DADDY ISSUES: Love and Hate in the Age of Patriarchy, by Katherine Angel
It’s not that I want to date my dad, I just want him to want to date me. He thinks I’m the most beautiful girl in the world. He also told me, when I was 15, that I would never have a boyfriend who wouldn’t cheat on me. If I cheated first? “Refuse! Refuse! Refuse!” my dad advised, and I listened because he kind of reminded me of Winston Churchill when he slammed his hand on the table like that.
“Daddy Issues,” Katherine Angel’s third collection of essays, presents the sexual nature of a father-daughter dynamic in such a down-to-earth way that at first I couldn’t help but see it as a self-help manual: the manikin’s guide I’ve been waiting for a long time. Instead, it’s an examination of our often lustful fascination with dynamics and the misogyny inherent in that fascination. It is also something of a recovery. “You can, at least in principle, leave a husband, but you can’t leave a father,” Angel said. Unless, she suggests, you write about him.
His thought-provoking approach is to argue that our society has neglected dads’ place in “dad issues.” To prove the point, she deftly analyzes a variety of literary works, from historical figures like Virginia Woolf’s father, Leslie Stephen, to contemporary tabloid examples, like Meghan Markle and Ivanka Trump. “A father’s love reveals itself in jealousy,” she writes. “But if there is a father-daughter romance, however repressed and culturally determined, why do we insist on it being the daughter’s romance? We pay attention to the daughter’s daddy issues; what about the problems of the father’s daughter? »
Angel – who runs the MA program in writing at Birkbeck College, University of London – can be an intelligent interpreter of art and, when she lets us see it, a sensitive thinker in her own right. I wanted to rip off Angel’s (sometimes too long) chats and try out his best lines at dinner parties. (“Don’t you think ‘abuse is part of seducing someone, making them feel special and loved’?”) Still, I found myself missing the girl’s point of view – c i.e. Angel’s own.
I want to know what prompted Angel to write about “dad issues”, especially given his very personal statement that “writing is how I live my experience”. I wouldn’t expect a writer as accomplished as Angel to distribute personal information if the topic in question was, say, astrophysics. But to really “create a parent” from writing that, as Angel puts it, “doesn’t demand my false self,” it creates a need for disclosure in the reader, then holds it back; yes, we’re obsessed with that dynamic – but what drew her to the subject?
One of the most personal highlights is his retelling of a trip to the Tate Modern to see Anthea Hamilton’s “Squash.”.” The exhibit revolved around a “human figure” clad in a loud, “floating” costume, his head covered by a “bulb, obscene, gourd-like structure”. Angel can’t look away. She stares shamelessly, which fills her with both power and relief. “How wonderful it would be not to have to see people’s faces, with all their needs, aspirations and projections!”
But we women have to look at men, and we have to endure our excited terror when they look at us. It is impossible to get rid of our fathers, and they are, inevitably, forever engraved in our entrails. The title of Angel’s book testifies not only to our dismissive cultural shorthand, but to its universality. Is a “problem” inherently bad? Comparing my own father to Winston Churchill made me feel good, if only for the moment.
Annie Hamilton is a writer and performer from New York.
DADDY ISSUES: Love and Hate in the Age of Patriarchy, by Katherine Angel | 81 pages | Back | Paper, $12.95