Sometimes, my dad will say something that will shock me. Not because it’s outrageous, but for the exact opposite reason: it’s so, well, cool. He’s managed to stun me into silence quite a few times as he presided over my childhood. On this Father’s Day, I can’t think of a better way to pay tribute than to recall his top 5 World’s Best Dad moments.
#1 That one time he taught me how to shave
Yep, that’s right. My dad was the one who taught me how to shave, which kind of makes sense because he’s the only one in our family who does shave (my mom doesn’t. Body hair, thoda hi care).
One fine morning soon after I joined college I was freaking out because there’s so much hair (so much, guys. Like, one step short of being a hamster) and my dad whipped out his razor and some soap and water and was like, ‘Let’s do this.’ He then proceeded to gently shave the errant growth on my legs.
I’d never seen anything smoother in my life. By which I refer to both his ultra level of chill, and my newly shaved legs.
#2 That one time he encouraged me to not wax my body hair
One evening, when my mom was rolling her eyes at my complaints about waxing (It’s not the pain, guys. The pain I can handle. But WHY IS IT SO DAMN EXPENSIVE) and my dad was like, ‘Why do you even do it?’
I just stuttered a bit and muttered something along the lines of, ‘It feels fresh’, which it does, but then my father, the aged patriarch, looked me straight in the eye and said, grinning, ‘Can’t you say that this is part of patriarchy as well?’
Honestly, I was so flabbergasted that I just immediately went and put up a status about it on Facebook, as a good millennial will. It sparked a debate on my feed about when it’s okay to call someone out on body hair choices, but let’s face it: the mandate to remove body hair for women does come from a patriarchal perspective of what it means to be a woman.
Even if you choose to remove it, it’s a choice that still functions within the structure of patriarchy and is therefore likely to be rewarded in ways that women who don’t, won’t be. In fact, they might even be penalised for it.
I hate it when people call me out on my liberal hypocrisy. Thanks, dad. *huffs*
#3 That one time we had an intense discussion about abortion
My mom was in on this one. One evening while I was in high school, we were all sitting, chatting, having a nice time, when I brought up something that had been pricking me a lot recently: abortion, and the ethical dilemma it furnished for me, when medical complications or sexual abuse was not a factor.
‘Don’t you think it’s a woman’s responsibility to bring up a child she has chosen to conceive?’ I asked my parents. ‘The child didn’t ask to be created. Isn’t it taking the easy way out? Isn’t it murder?’
To which both my parents replied with a resounding, ‘No‘.
To say that I was taken aback would be the understatement of the century. My dad just rolled his eyes and said, ‘There is no life at that point. It’s just a mass of cells, baba, and it cannot be considered to have legal consent.’
I sat with my jaw hanging open, not because I didn’t agree or understand but because I couldn’t believe that my parents, of the previous generation, scores of years older than the people on Tumblr who first exposed me to this debate, had the same opinion as them.
Then it got better.
It’s much better, my mom explained, when the mother isn’t forced to bring up a child she didn’t want to have, or can’t take care of; she will go on to live a fulfilled life that way, and the child will also not be subjected to a life of resentment. It’s a completely valid choice.
No moral judgement. No ifs and buts. No props to justify the choice. If a woman makes that choice, my parents told me, it’s valid.
Guys, I’m not going to deny, that was one of the moments in which I was very, very happy to be my parents’ daughter.
#4 That one time he pointed out (ahem, admitted) to me that his friend was being sexist
So as some of you might know, my dad was recently diagnosed with cancer. During one of his first chemo sessions, I met a friend of his, a very jolly, helpful man who genuinely seemed to make dad laugh during a very difficult time. I left dad in his hands, glad that he was in happy company, and went off to make the dozens of payments and formalities you need to complete in a hospital. When I came back, my dad’s friend was smiling at me and my dad said, ‘Do you know what he said? He said you’re my son.’
And I was like, what?
And my dad continued, ‘Yes, I told him, that’s my daughter, I don’t have a son, but he insisted that you’re my son.’
I stood there, not really knowing what to say but feeling vaguely insulted, for some reason. When this friend stepped out for a smoke, I asked dad what he meant. And my dad gave a somewhat embarrassed smile and said, ‘You could say that this is a patriarchal thought. You’ve been so active recently, running about, getting things done, and so he called you a son, because in our homes, sons are just a little better than daughters.’
Guys, I kid you not, I just stood there in utter disbelief, all my feminist training leaving me. I hadn’t prepared to face this now. I hadn’t prepared to face this, ever. What even can you say when something like this happens?!
I’m just proud that my dad recognised it for what it was and pointed it out. If you’re wondering if we ever got around to telling off his friend, yes, we did, and he accepted it and at least made an effort to understand why I’m not okay with it. This story had a peaceable ending, but I shudder to think of all the ones that don’t. There are thousands of those everyday.
#5 That one time he gave me a reminder that I will carry with me forever
My dad is quite fond of philosophy, as I discovered one day when I took him to Pottermore and he got sorted into Ravenclaw (I was expecting Hufflepuff or Gryffindor). So I tend to take my moral problems to him quite often. Even if I disagree with what he thinks, the way he thinks and goes about solving problems usually puts me on the right track.
So one day, when I was really upset about how the world, as I had begun to observe it, never dissolved into neat little binaries as people seemed to say it does- I went and asked him about it. How can I reconcile these absolutes?
And my dad gave me the best advice ever.
The world won’t sort itself into neat bundles for you, he said. There will always be confusing, chaotic, juxtapositional elements in the way it functions. You just have to learn to live with it, however ideological you may be.
Or, as he summed it up, ‘The ability to live with contradictions is the sign of intelligence.’
In that one sentence, my dad did something that all the books in the world hadn’t done in years. He taught me to look for nuances. Nothing is ever as simple as black and white. People are never as simple as that, and so, neither is the world.
My relationship with my dad isn’t perfect.
He isn’t a saint, and neither am I. We fight quite often about many things. I think he doesn’t understand his own emotions and tends to not understand others’ either. He thinks I’m a person with an addiction-oriented personality who tends to indulge in mindlessly compulsive behaviour, and then does nothing to break out of it. (He’s right). We both have issues with each other that we frequently need to sort out.
But I think, on this Father’s Day, I will think about the times my dad was the one who taught me so many priceless lessons on so many different things. I’ll think about al the times he was the coolest dad in the world.
Happy Father’s Day, dad. May we celebrate many more to come.