-Fathers and Daughters-

I find extremely interesting the social habit that tends to think that women cannot function properly without a solid male figure in their life.
Still nowadays people would argue that a male role model is essential for a girl and that without it, they would be depraved and lost.
Can we love men if our dad doesn't love us?
Are we necessarily easy, promiscuous or destined to work in sex industries because we didn't have a strong man around keeping us on track? Is everything we do and will do, defined by men?
Here I will try to deconstruct this stigma and tackle the stereotype according to which women’s behavior is dictated by men, in this case their father.
Through a panel of conversations, and in a journalistic approach I will aim at gathering a wide range of testimonies to put against or in the favor of it.

2016 - 2019


-Are They Shaping or Breaking Us?-

In 2019 I decided to add a new approach to my research and expand from archive materials to involve external voices to my narrative. I sent out an open call asking people to send me testimonies of their relationship with their father. Wether it'd be painful one or a raving one all scenarios were welcome with the only limitation of providing a picture alongside the text, to either illustrate it, or just share an object that was a reminder of their dad or that would symbolize fatherhood.
56 people reached out, from the 56, only 20 ended up sending me the material. To all I asked what word would be describe a father;
oppression or protection. Four answered oppression, thirteen answered protection, two answered both and one answered neither.
The participants are 16 women and 4 men.
8 asked whether it would be anonymous.

Here are the participants who didn't ask for anonymity.
Cécilia Bernard, Ilaria Bosso, Maria-Annick Boursault,
Elodie Cabirol, Luna Capalti, Alessandra Carosi, Carlotta Cattaneo-Carter, Alice Clair, Jack Garland, Clara Hernanz, Silvia Mangosio, Lara Ossipovski, Chiara Pirra, Venezia Rocco, Clément Saccomani, Tina Umer and Elena.

The works are presented below in a random order and the texts are neither modified nor corrected.

I typed “attracted to men like my father” on Google and the first entry was a Wikipedia page titled “Father complex”.
It said that I’m longing for an involved dad and that the men I date are a proxy for that all-powerful father figure. Sure, why not!
Maybe I have “a type”. Maybe I miss my dad.
Maybe men, programmed to perform their gender and live up to societal expectations from an early age, just don’t know how to feel.
All I’m asking is for my crush to reply to my messages with anything but one-word texts.
My father called me up the other day to ask me how to use our home’s scanner. I explained it, hastily, and then, for the sake of routine, he asked the dreaded question: “and how are things with you, anyway?” I told him that I was feeling anxious about being rejected by my current romantic interest.
But I was also feeling anxious about feeling anxious about romance because I like to think that that type of love is not The Best Thing Ever anyway. A dead, predictable silence ensued.
I rushed to the typical fill-in subjects and asked him about work, mum, the dog.
What’s going on in the garden. How is the weather? Did you speak to grandma recently? I can’t count the number of times this sort of conversation has occurred.

My father is supportive and protective, he is kind and generous, he will drop everything to run to me if I need help, but it was not always this way. My father left us when I was about four, he came back when I was about nine. It was very frustrating and confusing, and I feel as though I hated him for a long time, I felt as though he was not my real dad, I would always throw his temporary absence in his face during arguments, I felt as though he had betrayed us and disappointed us. When he was being nice, basically acting like a ‘father’, I dismissed it thinking he was just compensating for when he wasn’t any of those things.
Once I spat in his face and I still regret that time.
He has never stopped being a father during my ‘challenging’ teenage years. He remained supportive yet strict, he would defend me if I was right and make me take responsibility if I were wrong.
It is as if he completely ignored those 5 years of absence and everything went back to normal. I never thought this particular aspect of our history bothered me, but having written this, I now realise that maybe this is actually why I get really anxious and angry when a situation is unresolved with somebody. Like an unfinished conversation, or somebody acting as if something didn’t happen. So perhaps this is the first time I acknowledge to myself that I have some father issues.
I’m not sure if we all matured and so has our relationship.
Or maybe I just got tired of feeling angry, but now my father is one of two people I completely trust and truly feel like he is ‘there for me’. I don’t think the father figure should be anything in particular, family figures are just people, some people are disappointing, some are your friend for life, some come and go, blood doesn’t change that.

I could easily describe the relationship with my father as divided into two chapters and an epilogue.

Chapter ONE, me aged 0-13.

I’ve always been very proud of my father: a former professional skier then successful head physician saving kids’ lives, a playful and empathic man, he was a problem solver and everyone seemed to rely on him big time.

We had great adventures and he was the one pushing me out of my inner world to challenge myself with life.
Then my mother died and I guess this man I knew went with her.

Chapter TWO, me aged 13-19.

It was just us two, my father and I, and everything I experienced before as easy and comforting became a mine-strewn ground.
He was suddenly very unpredictable I was frightened to engage in conversation because a mere simple word could ignite his wrath. Our lives became a constant struggle.

I remember hoping he’d die; I felt I was strong enough to make it on my own and I couldn’t bear the burden of negativity and pain he was bringing me.

Epilogue, me aged 20.

He died on march 25th after 4 months of struggle due to a stroke. I felt relieved, lonely, somehow guilty for I dreamt of this, yet free. I love my father, I understood he just couldn’t handle life alone.

My father wasn't very present, or was he?
I don't remember, or wait, I do… I am so confused.
Confusion is the best word to describe the relationship with my dad. I love him and I hate him, I blame him and I worship him.
After 30 years of suffering within my own confused thoughts, I resolved to undergo psychotherapy and to start a diary of my childhood traumas and repressed memories.
It helps to clarify some things, but it's such a long journey.
My mum says that I had the most wonderful childhood with my father always by my side, taking care of me. However, this care might have gone unnoticed by the young me. All I remember is violence: physical abuse, sexual abuse (I'm still in denial because my father is wonderful, really), psychological abuse, manipulation, to name but a few. And I blame myself for all this. I feel like I have never been good enough and because of me he drank and has been depressed and eventually got sick. However, I guess, it all started with the absence of the father figure in his life. Maybe because of this he didn't have any idea of fatherhood?
I keep finding excuses.
He is 67 now and he still doesn't understand what being a father means. In fact, now, he wants me to be his father that he never had. I visit him every now and then, but I live far. And you know how many times I thanked my life that I live far? Every time I come to the place I used to call home, I feel irritated, angry, powerless and shameful. I feel exactly like I felt 15 or 20 years ago. The relationship with my father didn't change. Frankly, it got more complex. Over the years I came to a realisation that what I feel is a so-called Stockholm Syndrome - when a hostage falls in love with her captor as a survival strategy. When I left my parent's house, I managed to breathe easily. However, the relationship with my father has been affecting all my relationships ever since.

I think a protrusive figure such as the father would be able to shape one’s own perception of life, the way you are going to live in the world and react to it.
Referring to mine in particular, I have to admit I have been lucky when I was a child, I experienced a lovely human presence who seemed sincere, genuinely attached and caring.
In my adult age, soon after a family tragedy, everything changed dramatically all of a sudden. I discovered a completely different person dwelling the soul of the father I thought he was, someone who became a stranger to me, someone unpleasant I am not anymore sharing either affection, care, love with.
I discovered a person who is not even sharing the same old ethical values he was used to believe. I ended up thinking some people lacking of personality (as him) can arrive to downplay their mind, thoughts, believes in order to survive. “Mors tua, vita mea” Latins used to say. These people change their shape as water does, maybe they have never had one.
Sometime I guess you have to kill your father back for survive yourself.

In 2019 still, one of the first question being asked when we meet someone is ‘by the way, what do your parents do ?’
My father is a working class laborer, communist activist and part of an union since more than 40 years.
Being the child of a laborer still means something nowadays.
It is social status that I carry. Yes I come from a working class household. Yes I know that I often need to do more than the others to be taken seriously. But I also know that I am a pride to my father – that prole- because I have been able to outmaneuver the mechanism of social reproduction, at least for now. The proof, in a way, that the sentence ‘If you don’t work in school you’ll go work at the factory with your dad’ marked me deeply and pushed me to suceed.
But beyond the worker, my father is first and foremost a tenacious activist, an open minded man (he can carry on conversations with fascists) and a sweetheart with his children.
He’s been called ‘the fatty’ since more or less forever. He is very lound but completely harmless. Well, besides the time my brother thought it was a good idea to burn down the local supermarket.
Anyway, something marked me when I was a kid : during a meeting –an aperitif in our living room, I expressed a disagreement with my father’s ‘struggle buddies’. Followed some –relevant- remarks on my education such as ‘if my child were to talk to me like that it would be a slap and straight to bed’. After slamming my bedroom door – I was a teenager- I heard my father take my side and tell them he was not going to prevent me from thinking and develop a critical mind. Indeed, a tour table, we used to talk about politics, class wars and social issues at en early age and with my brother we were allowed to participate in the conversations withot necessarily being in accordance to the communist ideal.
In the end, it is surely thanks to my father that I also became an activist to defend ideals of egality and social justice. The fight continues !

My dad gave me this ceramic puppy when I was little.

Dad always had it on his desk and I loved how cute and gentle it looked. He gave it to me one day and said I couldn’t have a dog yet but this would do, I’ve had it ever since.
Years later he was diagnosed with cancer and died 7 weeks later. Looking back on this ceramic puppy, all worn and chipped now, it reminds me of him in his last weeks.
Tired, worn away by time, ready for the long sleep, and looking more innocent and helpless than ever.

I am Clément Saccomani, father of Maé, Ana, Noëlla, Yvonne Saccomani.
I am the son of Daniel Albert Saccomani, born on July 21st 1944 and deceased et on July 29th 2011. My father has been for many years, an ennemy, my worst ennemy, then become friend, ally, confidant, fervant and loyal support. If I deeply miss my father everyday, I believe our conversations his insight and his honesty are what I miss the most and I fear this will be the case until the end of my life. Since my father’s death, I do not fear my own because then I can be with him. I cannot stand the fact that his death deprives us both of so many questions and answers.
His influence alike his presence has been strong and today I do not like the feeling that his death alters and affects my judgement to the point of diluting slowly but surely any crictical sense but mostly any critical point other the ones already known.
When I buried my father I knew I was also burrying my family with him, in its concept, its ideology and its reality.
My father was very attached to the notion of family and sadly this disappeared with him. I am profoundly proud of him, despite some character trait and actions that I condemn and fully reject but that are reassuring me in a way about myself because they are not my own. I a mat the spring of my own life because I can today take my own life decisions and actions without constantly wondering whether they come from his influence, my will to continue any kind of heritage or by simple opposition to him.
I am a father myself, and whenever I have doubts about the education of my daughter I simply think about being the dad I wish I had. I think we have a lot in common, physically, intellectually, culturally, and as many diferences and all of this I must admit deeply delights me.
I love my father deeply, the memory of him, his mistakes, and mostly his qualities. He strongly contributed to make me the man I am today and for that I will always be deeply grateful. When I said his eulogy, I was surprised by the appalling mediocrity of my family members in this solemn moment et also from my own speech. I was hoping everything would be better during that day, nevertheless I was happy that my closing sentence to him was « I am happier to have met you than sad that you are gone ».

In 2002, I am 14 years old. One late evening my father has -as often- drank too much and starts playing the piano very loudly. He wakes up everybody.
From my bedroom I can hea my mom asking him to stop. Their voice starts rising, I can’t quite understand what is being said as the voices are still covered by the sound of the piano on which my father is banging louder and louder out of provocation.
I hear the piano lid clap loudly and my mother let go a muffled scream of pain.
She says ‘You hurt me’ and he answers ‘You piss me off’ !

In 2018, I am 30 years old and decide to buy a piano. I meet with my father at the store and together we browse trought the store and he gives me advices, shares his experience and gets moved by my first notes. He takes me to the back of the store where the grand pianos are and tells me in a bonding moment ‘listen to this incredible sound’ and then starts playing and singing a song he invented for us when we were children.

When I was a child my father always told me about his youth: his adventures, his travels, his passions, how happy he was at that moment of his life.
I loved his stories and fantasized about the moment when I will be part of his adventures too.
My father was my hero and for me it was fundamental not to be disappointed.
Over time, however, those adventures, those journeys, those passions never become part of our father-daughter relationship.
Soon my father became my cage.
I began to feel that my person is very far from what he had planned for me: my life was a continuous compromise between my dreams and his expectations, and every time my choices did not correspond with his hopes I always became less daughter and he became less and less a father.
When you are a child you take for granted that your family is the perfect family and you think that every father loves his child, but one day you simply realize that not all fathers are real fathers and some people are asked to choose whether to be a daughter or be happy.

I have no real joyful memories of our life together so when I think of him I prefer to remember him in his stories in which he was happy, before I was born.

I’ve always had a nice and tender relationship with my father.
I lost my mum when I was three. So my father had to take care of me and my brother until he met another woman, only three years later.
When I was a child for me my father was a true hero. The man I wanted to marry one day. I wanted to marry him until he decided to start over with a new chapter of his life and mine too.
He was always at work and I saw him only for lunch and dinner. We never spoke to much about my real mother until the last year. Twentytwo years later. I believe our relationship has now changed because I want to know, I want to talk about everything I don’t know about him. He is a very private and introspective person.
I believe that unconsciously I hated him during my childhood, for the choices he made and for the things he didn’t tell me.
But now growing up I understood some things and I see it from a different perspective. I see him as a man, as a human being and as such capable of making mistakes and making wrong choices.
Our relationship is constantly changing and improving, i’m sure that we have a lot of work to do for us.
For me the figure of the father is that of a silent, present, observing figure. A figure ready to help but unable to scream his own feelings, just like me. In any case if I had to think of an object that reminds me of him, there is one in particular that comes to mind.
It is a stone, which is not materially here, but I can send you a picture of a similar one. This stone reminds me of a story, one of those you would tell at family dinners. During my childhood my father brought me and my brother along with our dogs to the river. It was always summer and was still very hot. One day I was walking on the highest bank and looking at the ground I found a stone at that moment I felt like pulling it into the river. But on the shore, near the water, there was my father and my brother talking unaware of what I was going to doing. So with all the strength I had in that little body I threw the stone towards the river, the stone never reached the water but on my father’s head. He immediately began to curse and looking for the attempted murderer, my brother started chasing me and I ran away trying to hide.
We like to remember that day as “the day I tried to kill my father”.
Maybe inside I really wanted to do it?
Seriously, I have a good relationship with my dad and if I think of the father figure, I think of that stone, the laughter and his mustache.

My father never failed.
He is a pain in the ass, a temperamental person, clumsy, but he is here.
Sometimes we talk about his death.
When his own father died he was not sad.
He was grateful that he died peacefully at a late age.
If I manage to be in peace the the he dies, then I believe I would have succeded in life.
What I owe to my father, what I am thanks to him, is to be a standing woman. Free.

I would not say that this is what being a father is. It is just my father.

I’m not used to talk about it very easily but I guess for that one time I have no other option, so here we go.
My dad died when I was a kid, he actually killed himself.
At that time I couldn’t understand and was just missing a daddy, I guess. Then I turned old enough to know the reasons why he wasn’t there. Because he made that choice. For a long time I’ve especially felt anger towards him, I thought it was selfish and unfair for his wife and kids, I would blame him for all the pain I was feeling. It’s also a very complicated position to be the child of someone who killed himself. Unconsciously I’ve spent my whole life thinking I wasn’t worth it, I wasn’t enough to make him want to live. That feeling extended to my relation to men. When in love, I’ve accepted the unacceptable because I thought I didn’t deserve better. I’ve felt awfully unsafe, would need an extra attention, would take any lack of attention as a lack of love. « No one can love me enough to do this or that ». I’m basically living in a terrible fear of being abandoned. I recently found out the reasons why I can be so unsafe or needy, I’m just looking for a man’s love, attention and protection, something I didn’t get.
I’m dealing with those issues though.
I recently figured out suicide was not a choice, but an act of ultimate hopelessness. That you didn’t even decide, that you were weirdly guided to. Knowing his act had nothing to do with me or anyone, slowly made me accept that yes I am worthy of love.
Also when I got that, I forgave my father, little by little. Anger left away and left space for pity and sorrow. I’m now feeling extremely sad for him, that he was in such a pain, that he didn’t get to live a happy life, to see his children grow up, to see what we’ve achieved.I’m also very sad that I couldn’t get to know him, as a person. What I’ve been told about him sounds like someone I would really appreciate. Someone deep, a little dark, but real, and extremely rich inside. That’s a shame. But hey maybe in another life who knows?
This year was actually the twentieth anniversary of his death. I think I’m just at the end of my grieving process, twenty years later.

When I was 14 my father was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He was 45 years old. This diagnosis came after long years of strange and crazy behavior, disappearance, waste of money and alcohol abuse.

My mother never left him even if after a period of stability he quit his therapy and started drinking and gambling again. They are still together after almost 30 years of marriage. I am not sure if I have a specific idea about what a father should be, all I know is that my father has no clue how to be one. In my education my mother did both jobs, the only thing that my father has always done is bringing money home and it is the only way he knows to connect and show affection to his family.

My father tough me how a father figure should not act and what not looking for in partners in order to build an healthy relationship.

Few months ago I bought my first yellow pomelo in a chinese shop.

During an ordinary phone call with my mother, I discovered that my father used to buy for her exotic fruits including pomelos while in the 80s he worked in a supermarket.

I read that unexpected connection as a symbol, something I felt like an emotional link with my father and a perfect event useful to crowd my idealized relationship with him.

I was born in on January 12th, since I was 4 I have never lived with my father, on my 12 years birthday he gave as a gift a golden watch, which I have never worn but I do always carry with me in a pocket of my rucksack.

Sometimes I forget about it so, whenever I move to new places and I am getting the bag ready, I am always surprised when I rediscover the watch.

When I weight it in my hands, I do think about my father and that precise moment he put the watch in my palm.

I just realized every time I need my dad, it ends up me calling the guy I’m dating in that moment and starting an argument with him without a reason. It feels like I need a certain amount of male attention, but it’s never enough and it’s consuming, because it’s always the wrong male I’m addressing to.

Sometimes, I just wish it was easier, I wish we had that kind of dad-daughter relationship in which I am the spoiled princess and could be cuddled even if I’m 30 without feeling weird and uncomfortable. I guess if I had all this, I wouldn't have been constantly in a relationship for the past 15 years.
I love my dad and I know he loves me a lot and I can always count on him. But we have indeed a really bad communication problem, we are very similar to and neither of us is good dealing with emotions.

These last years have been an emotional gym: I asked him to gave me all the old photographs from his youth and my childhood, and I started working on it, on our history, on my expectations. This is the image I want to show you, all our past encased in little boxes, holding the effort I’m doing trying to learn how to talk to him, and the failures in the attempt. ”

My father fixes everything. He also knows all the answers. Or so I though, for a long time. At some point he started using simple “I don’t know” replies more often, or perhaps I grew old to realise that. That would come as a surprise, and expanded my horizons of possibilities of knowledge. Also, I started noticing that he doesn’t always fix, but rather just starts. He owns quite some things, seldomly throws away anything broken, specially when it comes to electronics. The rooms he uses are mazes of his own mind. One may call those man-caves, I guess. I see him as an eagle, perhaps of his most prominent feature, the nose, or because of his precise nature, seriousness, knowledge and sharp eyes. A little cold, a little distant. “You’re such a serious man” my grandmother, his mother, jokingly says to him, to try to get a smile out. Sometimes I fear him. Not fear, but something unexplainable scares me, something of not understanding a person that should be so close to me. Does he hide my own disappointments, weights, dissatisfactions ? Are we separately and both distant from our hopes and desires? All of these are speculations I can’t explain. I can never understand a human’s life, let alone one’s father. Sometimes we spend what felt like hours watching cats videos on youtube. I saw, or imagined, a single shed of tear when sickness came around.

Loving, present, attentive, gentle and curious, he did everything possible to be a good father. He was. He is.
Perhaps it was my mother.
Her repeated attempts to humiliate him, her desire to diminish him in the eyes of the world - and especially in mine - that did his work.
But, consciously and unconsciously, it has always been obvious that I had to take his example backwards.
To be everything he wasn't. To not be everything he was.
In many ways, I have experienced heredity as a sword of Damocles.
Yet he never showed himself to be mean, violent.
He is a good man, loved and respected by all and for nothing in the world would I want to be like him.
Despite the love I have for him, I hate every one of his features that I find within me. I feel no shame or pride about him.
Even less indifference. And I know I love him. Everywhere but in me.

My father left me on Mai 30th 1992. A nasty, nasty disease. I got to the hospital and peaked into the bedroom. A corpse was laying down, a bandage around this jaw so it would not fall off, apparently it is always the case. I was not allowed in, I broke down and wept like a puppy in front of his bedroom door.
It was my last vision of him, I did not want to see him before the funeral. He was 63 and I was 35.
Since then, I miss him. What would have he thought of…? Would he agree with me on…? Would he like that movie or that artist?
He was handsome, with a singular beauty, blue eyes that would read through me, an irresistible smile and a large forehead.
A sort of Trintigant kind of beauty. I saw Trintignant at the Theater recently, old, and have had the feeling all evening to see what my father would look like today.
This year, on may 29th, he would have been 90. And he is missed. Intellectual from the far left wing, cultivated funny and often cynical he taught me to always remain on the look-out for the protection of our fundamental rights, refuse compromise, be committed. As a little girl, I used to love when he was part of the Odeon siege in 68 and would bring me to the revolts. The first one was at the funeral of Pierre Overney. I was feeling so proud next to him.
I followed him all my childhood from galleries to galleries: daniel templon, lara vinci, antoinette mondon had no secrets for me and I was feeling important when he would introduce me: his daughter. His word had in his mouth a particular appeal, sweet and proud.
He would walk and walk and walk and sometimes stop in the middle of the street, lost in his thoughts that sometimes would make him smile. He was humming a lot too. It used to annoy me a lot « Jacques, stop, people are watching us ». I called him Jacques, never dad.
We’ve had huge fights, most often for political opinions; he was Mao and I was Trotskyist, enough to liven up our family evenings. My mom had left him for another man and I was very young. I got two younger sisters from my mom side. Him, never re-married or had other children, because of him I’ve heard. I know he loved me and he said it often, and I would say it too. In the street, we would often walk hand in hand. Nothing incestuous but a profound tenderness and a mutual pride.
Completely self-taught, growing up in the depths of Brittany alongside an illiterate but beloved grandmother, brought to Paris with his younger brother by alcoholic parents that would either beat each other up or make out, he ran away from their home at 16 and never saw them again.
Kid from Saint Germain at its pride, broke but curious and hard worker, insatiable of knowledge ha had acquired a wide knowledge and never had enough discoveries. I inherited I believe this insatiable curiosity, like the appetite for never ending debates, friendship and fidelity, when he was I believe faithful to my mother only even though he was a formidable womanizer.
He met and loved his grand son, too young still (13) when Jacques left, he had so much left to give him. He did not meet his grand-daughter, little sand gazelle, adopted and who arrived in our home in December 1992. The pain of this first christmas without him was a bit softened by it.
I often talk about my father, and sometimes talk to him, even if I know he can’t hear me.
I’m surprised I managed to write this text without crying.

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