I'm reading a warts and all biography about Vogue Editor Anna Wintour, who comes across as quite the cold-hearted bitch. But all this is conveniently explained by, what else, the fact that she had a distant, emotionally buttoned up father. She became an emotionally frigid woman, and also dated mainly much older men who weren’t particularly like her dad in character (they were lovable rogues), but I suppose they fulfilled the emotional void left by her dad's lack of attention.
The ones on the left are from 1998 (hmm, years of hard drinking on my dad's part take their toll). On the right bad haircuts all round mum, dad, me circa 1979
The book made me start thinking about my dad, who died a couple of months ago aged 59. The cause of death was liver cirrhosis actually, no surprise there. His death leaves more questions than answers, but I don't really want to get into the whole ghastly saga between my mum and dad etc. etc. suffice to say, he wasn't around much when I was a kid and quite honestly, in some ways I am pleased he is dead, because I tried so hard to make him love me and he sometimes said he did, but he could not really show it in actions and it was just forever unresolved. I couldn't accept that he loved me but couldn't show it in the way I wanted, and it was never going to get better, it was a kind of dull nagging pain. And the other torturous thing is he didn’t really love anyone else. I mean he had this girlfriend, but he never really told me he loved her, he just told me that she understood him. Okay, so I’m kind of glad it’s over …
Also, my point is I think many times I did look for a substitute for my father’s love in my relationships with men. The strange thing is I was not really attracted all that much to older men. I think I was drawn to men who reminded me of my father at the time when I was born (when he was only twenty-one), and how I remember him from when I was a child, that is, he was attractive and had a really charming voice and manner and would even buy me kids’ books and read them to me. I remember one called ‘The Lazy Bear.’ I remember also, a few happy memories, once when my mum and dad and I went rowing in Regent’s Park. After I was about eight I stopped seeing my dad for many years, so I think he was always young in my mind even when he got old, fat and bloated.
Also, for years I used to dream about my dad, and it was always in this happy, imaginary kingdom. I don’t think he really ever really aged for me. I’ve only had a few serious relationships, but they were all those kinds of coup de foudre situations. Firstly the guy would be young or look young and have the same kind of lost yet charming expression as my dad. I’d see the guy for the first time and his smile, something inexplicable about him would make my heart contract. Even before we spoke, it was love, obsession. Those relationships were very intense and often destructive. Strangely enough, even though my husband was only twenty when I met him, it was that kind of attraction - I mean immediate - but not so heavy or destructive. He attracted me even before we spoke a word. But he doesn’t remind me so much of my dad in that he isn't lost, artistic or eccentric. So I like to think I’ve grown out of that phase of trying to find in men what I needed in my dad.
Yes, I think I have, although it's pretty hard to break out of the pattern.
Do you think that your choices in women/men is governed by the good or bad relations you had with your parents?
Who am I? Displaced Londoner now living in the States with my two little girlies and long suffering husband. Co-author of hilarious parenting book Cocktails at Naptime www.cocktailsatnaptime.com
My mom's an Austrian, my dad's a Brit, which makes me a Britaustrian, or possibly an Austrish?