I never knew my father growing up. My family was a partnership between my mother and I. Like many children with a missing parent, I used to dream about what kind of man he was and create the reasons he hadn’t been in contact.
"We moved around too much and he didn’t know where to find us."
"He was too in love with my mother and he couldn’t bear to talk to us."
"He was really sick and didn’t want us to suffer seeing his depleted state."
He had met my mother when she was a very lonely, damaged 20 year old (who turned out to be an undiagnosed manic-depressive) in his class at university. My mother told me that he wasn’t a very nice person, but I had decided as a sullen teenager that this was because she didn’t want to risk me getting close to anyone but her.
Years later, I started university at 17 and discovered there was this newfangled computer system called “The World Wide Web” (you may have heard of it?) that allowed you to look for information on anything. I searched for my father and discovered a usenet entry from a group he posted on. It seemed he was teaching in a central European university.
I wrote him an email and got a very touching email in response talking about how he used to think of me on my birthday and how he hoped I was happy. I remember sitting in the computer lab with tears streaming down my face as I read it.
I wrote back the next day, and the reply was less than exciting. He asked what I wanted from him and made it clear he was broke. His tone was brusque and he critiqued my grammar.
My mother's mental health continued to fail over this time, finally reaching a diagnosis but also ending up in multiple hospitalizations. I parked the thorny issue of my absent father and concentrated on the matters at hand, including passing classes.
Some years later, my mother passed away and I found in her belongings that she had hired a private investigator to find my father and he had written me the same letter he ended up emailing me. Word for word. At my mother's wake, I talked to my uncles and found out that my father had turned up to my grandparents' house while my mother was in hospital giving birth and presented them with the money he had tried to offer her for an abortion. My grandfather took the money and threw him out on the street.
After my first son was born, I tried to get in contact with my father again, as my son had some health issues and we wanted a more comprehensive medical history. He didn't respond to my emails.
I periodically Googled his name and eventually discovered the motherlode -- he had created a Facebook profile. His friends are approximately 90 percent central European women of 20-30 (presumably from his university.) His interests include the Pick Up Artist society, The Radical Inner Game, Same Night Seduction, Ignore and Score, DayGame, Alpha Male Transformations and another 985 more similar profiles.
For those of you unfamiliar with the “Pick Up Artist” world, it’s just as sleazy as the name suggests. They meet up and swap favored methods of meeting and seducing women. Some of the techniques are quite horrible including “negs” where you give a backhanded compliment to try and get the unsuspecting woman to prove her worth to you. (Amusingly they also wear stupid hats and call it “peacocking"; the idea is that people are attracted to the conversation-starting accessory).
From some more specific Googling, my father seems to be an active member of the community and in his late 60s, is still doing his best to seduce and discard 20-somethings with low self-esteem. And any successful seduction is dissected online in great detail.
Ever wanted to hear your dad recounting how he bedded a 23-year-old ex-student? That was when I decided that I needed to back away from the computer.
So it seems that years down the track, I have confirmed my mother's statement that my father is a dick. I don’t have any family of origin these days and regard myself as a orphan, although I do regularly Google my father's name after a few glasses of wine to see what ghastly new evidence I can find of his “seductions.”
Part of me wonders whether I have a network of unknown half brothers or sister, but I don’t feel the urge to hunt them down. I’m pretty happy not knowing these days.
At times I wonder whether I did the right thing finding out, but it has definitely made me grateful for my husband, who is distinctly monogamous. I also have a newfound gratitude for my mother's fight to bring me into the world and raise me alone. I know that I need to make sure my sons don’t view women as "others," but as people to share experiences with, and that I need to raise them with the idea that sex is something you share, not something you do to women.
And I know that anyone in a stupid hat needs to be approached with great caution. Even guys who look like your dad.