They say that blood is thicker than water. Technically, I guess they are right. Those that do choose to believe that genetics make the final call have forgotten one small contributor: love.
This February marks the tenth anniversary of my adoption date. In my family, we call February 19th my "Barker Birthday" because it was on that day in 2008 that my mother's husband officially became my father and Zoya Camp transformed into Zoya Barker.
See, most fathers say they were gifted wonderful children, but my father chose me. My father chose to help raise a little brown girl that had no interest in his relentless efforts. Despite my efforts to push him away from not only myself but also my mother, he showered me with nothing but love. Through my storms of anger, he persisted. My father wrote in the definition of a father in a dictionary that had never heard of such.
My father chose me long before I accepted him.
My parents were married when I was in second grade. In November of 2006, everything I knew in life changed. I went from despising father-daughter dances to finally have a date to show off. Suddenly, a world appeared where "my parents" and "Dad" became daily parts of my vocabulary. By no means was this change easy for any member of my family.
How do you teach somebody to accept a concept they never knew existed? An idea that they never cared to acknowledge? I honestly don't know at what moment my father won me over. Frankly, I've never asked him why he worked wholeheartedly for the acceptance of someone that continuously pushed him away. I'm not sure that I ever will ask him because, despite my efforts, he won me over. And there isn't a day that goes by that I'm not grateful for his love.
Unlike my sisters, I do not have my father's hair color or face shape. I will never hear that I am a spitting image of him, or that I have his smile. But, that is not to say that many of my traits don't derive from him. It is my father that influenced my taste in music. He is the reason that I love Boyz II Men, Nirvana, and George Strait all the same. It is from my father that I get my competitive side. My obsession with athletic shoes is his doing, as well as my secret love for puzzles. He is also the one that reminds each woman in my household daily that we are beautiful both with and without makeup. My father has always emphasized that I have the capabilities to do anything I set my mind to.
For each of those reasons, my father is the reason I am a feminist.
I agree that it seems a little strange that a man is a reason I am a feminist, but there is something to be said about a man that not once treated me differently because I am a female. This girl loves makeup and shoes as much as the next, but she also knows how to use a power drill and post hole digger. There is not a day that goes by that I question my capabilities because of my gender. My father never lets that be an option.
I think that sometimes people forget that there is a difference between being a father and fathering. Somewhere out there I have a father whose melanin pigmented my skin. Somewhere, there is a man that has big ears and thick, black hair just like mine. I can thank him for the creation of my existence, but it is only Joe Barker, my dad, that I can thank for guiding me toward the reason for my existence.
Just as in books, in real life names contain meaning. They can represent an identity, and connect the dots between those identities. For some, a name can represent education, or show honor and admiration for those have influenced us. For me, my last name is a story. My last name represents the love and unity of two unlikely parties. It stands for the acceptance of a little girl whose kinky girls were just as stubborn as she, and the patience of a man whose tough exterior never matched the kindness of his heart.
So, to my future husband, I hope you're okay with taking my last name, or hyphens (we can work out the details later) because I have no intent in abandoning my last name.
I will never desert the father that has never abandoned me.