Everyone’s upbringing was unique and vastly different, obviously. Most of us either had parents that we could really count on, or parents we knew we couldn’t. We learned to adapt and live accordingly, and it shaped how we learned to interact in the world. I’m the first person to laud how wonderful I thought my father was. He was one of the most interesting, fun, charismatic, charming, talented people I’ve known, besides having supported me and putting me through college, and being an all-around encouraging father. In those respects, he was a great dad…
However, everyone has multiple facets to their personality, and one of the things he continually did has shaped the way I view and listen to every human being in my life. I recently realized this while talking to my mother about it, and she never knew about these facets of our relationship. I think she found the way I view people and the world to be a little sad or bitter or untrusting, and that surprised her. When I explained how it came about that also surprised her, but she understood what I’ve come to understand about myself. I’m not at all bitter about anything; it just ‘is what it is.’ I don’t believe you…
What I am referring to is that my father would often tell me he would do things and then not do them, or make promises or incentives to me and never honor them. (He also did that to her, but she wasn’t dealing with him in her formative years, so it didn’t have the same affect on her, and she did not realize that he continually did it to me. I could write an entire book just about this subject, but I don’t want to put my energy into that!)
Basically, my father often told me he’d do something and then he didn’t do it. He knew that I felt annoyed by this, because I will never forget something he said to me in a heated moment. It still amuses me today. He raised his voice in reaction to something I called him on and he said, “YOU EXPECT ME TO DO EVERYTHING I SAY I’M GOING TO DO!” Um, yeah, you are my dad. He seemed upset that I expected follow through. If your dad tells you something, you generally believe it. If you can’t believe your parents, then whom in the hell can you believe? They are your backbone to everything. That’s their job. In my mind, this should be black and white: DO WHAT YOU SAY YOU WILL DO. Honor your word, damn it.
*(Obviously there is the caveat to this that if someone has to bow out of something due to extenuating circumstances, work or illness, that is always understood, but that is not at all what I’m talking about here.)
I don’t think I need to go into the countless examples of things he told me he would do or would happen in the future which never did, of which I have many. Sometimes, he would even tell me “I never said that,” when really he just changed his mind, which he would occasionally admit. But what I realized is, as much as I want to believe what a person tells me—whether it’s a friend, boyfriend, boss, a store clerk, an airline or credit card representative, or basically any person I ever have any sort of conversation or interaction with about anything… I NEVER truly believe what anyone is saying to me. I know that sounds harsh and mistrusting, but that’s not really the case— I WANT to believe you, but I simply can’t until I see it for myself and it really happens.
If you are not a person who thinks this way, you may consider me a cynic. I really don’t think I am. I have a very open heart, and I am open to all life’s possibilities. The fact is, when someone tells me something, I hear what they say and I think, ‘that would be great. I really hope that’s true. I really hope that happens.’ Then when it doesn’t happen, I think, ‘oh well, I was prepared for that, no big surprise’; but if it actually does happen and one does what one says, it’s a happy surprise, and they’ve gained another bit of my respect than the average person gets from me.
On the flip side, because of years of conditioning, having been repeatedly disappointed (by my own father who I loved more than anyone else in the world), if a new person does it to me, and they want to have a place in my life, I need them to know that this is one of my all-time, No. 1 pet peeves or triggers. It’s not anyone else’s fault that I was conditioned to think and feel this way, but if anyone wants to be in my life, they have to understand that it doesn’t fly with me to say they’ll do something they are not going to do. When this issue ever comes up, I explain it because it is important to me, and needs to be understood. *(Again, I’m not referring to extenuating circumstances or illness).
For example, recently a “friend” ordered a custom jacket from me in their size, their unique personalized phrase was written all over it, and I spent about 10 hours and my own money on it, and then they never paid me for it. I brought it up to them 4 or 5 times over the course of a month, after the deadline had passed that I had agreed to get it done in time for their event. I can’t sell it to anyone else because it was custom. This makes me mad as hell. Why would a person do this? ARRRGGGG. (My father didn’t prepare me well enough, as I’m still mad about this one. Also obviously, I’m never doing another custom order without payment up front, even from a friend… lesson learned.)
Another recent example is– I ran into a “friend” on the street who told me he wants me to work at his venue, which was totally his idea, which I never asked for, and he gave me a real hard sell about how he could get me the job (which I didn’t even want until I thought later about what he said). After this, I followed up with him 3 times and was completely ignored, no response. This is the kind of thing that makes me want to go postal. WHY TELL ME YOU ARE GOING TO DO SOMETHING I DIDN’T EVEN ASK FOR AND THEN NOT DO IT?! This is exactly what my dad did to me over and over in my life. I keep trying to be open and believe people, but it seems to happen over and over again. This is where the phrase “put up or shut up” must have come from, and I wish they would. I really wish they would. I despise lip service and I really wish people wouldn’t blow smoke up my ass.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to insinuate that I’m perfect; but on my end, in this respect, I never say I will do something unless I am going to do it. If you ask me if I want to hang out Wednesday night, or to go see your band’s show, and I am not sure what I am doing or how I will feel, etc., I’d never tell you yes. I would tell you I’m not sure and I’ll try. I do not ever make promises I can’t or won’t keep. You want help moving? You want me to go to Oakland? Meet or call you in the morning? Sorry, I don’t do that. That’s one good thing that a person gets from me if they are my friend. They will know what page Alisha is on, because I will tell them flat out. If I’m unsure about anything, I won’t commit to it. That can be annoying too, because it is hard to get a commitment from me on anything unless it is important like a birthday, special event or a wedding. My friends get a lot of maybes out of me. But I think it’s better than the alternative. If I say you can count on me, you can. If I don’t want to do it, I’ll be brutally honest no matter if it’s popular or easy, and tell you I’m not going to do that. I also won’t ask anyone to do anything for me that I wouldn’t do for him or her as well. I won’t ask you to help me move. These things all seem so black and white to me. But to people like my dad, I guess not.
I will share one big example about my dad and I. When I was growing up, he traveled around the world. He got to fly on the Concorde and see more places than most people ever dream of. There was a time that he was gone 300 of the 365 days a year. He would show me pictures and bring home books or postcards and tell me about all these places. During college, we were very close and he said, “Alisha when you graduate from college, I want to take you to my 3 favorite places in the world: Rome, Florence and Venice. I really want you go with me to see my 3 favorite places.”
That sounded incredible; I couldn’t wait! I worked my ass off in college, managing to graduate cum laude with honors, even though I am kind of a party animal and don’t even consider myself to be all that smart. I also did 3 internships with companies working for free to learn about PR and the music business. It was a lot of hard work, especially when I was going out seeing bands, dancing and going to punk shows on school nights, but I didn’t miss school. To be honest, I never really gave a shit about school, but I loved my dad so much, I just wanted him to be proud of me. I never needed more incentive than that. He didn’t have to promise me anything; he was doing enough.
I have asthma, and also during college, I had several really bad flare ups that landed me in the emergency room 5 times. One of those times was the scariest… I was on a ventilator for five hours, alone crying in the ER. I thought I could die and my family wouldn’t know. (I lived in San Francisco, CA and they were in Dallas, TX). I thought the hospital wouldn’t know who to call, and my parents didn’t speak to one another, so I wondered what would happen if I died. I had a lot of time to think while I lay there, and I thought about the fact that I wanted to go with my dad to see his 3 favorite cities, and we’d never gotten to do it. I still had about a year of school left.
I got home from the hospital and strangely, my dad called me a few minutes after I got home, by chance. I was still pretty scared and emotional from what happened. I told him what happened, and about where my thoughts had led me. I told him I didn’t want to put our trip off. I said, “What if something happens to one of us? Why put it off? I want us to do it now, and you don’t even have to pay for it, I have money saved up, I just want us to go!” (I especially thought something could happen to him, as he had a few health scares).
I was so surprised by his reaction. Instead of realizing how scared my near-death experience made me, and realizing that doing something with my dad was all I was thinking about when I thought I might die causing him to feel loved, it had a completely different affect on him that I never could have predicted. He said, “You’re demanding that I take you to Europe, and I’m not going to do it!” And he hung up on me and we didn’t speak for a week, which was the longest we had ever gone without speaking. Uh, WHAT? First of all, I just got out of the hospital… Second, he had been the one who planted the trip in my head. Third, I even offered to pay for it.
OK, I hadn’t graduated yet, so I worked my ass off and I eventually did. We talked about it later from time to time and I believed it was still in the works for when I finally finished school. When I did graduate, and asked him when we could do it, he put me off with future dates a few times, but eventually he said, “I’m tired of traveling. I don’t want to go anymore…”
I hope I don’t sound like some spoiled little princess to you readers, “Oh poor me, Daddy wouldn’t take me to Europe…” That’s not the point. The point of this is, I never thought of the trip on my own or asked him to take me. I knew nothing about those cities. I was happy with what I had. But having my father make promises of wonderful things that were always his idea and then just going back on his word over and over and over again throughout my life, has made me listen to people’s words in the way that I do. I have a zillion examples, but that one really hurt me the most because it was a big carrot dangled in front of me for a long time. Throw in the fact that my dad was married to my mom for 20 years, living a hetero charade that was my formative reality, and there you go. I never believe it until I see it. I wish I could believe you, but I can’t. But please, please, please show me I’m wrong. In this respect, I love being wrong. I want to be wrong. Impress me, just by being a person who stands by your word. You’ll get it from me in return, regardless.