Tonight, as I do most nights, I was making my way home from a friend's house, which is about 25 minutes away. The roads are typically pretty quiet on my drive home, as it usually is between 11:30pm and 2am. My mind is always racing, as my anxiety is typically worse at night (although I have nobody but myself to blame this week as my friend and I spend our hours together watching Criminal Minds, so each night I convince myself someone is following me. Anyway. As I was just a few minutes from home, my alleged follower had made a turn a different way, and my mind was calm enough to start creating rational thoughts. I began thinking about what I should write about tonight. It didn't even occur to me that I had something really overlooked to write about tonight, and that was dating (or navigating the great mysterious world of boys,) without a dad or strong, influential male figure present.

I was only 13 when I lost my dad to cancer, which is a relatively young age, especially when it comes to becoming involved with the opposite gender. But I had done what felt like a fair amount of growing up over the 18 months of my dad being sick, so by the age of 13, I had my first boyfriend. Ah, young love. So innocent and sweet (or so I thought it would be). As boys do when they are younger (and oddly enough still do at my age now if they never really grew up) their way of showing their attraction to a girl is by being an ass. Teasing, making jokes about you, and making all efforts to act like they don't like you, but we are supposed to find it cute and charming and realize its actually just a rue for our attention. Crazy right? Well, it worked. I met this boy in 6th grade homeroom, and the teasing started from day one. I gave him the reaction he wanted; I begged him to stop in the most whiny, yet flirtatious way, as I had a thing for the kind of boy he was. He wasn't like the boys I grew up with, and I guess that's what I found attractive about him. Also, crazy. One afternoon, my dad sat me down. At the time he was in his last few months of life, but hadn't in anyways let go of the very strong role model he had been through my whole life. He told me he didn't like the boy I was talking to; that his family weren't people I would want to be involved with. Quite truthfully, I don't remember if i argued with him or cut the kid off, but that November, just a few weeks before my dad passed away, I was dating him. As expected the relationship didn't last forever, and I realized that maybe my dad was right about him not being the guy to be involved with.

After my dads passing, I received a letter in which my dad had left for us to get when he passed. In his letter he wrote to me, saying that he was sorry he tried to control my feelings and who I wanted to see, and that he only did so because he wanted the best for me. But he also wrote that he trusted me to make the right decision and be with someone who made me a better person. Wow. Well if only I had actually listened to what he had wrote me that day, and maybe I would have saved myself from the next 5 years of dating hell. But I cant blame my younger self, as I have just recently discovered why in these last years I've struggled so much when it comes to dating and boys. You see, in most cases, the loss of a dad (or loved one) is not something you can control. I couldn't control the cancer, and I couldn't control when I was going to lose him, as it was completely inevitable. But with my first boyfriend, it was not. As goes for the second, third, and every little relationship in between. While I couldn't control the loss of such a strong figure in my life like my dad, I thought I could control the loss of the next serious guy to enter my life, or at least control when I would.

When something so important to us is taken away, we do all in our power to get it back. And when we can't get what we originally lost back, we hold on to every little piece that we can that reminds us of that loss. Unfortunately in the case of death, it isn't so possible. But keeping a guy around, despite how he treats me, can't be so hard right? And in that moment, I tumbled down a long staircase full of heart breaks. I would look for characteristics in potential boyfriends, that had been prominent in my dad, but I was blind to the fact of whether or not they were good or bad characteristics. This was due to the fact that I was SO desperate to hold onto any little piece of my dad that I could, and never let it go despite the consequences it may come with. I would find things that reminded me of him, like sense of humor, passion for their passions, what felt like love and support, and dominance. Now in some cases, these are all good characteristics. And in others, they are all good except dominance, My dad loved control, he loved rules, he loved being in charge. While this could at some points be helpful, it doesn't always make for a healthy relationship, which i learned the hard way. But, because this sense of control reminded me so much of my dad, I seemed to blind myself to whether or not it was affecting me in a negative or positive way. The lying, cheating, manipulation, control, and emotional abuse I received from these boys was masked by the occasional date to Applebee's, or the kisses goodbye and the I Love You's. But it was not love, and there was no reason for me to stay other than the fact that for a split second, here or there, I felt some sort of connection to my dad. I started apologizing for them being angry at me being angry at them. I started giving and giving, anything they asked as to ensure I would not lose them. I lost myself, trying to please men who gave me anything less than how I deserved to be treated.

Now I won't blame them, and say they weren't raised right, or that used my vulnerability and yearning to fill a void in my life to get what they wanted. And I also cant blame myself, as if not coming with the baggage of losing a parent was why i was treated so poorly. Because the truth is, in any relationship whether you have a dad or you don't, you should never have to feel like you aren't good enough or equal to your partner. You shouldn't have to lose yourself to please anyone else. And that also means you shouldn't have to do everything to make them happy, when you yourself aren't happy in the relationship. And while like me, you don't have a dad waiting for you on the porch with a shot gun in his lap when you come home from that first date or dance with that boy, you do have something sitting on top of your shoulders called a brain, and believe me, sometimes its A LOT more helpful than your heart. Just because daddy cant straighten all the boys out who treat you wrong, doesn't mean what they did to you was okay. I'm lucky enough to have a twin brother who LOVES trying to have a say in the guys I date. And while i dont always like what he has to say, unfortunately he is usually right.

This friend of mine, who I see almost every night, is in fact a guy, but we are not in fact dating. I use the term friend here lightly because its not a platonic relationship. It is what I would like to refer to as romantic, but if you decide to really break it down and get technical, its probably the least romantic relationship one can be in. It is mutually exclusive in the way that we are only "romantically and intimately" involved with each other. Other than that, it really appears to be a friendship for anyone looking in. Its been on and off since March, although unfortunately my gut tells me if my dad was still around it would have been off for good after the first go around. But unfortunately he is not, and I'm going to make and learn from my own mistakes. I don't know if I had become blinded by his looks and the way he treats me 5% of the time that keeps me coming back, even though most of the time on my way home I just feel sad for myself. I, more often than ever, found myself with someone who i was scared to voice my opinion around, scared to ask the status of our relationship, scared to ask for a kiss from, and scared to ask for anything from, because of the answer i typically received, which was no. Our fights end in me apologizing, or leaving and later apologizing, regardless of why the fight started. I had to ask to be cuddled with, to go out somewhere (which usually got denied) I was no longer able to be myself around him and i sure as hell didn't feel like the princess my dad raised me to be. Was this my fault that he was not treating me with any sort of respect or holding up to his words, that he liked me? Or was this how it was supposed to feel? Just one more thing in life that i was to blame for. I don't always like to admit it, but there are days i feel like its my fault my dad isn't here anymore. Medically, that is not the case, but why couldn't i do something to keep him around longer? So here i was, making every single effort i could to keep this guy around, so that i didn't have to feel such loss again. So that I didn't have to lose those rare occasions of feeling just a little bit loved.

When I say this, I don't mean i should be showered with fancy dates and Tiffany and flowers all the time. For us girls, our dads are the first guy we fall in love with, and the one we love forever. He is the one who is supposed to model how we should be treated by other men. Unfortunately some of us don't have this luxury for as long as we would like, but that does not mean we do not know how we should be treated. Dating without a dad is difficult. But I think the most difficult part isn't the dating. It's knowing that if things go right with this guy, I don't have a dad to walk me down the aisle.

So he's not here and hes not coming back, and the hard truth is, I don't know what he would say IF he was here. I'd like to think I do, but i don't. So I have to be a big girl and make decisions that make me happy- that make me a better person, because THAT is what he would want, He wouldn't want me showered with expensive things, he would want me HAPPY. So that's what dating without a dad is all about. Knowing what feels good and finding that. Knowing what your dad would want for you, and finding that. Just because he isn't here to tell you, doesn't mean you wont know in that moment. Us girls in this situation many not have that big important male figure in our life, but we do have a head on our shoulders to guide us in the right direction, and a heart bigger than most. See I've found that through this loss, I find to love more, Sometimes falling in love so quickly isn't always the greatest thing, but it doesn't always have to be romantic. Love is so powerful and so important in this life. So yes we may have thicker skin and a really big heart, but that doesn't mean you can go walking all over it. And just because we have suffered such loss, doesn't mean we will let you.