Dear Mr. _______,
My name is Michael. I’m a friend of your daughter, T.J. You and I have never met. but if it’s God’s will, the sentiments that inspired this letter will lead to us shaking hands one day.
I was blessed to meet T.J. recently. Excuse my language, but damn I was so impressed. She’s intelligent, funny, classy, honest, witty, beautiful, and strong in every way that matters to me. I feel like I may have found a diamond in the rough. Fortunately, the sentiment was mutual. It didn’t take long for us to recognize the chemistry that flowed between us. Our core values are identical, our tastes are similar, and yet we’re different in ways that make getting to know one another something to look forward to. And yet, it wasn’t all smiles and rainbows. Our conversations weren’t all about hopes and dreams. We kept it real and honest with one another, regardless of how dark or difficult the conversation became. And that led to me discovering a dark truth behind her beautiful smile.
I am writing this letter because, under the circumstances, it is the closest I can come to honoring the tradition of courtship by asking your permission to call on your daughter. It is the closest I can come to asking your blessing to pursue my desire to develop a close relationship with a woman I believe you hold most dear. I wish it were as simple as knocking on your front door with my hat in hand, and introducing myself. Sadly, even if I could introduce myself to you directly, your blessing alone would not suffice. Receiving your blessing would not be enough for me to move forward with this courtship. For me to have any chance of success at this, I would need far more from you than your blessing alone. I would need to have a man to man conversation that may very well end with you telling me to never step foot on your porch again. But that is what I must face, and that is what I’m here to do. Bear in mind that very few of these words are hers. These insights, and the decision to write this letter, are entirely mine.
Despite how great our time together was and how strong our chemistry appears to be, because of the circumstances that inspired this letter, in all likelihood my courtship of T.J. will not succeed. In either case, you and I are going to have this conversation even if it’s one-way. Because there is a lot that you need to be told. There is a great deal of insight that you appear to be missing…insight that I presume that you do not understand. I will do my best to be respectful in my presentation. But before I proceed, let me assure you that there is no judgment or disrespect intended by these words. There is only a genuine desire to speak the truth and hopefully inspire an understanding that will lead to your daughter’s happiness.
T.J. is hurting. Badly. She’s deeply hurt, deeply afraid, and terrified that I may one day prove to be the same kind of man who has already caused her more pain and more fear than any other man she has ever known. That man is still hurting her, even at this very moment. She trusted him more than any other man in the world. She believed in him, believed in his love for her, and believed that there was nothing he would ever do to willingly hurt her, take advantage of her, or allow anyone else to do so. If anyone had told her that this man would betray her and take advantage of her one day, she would have assumed that they had to be out of their mind. I’d wager that she probably would have told them to go to hell.
Sadly, that someone would have been right. This man did betray her…more deeply than anyone else could. And he continues to take advantage of her love and loyalty to him, to this day. Every time he does so, the damage goes a little deeper. This damaging relationship is what stands directly in the way of her ability to trust, love, or believe in any other man she encounters…including me. I have no hope whatsoever for inspiring her faith in my character as long as this man continues to hurt her. That is why I began this letter by stating that your blessing alone would not be enough for me to successfully court your daughter. I need more than a mere green light from you and my noble intentions. I need your help. And she will need your support to put an end to this man hurting her and standing powerfully in the way of any possibility of us being happy together. Perhaps you’re wondering…why would we need this help from you?
Because the man I have been talking about all this time is you.
Yes…you. Before you react defensively, that statement is not a declaration of blame. Nor is it an allocation of shame. That’s not what I’m here for. I am not inclined to judge a man I don’t know. Nor am I blaming you for how she feels. Her emotional well-being is her responsibility, and she’s aware of that. That’s part of why she’s so amazing. She owns her feelings and the part she plays in how they come about. YOU, as a person, aren’t being blamed in this conversation. There is a distinction between a person, and the behavior of the person in question. For example, I could be an amazing person, but my amazing self can behave like an absolute asshole that hurts everyone around me. That’s what I mean about this not being about blame. We aren’t talking about blame. But we are most certainly talking about responsibility. And the responsibility for your behavior is undeniably yours. Not the drug’s responsibility. YOURS. That is what we are discussing here. T.J. adores you as the man you are, but she is devastated by your behavior. Her love for you and her pain from your behavior…both coming from the same source. Extreme light and extreme dark, extreme love and extreme pain. This destructive dichotomy is tearing her apart. Holding onto you, the father she loves, while that father behaves as you do is so painful for her that it’s paralyzing. She is deeply hurt by this destructive behavior because the behavior is attached to the father that she loves. It’s the father she remembers, and that she still chooses to support…even when he doesn’t deserve it.
You need to know that, despite how powerful her bond with you must undoubtedly be, it is not indestructible. If you think that you’ll be able to continue behaving as you are, while T.J. continues to give to you and support you, you’re in for a rude awakening. She is not your mother. She is not your wife. She is your daughter. Your connection with her has been eroding since she discovered the secret of your addiction after you stole from her for the first time. It is her memory of the father you USED to be, as well as the fear of losing her family, that prevents her from completely removing herself from the impact radius of your destructive behavior. She could take the steps that would prevent you from ever causing her pain again, today. She knows exactly what to do and how to do it. And she knows that she’ll be just fine once she has worked through the devastating mourning period that would follow the act of cutting you off. You are one decision away from being cut off from her entirely. One decision away from withdrawing all of her financial, emotional, and legal support. One decision away from walking away from you for good.
Logically, T.J. knows that doing this would be in her best interest in the long run. She knows that her emotional and financial well-being cannot sustain your behavior indefinitely, and that she cannot build a strong future for herself while enabling your addiction at the same time. But despite all of this, she still has not made that decision. She continues to remain connected to you, to love you, and to support you despite the toll it’s taking on her. Even considering the notion of cutting you off causes her pain. Why? Because to choose cutting you off financially would mean choosing to risk being rejected and abandoned by you and the rest of her family. Because’s she’s legitimately afraid of being abandoned by her own father if she doesn’t continue to support his exploitation of her. Because she does not want a strong future that does not include the father that she remembers.
She has not accepted that the father she remembers no longer exists. Does he exist? Only you can answer that. And the only way that she’ll believe you is through your consistent and honorable behavior. Either way, that is what you’re forcing her to choose between at this time…continue being emotionally ravaged and financially exploited by her own father, or cutting off the man she loves more than any other, then walk through life without the love and support of her family. That is the source of her pain. Her being in this impossible position is how you’re able to get money from her time and time again. It’s emotional blackmail…”send me money or I won’t love you, and I’ll make sure that your mother won’t love you either.” If this is not the cause, I advise you to talk to T.J. and set the record straight.
Despite how strongly I personally feel about the topic, the root of this letter is not about me. Nor am I’m here to take you on a guilt trip. I understand your addiction, your behaviors, and the way that your preferred poison affects your entire being…far better than most. I know the way it numbs the areas you don’t want to feel and highlights the areas that you like. I know the panic that you feel when that numbness starts to wear off. I know it so well because I watched my mother live the life you live. I listened to her tell me all about it. She didn’t keep it a secret. She did it right in front of my face. What I don’t know about you is how it began, or what you were running from when you devolved from being a casual consumer to a hardcore addict. I don’t know if your decline into addiction can be validated somehow, but I know it’s hypothetically possible. My mother had her pain. She had her reasons for running and hiding from pain and shame and finding relief in a glass pipe. Does that excuse the impact that her behavior had on my life? No. Nor does it make me inclined to judge neither her, nor you, as a being deserving of condemnation. What I do know is that her behavior was not sustainable for her family’s well-being, and that for a very long time, a parent’s long term abuse of crack cocaine damages their child’s ability to form healthy relationships. That’s not something I got from a textbook. It’s a truth that I intimately know.
My mother abandoned me to grow up in 16 foster homes and committed suicide on my birthday last year. For most of my life, I thought the drug was the reason. I believed that crack cocaine was the cause. But I have since learned differently. My understanding has evolved. It was the weakness of her character if anything is to be blamed, and I do not believe that she chose to have a weak character. That’s why judging you to get you to change your behavior is pointless. You’re either going to choose to exercise the strength of character within you once you’re made aware of the need for it…or you won’t. Judging you for it is pointless. I don’t need that tactic to make my points. My own life, and that of my mother, are all that’s needed to validate the truth of my words. It took me 8 long years of dedicated focus to heal from the trauma of my mother’s drug addiction, and to develop the ability to trust that any woman I fell in love with wouldn’t disappear from my life one day and never come back. And that only began after I cut her out of my life completely. What more evidence would I need than that to serve as proof that my words are true?
All I’m trying to do here is open your eyes to the cold, hard facts. Your behavior is damaging and preventing T.J.’s ability to be in a happy, healthy, and fulfilling romantic relationship with a man. She is unable to trust in my integrity, to trust that I would never take advantage of her vulnerability, to trust that I would never exploit her loyalty, and that I would never value getting high more than my devotion to her. And she is unable to trust that in me because she is unable to trust that in YOU. Whether her logic is unconscious about this or not, it’s entirely sound. Think about it her way. She’s unable to trust that her own father will remain loyal and devoted to her…the man who has known her throughout her entire life, who has more reasons than anyone else to do right by her, to be honest with her, and be willing to die before he’d ever take advantage of her or allow someone else to. How can she trust that she’ll ever receive that loyalty and devotion from a man she’s just getting to know? Even if we had been dating for years by now, how can she not still carry a dark fear, in the corner of her mind, that I’ll suddenly blindside her with a betrayal I’ve been keeping secret for decades just like you did? How can she trust a man who has fewer reasons to love and be loyal to her if she can’t even trust the one man who has more reasons to love her than anyone else?
Can you see now how much your betrayal, your selfishness, your exploitation, and your dishonesty affects T.J.’s ability to trust any other man in the world? If she cannot trust a man, she cannot have a healthy relationship with one. If she cannot have a healthy relationship with a man, she’s doomed to be another single black mother who’s perpetually in and out of toxic or dysfunctional relationships. The cycle will continue, and it will all have begun with you if you continue down this path. Is this the legacy you intend to leave your children? Is this the example you intend to show your grandchildren? Have you ever considered the fact that your choices aren’t just affecting your immediate family? That they’re affecting everyone that cares about your children?
I just started dating your daughter, and I’m already powerfully affected. I may lose her even before we’ve begun. With valid reasons provided by your behavior, T.J.’s terrified that I might be the kind of man you USED to be…a great man who enjoyed getting high on occasion, and eventually devolved into the kind of husband and father who would exploit his own daughter just to get his next high. I’m absolutely certain that I will never be that man. I’ve proven that in ways that she has yet to learn. But as long as you’re still hurting her, no amount of proof in the present will prevent her from wondering and fearing the worst. Nothing that I say or do will protect our connection from the trauma of your current behavior if you keep on living this way. She’s unable to see the quality of man that I am because, when it comes to what she expects from a man, all she can see is YOU.
So, here I am, asking for your blessing to court your daughter. But that is not all. I am also asking you to love her, to honor her trust, to be a priceless contribution to her life instead of a guilt trip with a price tag. And to essentially be the calibre of man that you would want for her to choose. Work for what you want and need instead of manipulating her into giving it to you. Be a provider instead of a dependent. Be selfless instead of selfish. If you’re unwilling to do that…if you’re unwilling to be a positive influence and contribute to her life, then at the very least, don’t take from her. If you’re not going to help her heal and grow, then don’t be a part of her life at all. Cut yourself off instead of putting her in the position to have to hurt herself by doing the cutting. If you aren’t going to help her, then get the hell out of her way.
It’s very possible that, despite the sincerity of my intentions, this letter will end up inspiring her to push me away. She may choose fear over courage. But if that happens, so be it. What will be, will be. I only have control over my own choices. I choose how I’m going to show up in her life or leave it. And I choose to do so with honor. I choose to live up to the very example that I have described thoroughout this letter. I have done my best to honor tradition by presenting myself to you, man to man, while displaying the quality of my character, my sincere intentions, and my desire to pursue a romantic connection with your daughter.
In the interest of that endeavor, far more needed to be said. Someone needed to make you aware of the wider impact that the choices you are making are having on your family. Someone needed to choose HER, rather taking from her, giving her excuses, and asking her to give more. Someone had to make it clear that she is understood, and that her presence alone is enough for those who care for her to feel content. In a perfect world, that “someone” would be her father. But in the absence of perfection, I’ve decided that that “someone” will be me.