There is always that little bit of institutional sexism that pops up when you are dealing with more conservative family members. It doesn’t matter what kind of conservatism it is (albeit seems to happen more often when it is religious or political conservatism) the very conservatism itself is predicated on believing that half of the human race (i.e. women) must be somehow “controlled” by a male of her family.
Even my father, although he is politically a centrist with liberal leanings and who is also religiously conservative, has tendencies in this direction. When I first ended up moving in with my sister, there was an abortive attempt to get me to allow him to be “in charge of me” as he used to be before I got married.
It’s not about controlling my every move or decision. The idea is more about how he feels he must lead the family. It’s more about feeling that he always has to be right (even when he admits he was wrong). That I should not be an independent thinker (even though it was 50% of the reason that I was raised to think independently), but rather take his advice and preferences over my own principles and experience.
I will admit, much of this comes down to the fact that he lives his faith. As a pastor, he does have certain standards to uphold. For example, the following Bible verses:
I truly do understand that the fact that I am an entirely different religion can potentially cause him some difficulties, particularly relating the verse above that is emphasized.
But there’s another part here.
The last time that I was “technically” under his control was prior to my wedding. I was 25. It could be said that I was not really under his control after either age 18 or age 21. And I know for a fact that he very specifically told my ex-husband that I was “his problem now.”
I’m 47 now. There is no real excuse for me to be under anyone else’s control than my own.
Do I respect my father? Yes. But, he is in no way responsible for any of my decisions at this point. Are there people in the world who are so blinded by their intention to judge someone that they will look for an excuse to do so? Damned right.
I cannot live my life by a “but what will people think?” philosophy. It was that exact philosophy that kept the worst abusive behaviors by my ex-husband hidden behind closed doors. It was not a concern of “but what will people think?” about me, but a concern about how people would judge my ex. It’s one of the reasons I choose to live a transparent life.
My father has a right to feel fear, anxiety or nervousness about how others might (or might not) react knowing that I am so different than not only him but the rest of my family in a religious sense. But I too have the right to live the life I need to. I have for too long lost my integrity, and I refuse to lose it again out of fear.
But I can hear some of you thinking, “what if…?” I cannot control someone else’s choices anymore than they can control mine. Could it negatively impact my father’s choices and needs? Perhaps.
I think I’ve come to another realization.
For most of my adult life, there has been that whole “what will people think?” But what experience has shown me is that 99.999999% of the rest of the human race doesn’t give a rat’s ass.
“What will people think?” is a concept that includes the expectation that somehow you are the center of the world’s attention. That most of humanity is sitting, waiting with baited breath, to see what we choose to do next. That is a fairly narcissistic way of looking at the world. And, sadly, it is a codependent attitude as well. I am not responsible for my father’s choices, and he is not responsible for mine.