She’ll kisses you like you are the first person she has ever kissed. The thought of her will keep you up at night, in the best way possible. Everything is fun and exciting, new! She will do whatever she can to make sure you are having fun. She needs it to be fun because she understands darkness too well.
She will always carefully speak. You may even notice she never says “parents” and she'll look away when someone mentions their father. You get consumed with a strange, irrational guilt when you answer a phone call from your dad. It feels dirty, like a secret that will unravel this ethereal happiness you’ve built together, it won't. Though she envies and will always envy the relationship you have with your father she'll bask in it because she's never had that before.
She does not even flinch when asked about her family. She has memorized this back and forth. You wonder how many times she has regurgitated the same script. You can picture her standing in front of her mirror, practicing what she will say when someone asks about her dad. You will wonder, was there a time when she couldn’t even spit out the words? Did she choke on her own grief? Are you capable of being with someone so guarded? Someone with so many walls?
As she lets you in she will share small moments with you that do not seem like much of anything to you. She tells you about that one Christmas when her dog drank all the eggnog and didn’t die. She’ll say “My dad was so worried. He let her sleep in the bed just incase anything happened to her.” You will kiss her forehead, and she will direct your hands to hold her. She has never asked to be held. Do not underestimate how monumental this is. This is her slowly lowering the shield she has spent years crafting. This is her trusting you. This is her letting you in.
As she lets you in she will shy away from discussing problems, any problems. She has learned to walk on eggshells around issues. You don’t understand how someone so feisty, so full of opinions and fire, can go mute when confrontation approaches. She is flight when you would have been sure she’d fight. You get too close, things get too real, and she runs. She has running shoes on stand by at all times.
A girl without a father does not want to create waves because she has been underwater longer than she cares to admit. She is not a pushover, though you may push and ask why she is so scared of making anyone upset with her. You ask how she can be so brave on paper, but so scared of opening up face-to-face. She will deflect and bite back with sarcasm. She self-deprecates, calls herself messed up like it’s as casual as her first name. You will think maybe this is it. Maybe she will never be honest with you.
Here is the truth: it should not be surprising that conflict makes her skin crawl. It should not be absurd that she will passively sit by, figure out the best way to avoid saying anything that will put a riff between her and someone she loves, because people fucking leave. And that is terrifying and she learned this lesson at a young age. The only man she ever truly needed left when she was not done needing him, it is fair game for anyone else to decide it’s not worth it.
For anyone else to decide she’s not worth it.
None of that will spill out very easily. She doesn’t want these labels: The one with abandonment issues. The one who keeps you at a distance. The one looking to fill a void. The fatherless girl. She does not want your pity.
When you date a girl without a father, you need to understand you will not always understand her, not even close. And if she is worth it, love her anyway. Just love her and let her open up at her own pace, in her own time because she isn’t used to letting people in.