!
He was there to watch me sing, get awards, he was there when I failed miserably. He worked with me tirelessly on science fair projects and told me to stand up for myself on the playground. He told me not to give up when I struggled with my times tables. He always told me I was smart and beautiful.
Our bond was even stronger during a difficult time when my mother became ill and began to struggle with mental and emotional disorders when I was a teen. As he stood by her through her most difficult and erratic phases– which he continues to do, he showed me what true, unconditional love truly is.
When I struggled with the notion of staying home with him to care for her and not go away to school, he refused. He told me I had to live my life and go after my dreams with ferocity.
My father may have ruined me for any man after being such an example. He is far from perfect and he articulates his shortcomings so accurately, and so honestly, often saying that he wishes he could be even more for my family which I think is just impossible for him to do. His love has always been more than enough, overwhelming even, humbling, intimidating, because I don’t know if I can ever be as selfless as him.
Through the years I felt his frustration, I admired his loyalty and his strength and his compassion and patience.
My sophomore year of college we had finished moving me in the dorm and I was sad to see him go. We hugged and strangely at the same time said in each other’s ear, “You are my hero.” We both looked at each other surprised and with tears in both of our eyes, we embraced again. I cried all the way back up to my room. I knew that man loved me like no other. How could I be his hero? What have I really done? I know he was proud of me, but I wasn’t a rich media giant yet, who could start repaying him for his sacrifices, his hard work so he can finally relax.
One of the most recent moments where I even said, “this seems like something out of a sappy romantic movie” was when I was late for my bus back to the D.C. area. My father usually can find a parking space in NYC to see me off, but my bus was there and ready to go. I had to jump out, while he continued to circle and search.
I thought for sure, I wouldn’t be able to hug him as usual and say goodbye. I got on my seat and just before the bus pulled away, there he was jumping up, banging on the window, waving, smiling and saying “love you babe!” Keep in mind, I was in the aisle seat and had to apologize to my seat mate who fortunately thought it was sweet and smiled.
That’s my dad.
He’s going to make it happen. He’s going to show that he’s always going to be there.
That’s why no matter who I end up with, my dad is going to always be my original, ultimate Valentine.