Imagine: Can anyone imagine DSK’s lunch with his daughter 17 minutes after he left the Sofitel Hotel and his encounter with a hotel housekeeper? Whatever that moment was in the Sofitel, DSK shifted to dad mode within minutes of being “someone else.” His daughter Camille is a 25-year-old Columbia University graduate student. After her dad’s arrest and media coverage, what was Camille thinking? What are the Schwarzenegger daughters thinking? What did Chelsea think? The media cover all kinds of minutiae about the alleged perpetrators, their wives and the political and financial ramifications of the Dads’ misbehavior. But what are their daughters thinking, does anyone care?
SNL: My first imaginings of the DSK father-daughter luncheon devolved into a Saturday Night Live sketch, with lines like “Dad, you’re looking unusually disheveled, what are the toothpaste traces around your mouth (actually seen on a hotel security camera), and how was your suite at the Sofitel?” I do have a bent for satirizing some of life’s more challenging moments but this is no joke.
Budding Young Women: My concern is with these young women: Chelsea Clinton, Camille Strauss-Kahn, the two Schwarzenegger daughters, Katherine (21) and Christina (19) all who are or were (Chelsea was 18 when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke) on the brink of female adulthood during the exposure of their fathers’ adulterous and in some cases ludicrous and sloppy behavior. For Camille Strauss-Kahn, there is the added alleged criminality. For the Schwarzenegger sisters the outrage of sharing their home and possibly affection with their mom’s betrayer. For Clinton, impeachment proceedings.
What Are The Fathers Doing To Their Daughters? The media are like that street cleaner, it rolls through the dirty streets, picking up all matter of debris, but always leaving something significant and unclean behind. And this for me is the something unclean, never acknowledged; what are these fathers of daughters thinking when they are about to embark on their mischief? Might it behoove them to remember that they have daughters?
Papa Bear: Throughout the centuries in all corners of our planet, men have seen fit to warn their daughters that their fellow man has only one thing on his mind: sex. There is probably an equivalent expression for that sentence in almost every language. It is common to hear teenage girls rail against their dads’ distrust of the young fellows lurking about or how their dads lose it when seeing them dressed for school or a party, demanding a change in attire, cover up or stay home. Where is this same dad when he is ogling someone else’s daughter or chasing the housemaid around the laundry room? Doesn’t he know about trust?
Dad’s Role As the Trust Builder: Bill Clinton named his daughter Chelsea after the song “Chelsea Morning”, which was associated with visits to the Chelsea section of London with mom Hillary. In protective mode, the Clintons sought the advice of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis on raising Chelsea in the White House whirlwind, aiming ironically to keep her safe from intrusive eyes and media scrutiny. Yet at age 18, one could say that Chelsea was tossed to the wolves, eaten up alive by a relentless media and political arch rivals of her dad. At that point it was too late; short of locking her in a closet for the next two years or perhaps forever, Daddy was sure not protecting his girl. You can say the same for DSK and Arnold. Thrown to the wolves, under the bus and worst of all, destroying their trust, perhaps forever, trust of their dads, trust of men in their future, trust that someone who loves them, or claims to, will never forget them because of an urge or a needed high.
Human Nature Is Contradictory: We are complex creatures, and can be pulled in opposite directions, act on one need and forget all the others. Because of our flaws, we must try harder to care for others. Would it have been unthinkable for any of these men to factor in how their daughters would feel, the scars, the imprint on their psyche of males as uncontrollable lunatics who besmirch their wedding vows and humiliate their daughters? Consider this: about to leave in the morning for work, Arnold sees the housekeeper move sensuously through the kitchen with a laundry basket in her arms. Something about her sway, her sweetness and the silence of an empty house, swept over him. She glances back over her shoulder, perhaps with a come hither look in her eyes. What could Arnold have done besides follow her? A lot. Acknowledge his weakness, his addiction, his inability to refuse an offer, and think about the daughters who will be home from school at the end of the day, whose laundry this lady was about to wash. Get help! Grow up. You are a dad of daughters. You are their model for men. Don’t F it up.
Why Don’t We Expect More? Whose job is it to educate men of the psychological damage they do to their daughters when they walk on the wild side? Whose job is it to shake them out of their denial that “no one will find out,” or rationalization, “since the marriage was bad, I needed that.” While the media is busy pontificating about all sorts of things, Maria’s betrayal, Hillary’s denial, DSK’s Tribeca hideout, no one is saying, “What about the daughters?”
Where Does The Coupledom Fit in Here? Awareness. Wives and mothers, husbands and fathers: have the conversation. There is plenty of material out there for all to speculate upon and use as a stepping-off point for a grown-up look at responsibility, addiction, ownership of flaws, and the virtues of remembering the daughters before you pull the panties off of someone other than their moms.
Daddy’s Role in Healing Broken Hearts: If it is too late, and the girls’ hearts are broken, daddy needs to be part of the healing, through joint therapy, through hours spent listening and understanding their daughters’ pain, and striving to earn their respect and trust once again. It won’t be easy but denying that they need to actively take on a role in helping their daughters in any way they can, is not allowed. Nope, they broke it, now at least try to fix it. And better yet, keep the image of that kid in your mind at all times, actively so. That’s parenting and prevention.
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2011