Saturday, August 24, 2013

"She Just Wants Attention"

            I remember hanging out with my friends when I was in middle school, and we were commenting on the popular kids. We talked about one girl in particular who dressed in skin tight clothes and low cut shirts. “She just wants attention,” my observant best friend said. I agreed with her, but we had different responses to this statement. My best friend thought she should be ignored and stopped talking about her. I thought she needed the right kind of attention and should be listened to.

            Throughout high school and college, I’ve seen a lot of those girls. They flirt a lot, they’re always dating someone, and then move on to someone new very fast. Sometimes they even get pregnant very young, but this is not a commentary on teen pregnancy. This is about girls who need the right kind of attention because they don’t have it from the most important people in their lives.

            That same friend who said those girls just want attention is someone who I have a lot of respect for. Recently, she told me that a girl’s first love is her father. I agree with her completely. From the moment we’re born, our parents fall in love with us, but as we grow older, we fall in love with them. Our love for our parents is unconditional. Jennifer Kromberg says in her article “Inside Out,” “For better or for worse, regardless of circumstances, children love their parents/caregivers unconditionally and accept the attachment and love that is (or is not!) given in return as normal.”

            Our relationships with our parents are the foundation for how our later relationships will turn out. But my main focus is the relationship between a father and a daughter and how that shapes her later relationships.

            I’m an observer of people and pay close attention to patterns, and there is one I’ve seen in almost all of the girls I know well. The girls who have been in one or two healthy relationships or have never been in a relationship have great relationships with their dads. The girls who who’ve had numerous relationships, and often times bad ones, do not have good relationships with their dads. Kromberg goes on to describe, “A woman’s early relationship with dad, who is usually the first male object of her love, shapes her conscious and unconscious perceptions of what she can expect and what is acceptable in a romantic partner.”

            There is a slang term for girls who get in and out of multiple relationships rather quickly. They are “looking for daddy.” These girls are seeking male attention that they don’t receive from their father. This isn’t to say that their fathers don’t pay attention to them. It’s more that their daughters need a certain kind of attention that their fathers don’t give them.

            Sometimes when a father sees his daughter getting older, he stops giving her the affection he gave her as a child. Maybe she pushes him away, maybe he thinks she’s too old for his hugs. Either way, the affection stops, but she still needs it. She still needs to be showed love, so she seeks it somewhere else. Other times, fathers and daughters probably just communicate poorly. Maybe the father has trouble expressing how much he loves his daughter, so she doesn’t believe she’s really loved. Everyone has the desire to be loved, so she goes looking for someone who will love her. In any case, there is a void that occurs in a daughter who either has no relationship or a bad relationship with her father. She seeks to fill this void, and often in unhealthy ways.

            The void doesn’t always mean she seeks attention. Sometimes she runs from intimacy. A study revealed that “82% of the subjects who had a fatherly presence reported involvement in intimate relationships, versus 62% for orphans and 60% for children of divorced parents.” The orphans and children of divorced parents had lost contact with their father between the ages of 6-12. In the article “Fathers Can Influence a Child’s Future Relationships,” Fred Lee explains this statistic, “When a person had a balanced relationship with their father, they tended to have a greater ability to form and maintain relationships, whereas a childhood marked by an absent father seemed to instill a stronger sense of negative emotions and distancing.”

            I’m not sure that fathers know how much their daughters look to them for guidance, love, security, and comfort. Young girls to older women need these things in their lives. They need it from a husband, a boyfriend, and any man who’s important to them. When this attention is lacking in their lives, then they become a little lost and try to find the most natural thing that everyone needs.

            Everyone needs to be loved in a healthy way.


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