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On being the genetic descendant of Assholes.

October 8, 2008

I love my Father, I do. He is a great business man, and he’s been amazing to my Mom and to us through horrible horrible things.

He is also an Asshole. The latest component of his Assholery is the presidential election. Whenever I see him he cannot stop bringing it up and lording it over me. Oh I’m so “dissapointed’ you turned out to be a liberal, oh your so dumb dont’ you know Obama is an evil socialist terrorist radical who eats babies. (Okay, he doesn’t really think he eats babies.)

When I was home we argued at great length and volume. As with all our arguments all of my valid points were dismissed, and his were touted. I was verbally attacked, and very few actually valid points were made.

So now he took the time to send myself and my sister a few articles. They essentially boiled down to the following: 1. OBama is a socialist
2. Obama is a terrorist
3. The mortgage crisis is all poor people’s fault. (And the fault of people trying to help poor people.)

He may as well just have sent me the republican talking points for the last 6 months and called it a day.

So I wrote out a thoughtful response, with lots of links to various things I had read showing that the mortgage crisis was because of bad lending, and deregulation. I included statistics and other things. And then I realized, I don’t want to send this to him. So was intending just to send it to my little sister who is tragically ill informed, and I send it to him as well. I even send a follow up, saying I didn’t want to argue and that I miss sent the e-mail. (Yesterday, coincidentally, the day from HELL.)

This morning I get an e-mail back in which he does the following things in all caps.
1. Makes me feel guilty for being his child and costing him money.
2. Ignores the evidence I gave and reiterates his previous points, now in caps.
3. Claims I was condescending and gets self righteous because I dared try to tell him anything.
4. Dismisses me and inserts vague threats about never helping me with anything again.

So I start writing a (tearful, inappropriately, at work, THANKS DAD) apology. And then I’m thinking…. what the hell? This response is just completely out of line, he is ignoring all the points I made and just generally digging his feet in. Why the hell am I apologizing?

But at the same time he is my dad, and I don’t want to have conflict with him.

Mr. I thinks I should tell him he was unnecessary hurtful and that this is why I don’t want to argue with him.

I don’t know what I think. Anyone else have a good option for dealing with a father who is sure you are wrong, stupid and is simultaneously sick of you “knowing EVERYTHING.” (Which is his response to every valid point I make, and I think a secret code for “I can’t stand that you know more about this than I do so instead of making a valid point I’m going to accuse you of being a bitchy know it all.)

I think one of the hardest parts of this is that people always tell me I am just like my Dad. And I don’t want to be like this, I don’t want to pick fights with people just to prove I’m right and refuse to acknowledge when I’m wrong. I really hope I’m not like this.

From → Not About Fat

  1. Mari permalink

    You said it, sister and I’m tired of these married men, these men who are separated from their wives or can’t get along, thinking that us single, fat girls are just waiting for them to come along and use and abuse us. It’s absurd! Great article. As far as your Dad is concerned, not all men are like him. But I have found that men who are really care about a fat woman, won’t try to use, abuse or take advantage of her.

  2. My best advice would be to keep telling him, whenever it comes up and as many times as it takes, that you don’t want to discuss politics with him. Period. I’d be just as tempted as you are to give him the long explanation of why he’s wrong, but that’s obviously not going to get through, so the best bet is probably to remove yourself from the stressful conflict.

    Of course, telling him you won’t talk about it might lead to a different sort of stressful conflict. But at least that would be about setting your own boundary, not arguing with a man who Must Always Be Right. As long as you just keep saying, “I won’t talk about this with you,” there’s nothing to negotiate our argue about. Which doesn’t mean he won’t TRY, of course, but at least that scenario has a logical end — he gets tired of banging his head against a brick wall, eventually — whereas going back and forth about politics really doesn’t, you know?

    Bleh. This sucks, and I’m sorry you have to deal with it. I guess my only other advice is to keep reminding yourself that this is not about you — it’s about his need to have the upper hand. You’re the one behaving like a decent adult, and he’s behaving like a petulant child. Knowing that doesn’t mean his bullshit won’t still get under your skin, but it does help to remember that. (And to remember that — if I’ve got your dad pegged right — even if you said, “Wow, you’re absolutely right, and I’m going to vote for McCain!” he would probably find a way to make you feel bad about that. “See, I was right, and you were WRONG, you’re always wrong! If you listened to me, you wouldn’t be so fucked up!” or some shit like that.)

  3. It’s hard to put some of this into words. One one hand, i’ve got a lot of experience with a mentally-unwell mother (Borderline Personality Personality and Bipolar Disorder – great combo, that), and i recognize that other folks’ parents can act a bit nutty without requiring hospital stays. People are all a bit loony from time to time, and it’s hard to me to keep that in context.

    So basically… what your father did is at best obnoxious as hell, and at worst a sign that there’s something not entirely healthy about the guy. Either way, you definitely have my sympathies.

    As far as how to handle it is concerned? Stand up straight, never let him see you cry. Keep your voice even, your tone solid. Keep your words soft but true. Refuse to rise to the challenges, the arguments, the baiting. State your boundaries politely, and keep them. If a topic is going to upset them, drop it – for your sake as much as theirs; wait until there’s a better time to address the issue, when tempers are less heated.

    Don’t respond to him right away. Let it sit for a few days. Just because he wants a fight, doesn’t mean you have to give it to him.

  4. sandra_nz permalink

    You have to stop discussing politics with your dad. You and your dad have different opinions and that’s OK. From the sounds of your post, you are no more willing to listen to your dad’s point of view than he is willing to listen to yours. Don’t get stuck in a loop of just talking AT each other which inevitably ends up in a fight.

    So, from now on, you don’t discuss politics with your dad. If necessary, you send him an email/tell him face to face that this is how it’s going to work from now on. You can say “Dad, I love you and respect your right to have your own opinions. I know that you love me and I hope you will respect my right to have my own opinions. Politics is something we are never going to agree on, so rather than making both of us upset, I’ve decided not to discuss politics with you any more.”

    Then if he keeps bringing up politics with you, you just politely and firmly say “Dad, I don’t discuss politics with you any more”. If he keeps insisting then you say “Dad, if you don’t stop talking politics to me, I am going to leave”. And you actually have to be willing to do that – walk out of the house and not come back until your next visit. If he emails you stuff about politics, you simply reply with “Dad, I don’t discuss politics with you any more”.

    Rinse, repeat, until he gets the message!

    There’s a flip side to this of course, and the flip side is that you have to realise your dad is never going to agree with you about politics. And that’s OK.

  5. You deal with it because without his financial support you would be fucked. If you were actually capable instead uf living off of him you could support yourself and not need to deal with the bullshit, but instead you are a person incapable of creating any value so either you live off of him or well, there seems to be no other choice. sad really.

  6. Tara, I just wanted to let you know that:
    1. I do support myself, completely.
    2. Go fuck yourself.

  7. Thank all you guys for the excellent advice. I’m going to give myself some time and then just set a clear boundary with him! Thanks for the support!

    (Except Tara, no gratitude for pestilent wenches.)

  8. My father is exactly the same way. I follow the advice of many commenters here–I just refuse to talk to him about politics at all. My sis-in-law (who hosts the big holiday family dinners) and I have instituted a “no politics or religion at the dinner table” rule that works rather well. Whenever either my father, or my sis-in-law’s father start going at it, we just refer to the rule and change the subject. Most of the time it works, but sometimes you need to repeat the rule and change the subject several times before they stop their badgering.

    My mother used to forward me horrible hateful emails about the pledge of allegiance in schools or political propaganda and I threatened to block her from sending email to me if she did it again. She stopped. She’s waaaay more responsive to the possible elimination of lines of communication with me than my father.

    Good luck. They’re bastards to deal with these “must be right” fathers. Keep to the high ground.

  9. Ugh. I feel your pain, Shinobi.

    I definitely agree with the other posters (other than Asshat Tara, of course). The No Political Discussion rule needs to be instituted pronto.

    Oh, and just for the hell of it, I had an interesting wrinkle on this situation with my own father. It wasn’t just politics, it really could be anything. Every once in a blue moon, if I brought up a thought he hadn’t heard from me before, he would bellow NO!!! at the top of his lungs, and then spend ten excruciating minutes taking me step by step right back to my own point of view. The damn thing was he’d never believe me if I told him he’d just argued me into believing my own opinion, and I could never, ever guess when he was going to pull that shit. I couldn’t just say ‘I’m not talking about x subject with you again’ because there wasn’t one subject it happene with.

    He was a wonderful man and I loved him dearly, and as I say, it didn’t happen that often…but when it did I spent a lot of time wanting to just hit something.

  10. Shinobi,

    I agree with the “no political discussion with family” brought up by a few people above.

    I actually had a very similar thing happen to me — which resulted in me crying over the phone with my mom, asking her, “How long have you known Dad was such an asshole?”

    Of course, my dad decided to go all CAPS on me because I joined a McCain supporter group on Facebook, and he’s got a Facebook account. After some (public!) comments on that to the effect of, “I can’t believe why an intelligent person with your education blah di bling di blah would support evil di blah” (funny how similar your own dad’s comments seem to be, coming from the other political direction!), I deleted the comments, called him tearily, and asked him why in HELL he’d, after months of not calling me during an extremely difficult time in my life, contact me and start criticizing my freaking POLITICS. Didn’t he care about the fact I’d just been diagnosed with PTSD? That we were still in a custody battle for my fiance’s kids? That I was living part time away from home and felt like an outcast pretty much all the time? Nope. He STILL got on my back about (what he believed were) my politics.

    So yes — not talking about politics with family is just a good rule in general. I know it’s not easy, especially if it’s a big part of your life, but it will save you a lot of grief. And don’t let yourself be baited, either. Good luck!

  11. Wicked permalink

    Head strong dads. Gosh, aren’t they fun? Both my parents are oldest children of large families, so I get from both sides.

    Basically, I’ve learned to a) pick my battles and b) realize that there are some things I cannot change about either parental unit. And this includes trying to convince them of something when they are completely convinced that I’m wrong.

    Like my mom and dieting, for an example. She once told me that all fat people are “secret eaters” and that’s why they’re fat. Ayup. Cannot and will not be told that the diet industry has a vested interest in making sure you’re a repeat customer.

    But I have to go with the lovely Kate on this one: No politics, and tell him why. He may have a condescending retort to you, but, as she said, it’s not about you. Some men are control freaks, and that’s that. Sad but true. Good luck, and take a couple of days and deep breaths.

  12. I agree with most everyone here. I would add one other question for you to think about, Shinobi, and that’s whether you want to tell him about the boundary explicitly or if you want to just act it out. In the first case, you tell him you don’t want to discuss politics ever. In the second, you just not reply to any emails on the topic, and if he brings it up in person, you change the subject, leave the room, or get off the phone.

    The reason I’m suggesting this is that some people take creating the boundary as offensive in itself. He may feel that only HE has the right to make something off-limits, and so the boundary itself becomes the new thing to fight over. According to my mother I was SOOO incredibly childish not to want to discuss my weight that I wanted to stick my head in the sand and insulate myself from what I didn’t want to hear (but was true because SHE SAID SO!) After a while of this I quit saying, “I don’t want to discuss it” and just went evasive. She wanted to tell me about a new diet? I had to get back to work or get to an apointment. She says I shouldn’t eat potatoes and asks what I was going to do about my weight at Christmas? I’d say, “Gee, Mom, if I didn’t eat what you made you’d be upset about that,” and when the relatives stopped laughing I’d ask my cousins if they wanted to go to a movie after the meal. Etc.

    But it all depends on your dad, and whether you think the boundary is something he’d respect or not.

  13. My first instinct is to say, “Nyah, nyah, nyah, you’re just upset because my guy is WINNING! WOOT!” but that is not the grown-up response.

    The grown-up response is the course you’ve decided on. If he continues to send you political e-mails, send back a one-word response, “Deleted”.

  14. I don’t normal comment on blogs (anywhere, really) but this range a bell with me, as my Dad was always the same way. It wasn’t just politics – it was everything. Once I ended up in tears after a fight over how he treated telemarketers – no shit!

    However, he passed away a year and a half ago from esophageal cancer.

    Needless to say having such a rocky relationship makes for a lot of thinking after-the-fact.

    I’m not sure which way is better: to keep up arguing hoping that points will get across, or to skip it and refuse to discuss politics at all.

    For myself, I realized at a young age my options were: keep yelling at each other, or just shut up. As my Mom was a pacifist, she pushed me towards just stopping discussing things. Over time he stopped bringing it up, as my response was to shrug and say “ok Dad” no matter how annoyed it made me….it made things peaceful, yes, but I don’t think it was any easier than if we were fighting over things.

    In the end I can’t help but feel like my Dad never really knew me, because I couldn’t speak my mind near him. I was hiding, for the sake of family peace.

    So I suppose how you handle things depends on what is more important to you – being able to be around each other without yelling and tears, or really knowing each other/speaking your mind.

    Anyways, you’re certainly not alone. And yeah, they tell me I am a lot like him too (especially now…)

    Best wishes,

  15. Rosa permalink

    I don’t know that I have good advice, but I have experience.

    My dad is a Limbaugh listener. He thinks numerology from the Bible shows that the US has to attack Iran to prevent Satan (Obama) from winning the election. He used to tell lies, about my mother/brother, in front of me, to other people.

    We don’t talk about politics. He doesn’t forward me stuff, because I didn’t talk to him for TEN YEARS. He’s on his best behavior around me and my kid all the damn time because he knows that, while my love is unconditional, my presence is not.

    So that’s one extreme of setting boundaries.

    A milder example is my partner’s mom, who forwards me random work-inappropriate “funny”/political/pro-life stuff. I just don’t answer them, unless they’re egregious, and then I reply to all with a Snopes link, no comment. If she starts on it in person, I politely find an excuse to leave the room. If she persists, I say “I’m burned out on politics talk.” This is really hard because I had to learn to let her think she’s “won”. But it’s an opportunity for personal growth.

    Also sometimes I read the forwards at myrightwingdad so I can at least feel better because misery loves company.

  16. Lindy permalink

    Just in case you’re interested in seeing a “template”:)… I had the same problem with my mom. I even politely and firmly told her (on about 4-5 occasions) to stop with the political/religious stuff. I’m a professor of religious studies at a major university, so it’s especially horrifying to me to get some of the awful, inaccurate, religious stuff (and I’m a person of faith, too–albeit a very lefty feminist one!). So after several nice and polite attempts, when she sent me one last insane forward, I decided to speak a little more loudly and drive the point home. I copied here the email I sent, in case you want to see how I did it. Please keep in mind that she and I are very close, have a very loving relationship and continue to talk on a regular basis. Also keep in mind that this email was the end result of many, many frustrating and polite requests to leave well enough alone (and several very unkind comments from her about “not doing anything useful for a living” and being a snob). So no comments, please, about what an evil daughter I am:) All I’m saying is that this reply made a world of difference; she got the message, finally, and we have been able to move on and have constructive, friendly, non-political/religious conversation now. It felt really good to be able to speak out as an adult. Copied below is the email:

    Seriously, no more forwards, please. I hate to be so forceful about it, but I promise you that you’re getting incredibly incorrect and damaging information because you aren’t bothering to do any research or fact-checking for yourself; on the basis of what you continue again and again to send me, I’m forced to believe that you simply don’t care to distinguish factual info from total fiction and propaganda. That’s alarming to me, but it’s ultimately your own business–you can read and believe whatever you choose to, and never once ask questions about the source of the “information” or the political agenda behind it.

    However, when you forward this stuff to me, please understand that you’re putting me in a difficult position, as I’ve told you on at least 4 previous occasions. I have two options: either I can ignore it, which doesn’t sit well with me because I make my living as a scholar trying to uncover and discover the truth about things, or I can try to refute it by offering information and research that is of a higher and more trustworthy quality. I hesitate to do the latter for a couple of reasons: 1) I’m not sure that you care all that much or read what I write or spend much time reflecting on it, since you never offer to continue the “conversation”, you simply send me the emails and either berate me for replying in a “disrespectful” way or ignore them; and 2) it takes a hell of a lot of time and energy to do real research, to hunt down actual facts, to determine the sources and agendas behind information, etc. (as opposed to simply hitting the forward button on some piece of total absurdity).

    So again, I’m honestly not trying to be snotty or unkind–I’m merely asking you not to forward me *anything*. Not LOLcats, not chain letters, not prayer requests, not nuthin’! I just don’t do forwards. They’re almost always a nuisance at the minimum, and frequently (as when they deal with political, environmental, religious, etc. issues) they can be dangerously wrong. They’re like viruses–they spread rapidly, and do a lot of damage. I happen to think that it’s extraordinarily irresponsible to send forwards; if you yourself cannot personally vouch for the integrity, legitimacy, and accuracy of your information, then you should not forward it to others. Every time someone does this, the truth gets a bit more tarnished. It’s like lying or spreading rumors about someone–I know you well, and I know that you wouldn’t do that in person, so why do it via email?

    Sorry if this offends you or if my bluntness is something you interpret as “conflict” or “anxiety” or “belligerence.” It’s not any of those things. It’s simply a forthright request to be left off your forward list. I love you and I want us to be able to communicate in positive ways that strengthen our relationship. Clearly this can’t happen if we discuss religion or politics. I need you to meet me halfway on this. Please feel free to give me a call so we can talk more about why I’m making this no-politics/no-religion/no email forward demand. I won’t argue or debate with you, but I’m happy to explain in greater detail why I feel it’s important. Much love, XYZ

  17. Kessie permalink

    I’m gonna agree with almost everybody else (minus the odious troll): establish boundaries and stick to them. I have several family members whom I’ve had to remind over and over, “WE. DO. NOT. TALK. ABOUT. THIS.” It’s the only way I can co-exist with them and remain sane. I’m sorry you have to deal with this kind of shit; whatever course of action you choose, I really hope it becomes easier to live with your dad.

    Also? After reading your post, I need to go hug my own dad. He and I hold differing views on many things, but I can always count on him for intelligent, level-headed, amicable discussions–which pretty much always with him hugging me, kissing me on the top of the head, and saying “You’re smart and awesome and I love you no matter what.” I wish everybody had a dad like mine.

  18. Piffle permalink

    My sympathies, I only echo the advice to avoid political conversations. People who are otherwise nice can get wrought up about politics.

  19. My dad is also very disappointed that I’m liberal, and has also flat-out called me stupid for it, and threatened to not help me again. He’s that way about a lot of things. I used to just take it and then go home and cry, until one night he pushed me too far about something and I just walked out on him and went home. (Of course, his rants have a high correlation with whiskey, so it’s a bit different.) Now, when he says I’m an idiot for supporting environmental causes/Obama/whatthefuckever, I tell him “don’t call me stupid for disagreeing with you”. That usually stops him in his tracks, because he often doesn’t realize he called *me* something, rather than my opinions.

    However, your dad may be different. As hard as I’m sure he makes it to avoid political discussions, there may not be anything else you can do. I wish I had more hard advice for you, but mostly I just wanted to say I totally know how it makes you feel.

  20. Oh, P.S.: Tara, fuck you with something dry and sandpapery.

  21. I voted early. That was pretty much my defense. I voted on Monday, and now when anyone brings up the election or politics, I say, “I voted early.” It’s amazing how that works. I’ve already voted, that can’t be changed, so I just change the subject. You might want to go ahead and try that out if nothing else works.

  22. whatwouldvirginiado permalink

    You have my sympathy. My father is also a right-wing asshole. I refuse to get into it with him now, especially after one argument when my mother turned to me (obviously all my fault) and said “why can’t you just be nice?”

    It’s just not worth it, these guys will never change their minds.

  23. I can’t thank you all enough for the support and the advice. *Group hug*

  24. brooke permalink

    Had to chime in on this one. My mom and I are exactly the same way. We’re very close and we’re very much alike in a lot of ways, but she is conservative and I’m not. I’m at the point where I just refuse to discuss certain things with her. Infuriatingly, she has told me that this is ‘dismissive’ of her viewpoints. We actually got in a huge fight because I told her I wasn’t going to discuss politics with her and she would. NOT. drop it. We touched on some subject, I told her I wasn’t going to discuss it because we’d just end up fighting and there would be no point, she persisted, and guess what? We ended up fighting and there was no point.

    I feel for you, my dear. And I’m glad to see that most people here are on the same page as me! It’s not my job to, for instance, explain to my mom that I’m good at my job because I’m f-ing smart, not because of my ‘female brain’ (GAG). Not my hill to die on.

  25. Are you sure we don’t have the same father, cuz mine is EXACTLY the same way. I just refuse to talk politics with him. It’s like trying to have a rational debate with Bill O’Reilly otherwise. Like everybody else this thread, I suggest not talking about it at all. Get together with some liberal friends and then talk about how much you hate your parents. 🙂

  26. fairybasslet permalink

    Ooh – I have a reasonable idea on how you feel about this; I have a father who is Always Right regardless of subject matter. There was never any opportunity to have a genuine discussion about anything because no matter my opinion, his was The Right One. I have to go with most others on this – set your clear boundaries and stick to them (it’s hard but so worth it). Some people (mostly men for some strange reason) believe that their opinion is the truth, and nothing you say or do will shift them from this belief. Your opinion is as valid as the next persons and ultimately, it’s his loss, because he’ll never know what an interesting discussion about politics can be like. Family. Who’d have them.

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