I live in a world where women look up to their fathers; in a world where the saying, Fathers are a girl’s first hero has been used more than Diamonds are a woman’s best friend. I hear my lady friends say, so often, “I will marry the man who treats me the way my Dad does—like a Princess.”

Clearly, most women my age, or older, and even younger, have some standards to compare the men they date, or intend marrying with. It always turns out to be their fathers. Most women. I don’t fall under that bracket, unfortunately, for whatever reason that may be.

I remember, as a kid, we were walking together—Dad and me. I held his hand tightly as we crossed the busy street. But, somewhere between crossing over and reaching the other side, I lost his hand. For a minute I stood looking around to see pairs of legs brisk walking all around me. I don’t remember panicking; just losing my father’s arm.

What happens if your father is not the hero he is meant to be? What if I wasn’t treated like a princess by my father? What if I have no standards to compare the men I date, or intend to marry with?

Does that cloud my judgment of men in my life? Could that be a reason why I might end up surrounding myself with the wrong men? Or could that also end up being one of the reasons why I make up my own rules and standards of dating? For a woman like me, you’d see why such questions would arise.

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I’ve dated more men than the average Indian woman does, or should (according to societal standards). And with every progressive man, I find myself wondering, who am I comparing this one to? If it’s the last one, depending on whom the last one was, I don’t know if it’s the right comparison to make because there is a reason I am not still dating the last one.

I remember my first ever serious relationship. It was with a guy who showed me that I could actually be loved in a romantic way and be cared for holistically. Before him, I had zero expectations from most of my relationships. He gave me reasons to have expectations. I didn’t know that men cared for women they love that way. It’s no wonder then that I fell for him in every way that I possibly could. I didn’t have much to compare him to. It lasted long enough for me to want to spend the rest of my life with him; long enough to get used to his voice every morning and every night; long enough to feel like he was just a second layer of skin on my body and long enough to feel like he was the air I breathed. But, not long enough. When it was over, the noise around me died; everything felt silent. It felt like the only one who ever loved me had stopped doing so. I felt unloved, unworthy and unwanted for the longest period of time. It felt like the sound had gone from my ears; like the skin had been wrenched from my body and there was no air left for me to breathe.

That became the pedestal I began to compare and prop the men I dated to; not knowing that even then, my pedestal was wrong. I dated again. I tried to commit again. But, it was never the same. It never is. Sometimes, I catch myself wondering. Would it have been different had I had a hero of a father to compare him to?

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At some point, I stopped comparing, or wondering. I just decided to go with the flow. Men are human too. Each one is different and, at the end of the day, they are who they are. I embraced what I believed to be their uniqueness. But, time and again, I found them falling short of something. I can’t point a finger as to what exactly that ‘something’ was. But, it was lacking and that’s all I knew. I never fell in love like that again; for two reason. One, because everyone who came after fell short of the comparison; no one ever met—let alone exceeded—those expectations he had helped me build. Two, I was always twice as guarded as I used to be because I was afraid to fall and get hurt again.

Years have gone by. I’m an independent woman now. I am independent in every sense of the word. Tomorrow, if my family is six feet under and I am left all by myself, I will be able to take care of myself better than most men could ever hope to. But, over time, I haven’t just become financially independent; I’ve even become emotionally independent which often means when I’m with someone, I can’t be as open as I would like to with them. There is something about bearing my soul to someone that is so difficult for me to do. I had reached a point where the minute I realized I was really connecting with a guy, really getting to know him, I backed off because I was afraid he might want to get  to know me too; he might want to hold me and tell me everything is going to be okay. He might want to look into my eyes and want me to express my true feelings to him. He might want me to laugh uninhibitedly and cry the same way. The only problem with that was I find that so hard to do. I guess I have lost that part of me. I guess we all do, the first time we fall. We never truly recover whole. Maybe that’s the point. When you get back up, you’re a changed person.

But, what if you do have a father as a hero, as a pedestal, as a comparison to make for every man you meet? Would it make you so independent that you find it hard to express your true emotions to someone? What if the first time you get your heart broken is not so bad because you realize the guy was not even half the man your father is? Would it be different then? Is it?

Do you constantly look over your shoulder, watch your back because there is no one to watch it for you? Do you have to be careful where you put your foot because you don’t have anyone to tell you where the ground will cave in? Do you have trouble trusting people because you have no one to warn you against the big bad wolf?

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I wonder. Because, somehow, I find myself wondering again; afraid of being at the edge of the cliff; at the brink of falling.

I am too busy looking out for myself to trust, or love without a care. I don’t know how to do that. I don’t have a hero watching my back, minding my step and carrying me over every gap in the road. I have turned into my own hero—watching my own back, minding my own step and jumping over the wide gaps n the roads. That is probably why I don’t have time to look up ahead and see if there is love to find. I’m too busy taking care of myself and the people I love and want to protect.

I am the girl without a hero. There was no hero in my father to compare the men I date, love, intend to marry to. So, I became the hero instead.

Feature Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

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