Cover Photo: Tallulah Pomeroy
Tallulah Pomeroy

Daddy Issues, or Not: When You Marry a Much Older Man

I know it’s not supposed to work this way. We damaged daughters should seek healing in therapy, not romantic relationships.

Talking across the counter while I rang up his brown rice, our shared interests seemed to bridge the generation gap. I had survived adolescence in the eighties by listening to Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. Theo, a child of the sixties, had attended art school in the eighties, so we knew each other’s cultural references. We also both loved Fred Astaire movies and big band music made before we were born.

We went for sushi that Friday, enjoyed a swoon-inducing kiss afterward, and saw a play together the next night, followed by another epic kiss. My initial concerns about going out with a dad subsided.

I avoided his wrath by keeping my head down and mouth shut while my mother frantically tried to calm him. Then we would all sit down to a meal, politely place our napkins on our laps, and pretend his outburst never happened.

Even after Mom got the nerve to file for divorce, we didn’t speak openly about the violence we had endured. Growing up among smashed plates and dark secrets had made me a skittish, tongue-tied girl. As a woman, it made me vow to never be in a relationship that looked perfect on the surface but was rotten within. I needed a solid core of respect and communication.

Theo, on the other hand, trusted me and didn’t cling. He’d say, “I hope we’re together the rest of our lives—or I guess my life—but if what’s best for you is to find a younger guy, I’ll totally understand. Just tell me the truth so we can stay friends, okay?” But I met younger guys all the time around campus, none as compelling to me as my fully-formed, confident, funny, sexy older guy.

I stayed behind. No matter how busy I kept myself with work and friends, on the weekends while he was gone I felt lonely and abandoned, consumed by the impulse to compete with Julie. These feelings of rivalry scared me, bubbling up from some swampy recess of my being. Clearly I had daddy issues after all.

not

for

thank you,I’m sorry

Pretty in Pink—

Kerri Sandberg is a writer and homesteader living on the coast of Maine. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Salon, and xoJane. She's seeking representation for her memoir and is currently working on a novel.