Father – with daughters
Once my sister and I were old enough not to ride on our father’s back, his approach to communication with us was by alcohol, mockery, and provocation. Without alcohol, he rarely noticed our existence, but when drunk, he wanted us to pay attention to him. He’d start with teasing, which I later learn to be a general tactic for men to draw the attention of women. It was trifle at first; for example, he repeatedly made fun of my nose for being small and flat, while my nose took after his. He also called me “Uchi-Benkei.” Benkei was a fierce warrior monk in the 12th century Japan, who was known to have served Minamoto-no Yoshitsune. The word “Uchi-” meant inside/inward/internal, so “Uchi-Benkei” described a person who acted tough at home but was meek outside. I was indeed a well-behaved child at school, but if I was acting tough at home, it was because of my father. If I got upset about being shamed for my nose and my shyness, he looked triumphant to have successfully drawn reaction from me. Eventually, I learned to protect myself from the hurt by responding with silence, and he’d temporarily retreat.
As I grew into a teenager, I spent more time in my room studying or reading books. Both my sister and I had a room or our own on the second floor. Around 9 pm, we started to hear heavy breathing at the bottom of the stairs, then the slow thuds approaching. The breathing stopped in front of the door, and the voice says, “Ko-chan (my pet name).” I didn’t answer, but the door creaked open. I asked what he wanted. He asked what I was doing. When I told him I was studying, he’d tell me not to study. I asked him to leave me alone, but he’d loam around my room until I had to raise my voice. His play of interruption continued throughout my high school years. By then, my sister had left home, so my loneliness topped with the stress and pressure at school drove me to detest my father passionately. The minute he approached me, I yelled at him hysterically until he withdrew into his room with a glass of whiskey in his hand. No matter how loud I screamed or what cursing words I used, he’d have a wry grin on his face, that looked to me his infantile reaction to my rejection. It wasn’t, however, my job to build a healthy father-daughter relationship, and I was too occupied to engage in unproductive arguments with him as I was leaving as soon as I pass the entrance exam to the university in Tokyo. My effort on schoolwork was my attempt to move as far away as possible from home, from my father.
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