I’m going to be late for school, but I take my time about choosing the perfect CD for my getting ready process. If I’m going to be mentally prepared, musical inspiration is required. I opt for one of my latest $18.99 purchases from the Tower on Broadway: Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope. My father will be knocking on my door before “Gone ‘Til It’s Gone” even finishes, insisting that I eat the English muffin and banana he’s taken the pains to prepare for me. I hate eating breakfast, he knows that. I find that this particular meal of the day only leaves me hungry for more, and that, like so many other of my wishes, every day he chooses to ignore what I want under the guise of “parenting.” If he could only hear me, honestly listen to what I was saying, maybe there wouldn’t be such a great distance between us. But there is, and has been ever since I stopped taking his directives as willingly as I did when I was below the junior high age. Now that I’m sixteen, it’s difficult for me to ever imagine a time when there was harmony between us. What’s worse is that his blatant favoring of my sister has only augmented over the years, leaving me to wonder if all fathers–like men in general–just want an obsequious good little girl to obey and hang onto his every word, which is precisely what my sister does, even if her sycophantic manner is completely contrived. Still, it’s a manner that’s been perfected in her old age, for she’s almost twenty-six (I was an unexpected child, another reason she not so secretly resents me–for coming along and “fucking up her shit,” as it were). And with such a knack for having perfected the role of groveler, my father does not care that it is all a gimmick designed to secure a supreme place in the Will. He just wants to hear the sound of her pretty words over my jarring ones–the ones that indicate to him that he is not my hero–instead another of just many oppressors I will have to deal with in my life, most especially as a woman. But I’m not a woman, not according to him. I’m just a little girl who can’t find her place in the world and needs to be told what to do. She helps him to do that, for my mother is too enraptured with her work to engage in anything resembling a June Cleaver mode of maternalness. Not that any woman should ever have to, for it’s such a false way to live–that plastic smile propped up by the odor of baked goods.
And as I think of my mother typing away invoices or whatever it is one does in a cubicle, my father, as expected, knocks on the door in that abrupt and urgent way that only he can, communicating without words that if I don’t hurry the fuck up, he’s going to lose his temper. One must never make a man lose his temper, least of all if it’s your patriarch. Please, please, please. That is daughter and woman’s role. The memo was never received by me, and I continue to listen to the masturbation anthem “My Need” as a means to hopefully make him uncomfortable enough to leave. Then again, my father has no ear for music, least of all lyrics. So he finally just opens the door, even though he’s caught me in my bra enough times to know better.
“Hurry up, I’m going to be late, and so are you.”
My father, unlike my mother, does not work in an office. He runs a construction site, the anomalous kind that somehow doesn’t require him to be there at the ass crack of dawn. But hey, it’s California. Loosey goosey. I find it strange that despite his masculine cliches, he managed to find himself attracted to my mother, a bona fide feminist. Yet, I’m starting to think you can’t truly be a feminist if you opt to have kids. It’s just such a damned hackneyed move to feel the “biological need” to do so.
I turn to my father and say tersely as I sexually put on some lip gloss, “Five minutes, Daddy.” This makes him feel weird enough to leave. Apparently only my sister can carry off the act of submissiveness correctly. Not too Lolita but not too Wednesday Addams. She should teach a class on How to Suck Metaphorical Cock. Instead of what she actually does, which is manage a Starbucks.
Taking one final look at myself in the mirror to make sure the guy I like in school right now, Jamie, will notice me when I “need to sharpen my pencil,” I depart from the sanctuary of my room in the middle of “Free Xone,” powering off the CD player with lament.
With a banana shoved in my hand and an English muffin making its way through my gullet, we’re off in his BMW, a navy blue 525i that my sister will eventually inherit instead of me because, as I said, I can’t play the game that you’re forced to play even with your own family. There must always be airs, facades, masks–perhaps most especially when blood is in the mix. Don’t be this way, your parents wish. Because then it’s their fault, a reflection of their own inadequacies. They very literally created the monster, and they would really rather not admit to that, therefore investing in the sort of blinders that would make even the most docile horse feel oppressed.
I tune out the sound of my father’s love of talk radio to glance at the endless rows upon rows of oak trees that line the infinite divide of a parkway that has the sort of forever freshly manufactured look of a cul-de-sac in the 50s. And in my ability to exit my only true home–my body–I don’t notice that my father has taken me not to my own high school, but somehow to my sister’s elementary school.
“What are we doing here?”
He looks taken aback by the question, as though suddenly realizing the implications of the error he’s made. That he would rather not only be performing a parental requirement for my sister, but would also prefer the forever age of any of his daughters to be preteen. Because what’s a preteen girl if not utterly controllable?