Sunday, March 6, 2011

Daddy issues part 3

So...I'm a professor. I was interviewed by the local news about a story related to my area of expertise as the "local expert." They also wrote up a news article quoting me extensively. This is something that happens fairly frequently when you're a professor at the largest university in a not-very-large metro area.

But it was my first time being on tv, so I was pretty excited about it (who wouldn't be? I'm the freaking local expert on tv! Woo!). So I sent out the video to some friends and family members. Including my dad, who I have not talked to since he sent an email about his getting a sefer torah a few months ago. At which point I thought of several snarky things to say, but just never wrote back to him.

SO this was his response:

Hi Abandoning Eden,

Wow! I'm impressed. You got your 15 seconds worth of fame. Andy Warhole used to say we get 15 minutes but now everything is reduced to a soundbite it seems.

I'll pass your clip along to the family. Incidentally, I will be sending you the DVD movie of the Sefer Torah dedication party we had in our house last December. I just finished it yesterady. You will see many familiar faces and I added a very cool musical sound track.

Best regards,

Abba


Spelling of 'Warhol' aside, this irritates me on SO many levels. First of all, when he's like "you got your 15 minutes of fame!" it seems SO dismissive to me. This is not my 15 minutes of fame. This is part of my job. I hope one day I get my 15 minutes of fame, and I hope it's not from some local evening news piece that interviewed me cause I teach a class related to a specific topic, I hope it's when some of my research gets national attention. And you know what, i do important research, and I bet some of it will eventually get media attention. But to my dad this interview in my first year as an assistant professor is as big as I'm ever going to get?

And second, AGAIN with the sefer torah religion thing. Like I get that this is a big deal to my dad, but can he just for ONCE send me a message that does not have religious content involved?

So last time I just ignored his email and never wrote back to him. B thinks this is the wrong strategy, he thinks I should be honest about how much it irritates me to get these types of emails, because if I don't they will keep sending them. B thinks my dad is trying to wear me down by constantly sending me religious comments.

So I drafted an email back, but I would love for the internet to weigh in...should I just not respond, my regular strategy? Or should I make an attempt at actually trying to communicate that his religious emails irritate the crap out of me. Also the dismissive thing.

Dear Abba,

I doubt this is my 15 minutes of fame..I would hope at least some of my research gets some media attention at some point. :) This is just par for the course when you're a professor at the biggest university in a metro area, and I'm betting this won't be the last time I'm interviewed as a local expert on something. :)

I know you're excited about your new sefer torah, but I don't want to see a video of how you spent the money that would have gone towards my wedding if I had married a Jew on a "family heirloom" that we all know is going to E. I think it would be better for both of us if you didn't mention religious things when you email me. You know I'm not religious. I don't want to talk about religion or your religious ceremonies with you. I don't want you to send me videos of your religious ceremonies, anymore than you wanted to see the video of my wedding, or pictures of my christmas tree. Let's just keep religion out of things entirely, because it just brings up hurt feelings. I'm not sure if you DO want to have a relationship with me, but relationships are usually built on commonalities, and sending me emails with religious content is not the way to go, since that is not something we have in common. Why don't you tell me about something else going on in your life?

-Abandoning Eden


What do you think? I feel like I'm kinda overreacting, but I also feel like I'm tired of my dad giving backhanded compliments like "this is your 15 minutes of fame" and I'm SUPER tired about getting emails about religious things.

19 comments:

  1. I'd like to be sympathetic to your troubles, and I used to be when you would describe the kind of insensitive way that your family would relate to you, but this one (and some of your other recent posts) just sound to me like juvenile overreactions.

    I'm no psychologist, but when I see how you react to such innocent remarks, it seems to me that you're the one who's holding back the relationship with your father from getting better, not him.

    Daddy issues, indeed.

    (I hate to be so harsh, but I think you're looking for honest feedback, and not just unconditional support from your fans, right? If I'm wrong, I'm sorry and I apologize for my frankness.)

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  2. yeah which is why i came here for feedback...it does feel juvinile. You know how when you love someone you are willing to put up with a lot of their crap, but when you hate someone EVERYTHING they do annoys you? I'm sure part of that is in play here...i've been so hurt by him in the past that I am just irritated by everything he says.

    But on the other hand, he IS often dismissive of when I accomplish things (when I got into grad school at an ivy league university his response was "I thought your brother was the smart one!") and he Always is sending me religious emails...and this one especially takes the cake, cause when I was engaged to my ex fiance he offered me 20k for the wedding, and now that I married someone not jewish he spent around 20k on buying a torah....it seems so symbolic of his choice of religion over me, and for him to be like "i'll send you the video" like I should celebrate that...ARGHHHHH

    Yes clearly I still have issues, hence the need for a reality check. But even if my reactions are juvenile, they are still the reactions I have every time he sends me emails like this, so what is the best way to address that? Grin and bear it like I've done for the past 28 years? Or actually be honest about how I feel for once?

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  3. > But on the other hand, he IS often dismissive of when I accomplish things...

    Yes, and in those cases, where he is totally insensitive, I think your reaction is entirely justified. But this isn't one of those cases, despite the fact that his response doesn't satisfy your exacting standards.

    > ...so what is the best way to address that?

    Therapy.

    Oh, and by the way, congrats on the TV appearance. I saw it when a fellow ex-frummie posted it on Facebook. We're all very happy for you!

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  4. hm someone i don't know was posting my video on facebook? :) That's kinda weird...

    Yeah therapy might help, maybe especially family therapy, but that's not going to happen. Instead of I have blogotherapy where I can write my juvinile letters here instead of writing back to him. :)

    So when he is being insensitive it's a better time to respond re: his dismissiveness of me. But what about the religion part? I really feel like I have to say something about that, cause it's driving me nuts, especially cause i know he spent his wedding fund for me on this sefer torah!

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  5. Sure, your dad's response was harsh and possibly juvenile, but why mix up two separate issues? One is his dismissal of your success, in this instance, making light of a significant achievement in your career path. The other is his inability to keep his damn religion to himself, and his failure to recognize that most people are not as wild about his religion as he is. The first may have more to do with something about the content of the interview itself, or possible jealousy if you're farther along in your career than he was at your age, or a host of other earthly reasons (although I don't doubt that he's proud of you; his email starts with "Wow! I'm impressed."). The second is regarding religious differences, which although important, are less relevant to this particular incident, and are also a hell of a lot more difficult to unwrap:).

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  6. I don't know what the answer is, but I think you are completely justified.

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  7. Dear abandoning eden,

    I think you can be very proud of what you achieved, in every sense of the term: you aquired your independency thanks to your academic achievements. I am sure your parents also feel very proud about you, just that their snarkyness and those religious issues do not allow them to tell you.

    I would not mention in any way that the 20'000 spent on the sefer torah could be the 20'000 he did not have to spend on your wedding.

    You were proud of organising a simple wedding, all the contrary of the pompous wedding your mother dreamt of organising for you.

    This now sounds as if you regretted the pompous wedding, which I know is not the case.

    Your father probably could afford the wedding AND the sefer Torah, and one has nothing to do with the other. (Perhaps he paid for it from the tuition money he does not have to spend any more.)

    Furthermore, I feel it is extremely poor taste to say anything that could be interpreted as you telling your parents what to spend their money on. The money is theirs, they earned it rightfully and can do with it what they want.

    It makes children sound quite "dependent" when they discuss what would increase or reduce their heritage, and this doen't go well with the independent woman you are....

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  8. eh, chances are I'm not going to write back at all let alone mention anything confrontational, cause i remain a coward.

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  9. I am going to have to disagree with the majority of your commenters and say that a juvenile response is in order. I'd send it exactly as you wrote it.

    Facts: a) Your dad had a really snarky response to something you clearly consider an achievement. This is not how you treat your kids. For a psychologist, he could sure use some help himself. b) He knows you are annoyed by his religion and yet decided to tweak you anyway.

    This will continue until you set some ground rules on what is an acceptable conduct. Your response clearly outlines what is acceptable and what isn't,

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  10. AE:
    I also think there are two issues here. One is his dismissal of your accomplishments, and, in fact, I think that your draft e-mail handles that very well--lightly, a bit indirectly, and briefly.
    Your response to the religious situation is just the opposite, and that's why I think it's not a good idea to send it. I agree with everyone that, even if you do send it, you should take out all monetary references. But the whole thing is pretty problematic, because I think it will be difficult to argue that your dad is discussing religion with you merely b/c he tells you in an e-mail that he is going to send you a video of the Torah dedication. You don't have to watch the video, and it's just one line in an e-mail. I know from experience with my MIL that that is plenty to set a person off, but I also know that it is hard to explain to the other person why that one line is setting you off without the other person getting all defensive and the whole thing just spiraling out of control.
    It doesn't have to be therapy, but I think what is important here is NOT what your dad says (b/c he probably won't change at this point) but how YOU deal with it. That is the side of the issue I have had to work with in dealing with my MIL, because I can only talk to her about things of substance in brief snatches, in person, with both my husband and FIL present.

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  11. Although I agree with Katrina it doesn't have to therapy, but I think your goal is to get to a place where every contact from your father doesn't set off the same chain reaction of hurt. Therapy is the fastest route to this goal, in my experience. If you can find a way to do it with a friend or your husband, more power to you. But I've found an independent, neutral voice, that doesn't always wholly sympathize with me and my perspective, is more effective.

    You want your father to show politeness and "common courtesy" by not mentioning religion when he contacts you. That probably isn't going to happen so you have two options- cut off all contact with him because you feel his presence in your life is just too toxic. Or modulate how you react. Continuing this cycle of anger and hurt every time you get an email or every time you have some kind of contact with him doesn't seem productive.

    I agree also with the previous comment that it's his money and it's unseemly bear some kind of resentment for "money that should have been yours", especially since you've decided to live a completely independent life that disregards all of their expectations. Your decisions are legitimate and so are his (not sure you really believe the latter).

    And this is the ultimate point of therapy- confronting these painful realities and making peace with them so you're not refighting the same fight every few months.

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  14. As a person who's been on the couch for a while, my two cents is that you should send the letter. It's important for your own sanity and growth to demand being talked to in a manner that everyone agrees is appropriate and healthy. As a side benefit, it will be good for your father to learn how to "behave" properly.
    If anything, I wouldn't beat around the bush regarding being dismissive of your accomplishments. Easier said than done than done, of course.

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  15. Eh. He is your daddy, and, under the circumstances, you're going to be stuck having daddy issues for some time. Probably not entirely your fault. One gets the impression that he's got his own issues (as he'd probably acknowledge). You will have to allow that your going heretic on him (even if not directed at him) is extremely painful for him.
    All that said, I think your idea that the two of you will only be able to have a relationship on commonalities is probably spot on.

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  16. Pare back the rant a bit, and add (with some thought) that you realize it is natural for him to talk about religion, as it is such a large part of how he spends his life, and it is associated with the family- which he is trying to connect you with by showing you the video of them. (You can overdo it to help him swallow the other bits rather than get overwhelmed or defensive or hide). Also, add that you appreciate his positive response to your interview. Remember it began with: Wow! I'm impressed. His subsequent words were an attempt at being both conversational/witty and touching "hip" culture. Obvious, this was not obvious, and was overshadowed by his lack of sensitivity to the backhanded compliment it contained. So anyhow, (And I know you are NOT feeling all this) THANK him for his positive response, because (and you tell him this) you always wanted to feel like he was proud of you, and you still do. If you make him feel good about himself for praising you, it will give him a good feeling and make him more likely to do so in the future. Also 'rents are daft and most often we have to spell out really obvious parenting things like that for them. And so in summary (man I wish we hung out), 1) It's good to be honest and you were, but 2) Unless you include some "warm fuzzies" with your "cold pricklies", when he does not understand you or his transgressions fully, it will push him in the wrong direction. However, if you deliver your very clear and self-respecting message along with some sweet, sweet, goodness, he will swallow like a champ.
    Also, always end on the positive summary note. Very important. Always end with the warm fuzzy...
    My hobby is manipulation, but I only use my powers for good ;)

    Good luck!! Miss you!!! I am SO proud of you :)

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  17. Don't send that email. It's just fueling the fire. You should send something acknowledging and expressing your feelings. I also, (big surprise) recommend therapy for you.

    How about:

    Abba,

    Thank you for your email and for passing the video around for everyone to see. I am so proud of my professional successes and I know this tv appearance is just one moment of what will be a long and fruitful career. Perhaps you didn't mean to do so, but when you wrote "15 minutes of fame" I felt you were belittling my success.

    I want so badly to be close to you but often feel that due to communication roadblocks and our religious divide this hasn't been possible.

    I know that purchasing the sefer torah was incredibly meaningful and important to you, and I should have written you back acknowledging that. I will say, that it is hard for me to be supportive when I have such strong feelings about our family history. I'd like to be supportive of you in this way, but it hurts that you and the rest of the family don't support my marriage.

    I hope that we can work on building some bridges back into each other's lives.

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