Ok, Almighty Dude Whisperer,
I have one for you.... I'm 24 (f). I shaved my head last month in protest of what's been happening in Tibet. My father isn't speaking to me as a result. Let me just say that I live 1,000 miles away, so it's not like I'll be running into anyone he even knows. I'm married with a toddler, very much on my own. He's always been v. conservative like this. It's always the same form of "punishment," ever since I was a teenager, whether I was failing a math class, or sleeping with an older man. I just cease to exist for him for awhile, and then we go back to pretending everything is normal. I feel like not confronting him is a means of giving up my power, though. My initial reaction at this point is a huge desire to say F*ck You, if you're ashamed of me for having moral convictions, but I think what I'm really angry about is the fact that he's missing out on an authentic relationship with me because he's so encapsulated in a need to fill a parental role.
So what do I do? Send him some exlax muffins fed ex? Awaiting your sage advice...
First of all, the DW would like to thank you for being the first person to write the Dude Whisperer with a non- relationship/bucknakedactivities type question. Not that the DW minds being Dr. Love. On the contrary he feels strapping and sensitive and, quite frankly, born for the role. Still, he couldn’t help thinking there must be women out there confused by brothers and uncles and, in this case, dads. And now, help is on the way. Well done! Let’s get to it.
So you shaved your head. You know, there was a time when the DW went the other route and nearly made his mother cry as he grew his flowing locks to his a%s. This was around the time he also wore big hoop earrings and bowling shoes and, well, let’s just say the look never really came together. Honestly, in the grand scheme of things it was pretty tame – the DW was never fussy enough to really push the envelope with makeup or something else truly scandalous for the South – and other parents might’ve just rolled their eyes and tapped their watches to see how much longer they had to wait til the DW’s silly dumb a^s grew up. But, the DW and his folks butted heads until the DW adopted a more Ian MacKaye anti-fashion fashion and essentially ignored clothes altogether for years and years until he got hooked on Project Runway, which is fierce.
Now, this is not to equate your shiny dome to the DW’s former nonsensical “fashion”. The critical difference is that you have well-intentioned and serious reasons for what you’re doing, whereas the DW was mostly just trying to f*ck with people through clothes until he found drugs and alcohol made him far more obnoxious. That said, though, here’s the reality. You shaving your head, and you knew this going in, was going to have these effects- 1) freaking out pops 2) changing just about nothing in Tibet.
Does this mean the DW thinks you shouldn’t have shaved your head? Not at all. You should be able to do whatever the f#ck you want with your hair. You are an adult and so is dad. What he is saying, though, is that it’s a little disingenuous to act shocked (shocked!) and disappointed in ole dad’s reaction when you clearly think about this situation in an antagonistic way. You’re poking him where it tingles, just like you were with math and older dudes, and you know it.
(A brief digression here, Baldy, if you can abide. Failing math is one thing that will disappoint any parent and whatevs to that. The DW is of the opinion that failing math is a rite of passage nearly as vital as waiting tables and getting caught playing with yourself. But women, he thinks, have no way of appreciating the horror a dad feels at knowing his high school or college age daughter is getting nailed by the well-traveled wiener of a significantly older dude. Dad knows how dudes think and knows that what a way older dude wants with a woman who is practically still a kid is not, er, nice or respectful. In fact, what he wants might be illegal in several states. And he’d probably like to film it. Whatever you thought your experience was with older dudes when you were in high school and college (and by older dudes, the DW is assuming significantly older since you knew it was worth mentioning) it was not the same thing to them and your dad was horrified and fearing for your body and your heart in ways he swallowed way harder than you have any idea.)
Anyway, what the DW is saying essentially is this. There are two sides. You are absolutely right in living your life as you want and with righteous idealism and if you don’t then the terrorists have truly won. Frankly, the DW applauds you for it and this whole question has him wishing he could get back a dose of the idealism he’s had beaten out of him over the years he’s spent in the mines since he was 24. But, and it’s a Niecy Nash sized but, the DW would offer the following version of events for you to consider:
First, there’s no need to say, “F^ck you,” to your dad. He, in some cases rightly and in others wrongly, probably feels like you’ve already said it many times over the years. (See Dudes, Nailing Older above.) Second, it may well be that his silence is “punishment” as you interpret it, but it may also just be his way of getting away from the immediacy of a situation and digesting it and figuring out what he thinks. The DW, actually, much to the consternation of his wife, often needs time by himself, quiet and away, to digest things that confuse or frustrate him. And a lot of times what the DW figures out on his own is that he was wrong, or at the very least way too wound up over something that didn’t warrant getting all wound up. Consider that your dad may just operate in different ways from you and maybe his ways work just as well. Maybe he isn’t just pretending things are okay after you have a confrontation. Maybe he’s found some peace.
Finally, the dad dude is your parent, so whatever you mean by an “authentic” relationship without being encapsulated or whatever just isn’t going to happen. That and the whole giving up your power thing sound like canned lines that you need to think through for yourself instead of accepting from a book or a friend or wherever they came. Would it be giving up power by being the bigger person in this situation and calling dad and metaphorically holding his hand through a conversation about how this head shaving thing isn’t anything against him? Or just talking to him in a non-confrontational way? Or giving him a break now and then when you maybe don’t even think he deserves it? You might find that dad has been trying to be bigger than the situation, too, in his own ways, if you engaged him differently and opened him up.
Look, Baldy, it frankly sounds like you’ve been a handful over the years. And it sounds like your dad dude has been, too. But if you keep approaching your relationship with dad like you want to say f*ck you and butt heads, you’re going to get more f^ck you back and more head butting.
Isn’t this whole thing about Tibet, after all? Are you really fighting for peace in a Buddhist land by mentally kicking your dad in the nuts? Why not try getting all Dalai Lama on dad’s ass? Why not try love and understanding and kindness, seeing the validity in his point of view, and being the first to make the big conciliatory move?
Keep on rockin’ the Britney head,